We’ve occasionally ventured into poetry criticism, but only in extreme cases since poetry isn’t really our field of expertise. Still, it is hard to resist jumping to the conclusion that a poem by Robert Bly which appears in tomorrow’s Minneapolis Star Tribune could be the worst one ever written. The poem is titled “Eight Lines on the Bush Administration,” which furnishes a clue, I guess, as to why the Strib published it. I mean, if someone wrote a poem called, say, “Eight Lines on the Clinton Administration,” it is simply impossible to imagine the Strib or any other newspaper in America printing it.
The author, you may remember, wrote a book called Iron John about what a good thing it would be for groups of men to go out into the woods together and do…something, I’m not exactly sure what. Anyway, here is the poem in its entirety:
“People vote for their own destruction; everywhere
Borks and thieves, bushes hung with union men.
Some bad-smelling, money-mad, worm-headed,
Deep-reaching greediness rules the countryside.
The greedy soul begins to eat shellfish,
The Caribbean Islands, the rain forests, the Amazon.
What will you say now to the God of Love?
The muddy river of Jefferson thickens into Empire.”
Well, I get the general drift of it–it has some familiar themes–but some references are puzzling. “Borks” refers I suppose to Robert, but what does he have to do with the Bush administration? Nothing, unfortunately. As for the “bushes hung with union men,” here in Minnesota, executives of the teachers’ and government workers’ unions are frequently lynched. You can hardly walk under a bush without bumping into one.
The rain forests are a familiar reference, although what they have to do with the Bush administration I don’t know. But “the Caribbean Islands”? Beats me. But I do understand the references to “greediness”–that’s not, as you might think, when someone wants to steal 50% of your money; it’s when you think you ought to be able to keep more than half of what you earn. How greedy can you get? And Empire–we all understand that. That’s when America tries to defend itself.
If it’s not the worst poem ever written, it will do until someone suggests a worse one.
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill
“Proclaim Liberty throughout All the land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.” Inscription on the Liberty Bell