September 24, 2007

my story is so long
I can't remember the beginning

Carter Mull, Shutter, 2007

* Top ten conservative idiots. excerpt:

"7. The Bush Administration and Blackwater

"Last week Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called for U.S. security firm Blackwater to be kicked out of Iraq after Blackwater guards killed at least 10 civilians and wounded 13 during a shootout in Baghdad.

"According to the Associated Press:

'Lawyer Hassan Jabir was stuck in traffic when he heard Blackwater USA security contractors shout "Go, Go, Go." Moments later bullets pierced his back, he said Thursday from his hospital bed.

'Jabir was among about a dozen people wounded Sunday during the shooting in west Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood. Iraqi police say at least 11 people were killed.

'Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki described the shooting as a 'crime' by Blackwater, a N.C.-based company that guards American diplomats and civilian officials in Iraq.

'No one fired at them,' Jabir said of the Blackwater guards. 'No one attacked them but they randomly fired at people. So many people died in the street.'

"Apparently this is the seventh incident in which Blackwater guards have massacred Iraqi civilians, and it prompted the Iraqi government to revoke Blackwater's license.

"But not so fast, so-called prime minister! Just because you're the elected leader of Iraq, it doesn't mean that you can tell Americans what to do. Soon after the attack, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that she would be getting on the phone with al-Maliki to 'express regret' for the incident. And wouldn't you know it? Four days later...

'Despite opposition from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, US security company Blackwater was back on the streets of Baghdad on Friday, four days after being grounded over a fatal shooting incident.

'Maliki, meanwhile, was in the firing line over a damning report by the US embassy made public Friday detailing corruption plaguing his government, which called his office's attitude to tackling the problem 'openly hostile.'

'Blackwater guards, whom a furious Maliki wanted replaced after they opened fire in Baghdad killing 10 people, were on Friday protecting US personnel on limited missions, US spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo told AFP.

'We have resumed limited movement today. It is very limited and all missions need to be pre-approved,' she said.

'The decision was taken by us in consultation with the Iraqi government. All convoys will be protected by PSDs (private security details). Yes, it is Blackwater.'"

"So there you have it. 'Message to Iraqis: our war profiteering is more important than your civilians.' Mission accomplished, I think.

"Oh yes... it was also reported last week that 'Federal prosecutors are investigating whether employees of the private security firm Blackwater USA illegally smuggled into Iraq weapons that may have been sold on the black market and ended up in the hands of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.'

"But not to worry. I'm sure it will all be cleared up and Blackwater will be found to have done nothing wrong. Again."

"(Incidentally, don't expect Mitt Romney to have much to say about this. The vice chairman of Blackwater is Romney's senior adviser for national security issues.)"

* From a 1999 interview of poet Mark Doty. excerpt:

Question: I'd like to talk a little more about the notion of the political in poetry. In what ways is a poem a suitable vessel for a political subject? What is it that a poem can do with a political subject that another form of writing or discourse can't? I suspect it may have something to do with the way in which poetry engages the reader...

Doty: I've been talking about this a lot in print lately—in an essay in the Boston Review this summer, which responds to Harold Bloom's introduction to the Best of the Best American Poetry anthology, and in an argument-in-print with my friend J.D. McClatchy, which will appear in the new incarnation of the James White Review this winter. It occurs to me that my sense of what political poetry consists of is to some degree generational; I'm young enough (or old enough, depending on your point of view) to have been shaped by the notion that the personal is political. When I talk about political poetry, I mean that work which is attentive to the way an individual sense of identity is shaped by collision with the collective, how one's sense of self is defined through encounter with the social world. Such a poem doesn't necessarily deal with, say, the crisis in Bosnia or America's brutal mishandling of the AIDS epidemic, though it might be concerned with these things. Though it does do more than occupy the space of the lyric 'I;' it is interested, however subtly, in the encounter between self and history.
Question: I am curious to hear why you think poetry survives as an art form today. It seems to me that the most perfect art form would probably be film making: You get to use visual images, sound, music, the spoken voice, actors, etc. Why when we have so many choices of kinds of art-making, do people still keep returning to poetry?

Doty: Poetry certainly doesn't have the 'totalizing' quality that film does, a medium which just surrounds one and hostages the viewer's attention. It lacks painting's immediacy, or photography's odd marriage of the esthetic and the palpable sense of the 'real.' One would think that our late-century engagement with arts which combine media, which seek a sort of seamless experience for the viewer, would supplant poetry. But far from it. My sense is that, while still a minority preference, poetry is thriving. Audiences for readings increase, a great deal of poetry is published, and it seems that among young people especially there is genuine interest in and respect for the art.

"Who knows why? My guess is that somehow poetry is a vessel for the expression of subjectivity unlike any other; a good poem bears the stamp of individual character in a way that seems to usher us into the unmistakably idiosyncratic perceptual style of the writer. I think we're hungry for singularity, for those aspects of self that aren't commodifiable, can't be marketed. In an age marked by homogenization, by the manipulation of desire on a global level (the Gap in Houston is just like the Gap in Kuala Lumpur, it seems), poetry may represent the resolutely specific experience. The dominant art forms of our day—film, video, architecture—are collaborative arts; they require a team of makers. Poems are always made alone, somewhere out on the edge of things, and if they succeed they are saturated with the texture of the uniquely felt life."

* "Even a purely moral act that has no hope of any immediate and visible political effect can gradually and indirectly, over time, gain in political significance." -- Vaclav Havel


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