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The Poetics of Political Diatribe

Karren Alenier

Back in 2017, the Steiny Road Poet (a.k.a Karren Alenier) vented her distaste about what was happening in the United States government by writing a short series of poems that combined two forms—the acrostic and some other form like sonnet, pantoum, or one she invented. She only half heartedly sent them out—in fact, each of the four poems featured in this essay were sent to only two publishers.

Recently the following two sonnets were published in Winedrunk Sidewalk, a blog that has been publishing poems daily since January 20, 2017 that take on president 45 and his minions.


                                                              JR (1951-2016)

    D ear One since your quick transition something
    O dious shocked the Nation our planet
    N eeding time to heal I was slow to share
    A ll actions accruing to wrong doing
    L iving without your love ups the threat
    D espite who won I’ll negate the nightmare

    T roubling to laud the democratic way
    R esisting climate change national debt
    U ncapped by repeal and replace healthcare
    M oney laundering lies racism praised
    P ause there


                                                              JR (1951-2016)

    How is it Dear One the world has come to
    Impossible crossroads so onerous
    Leading to a TV reality
    Lampoon in which a business man unglues
    Arteries of peace touchy tenuous
    Rescue Dear Boyscout I need honesty
    Your absence impedes my sore levity

    Certainly we believe in a woman
    Leader one who is clever ambitious
    Intelligent knowing truth from fake news
    Need I say My Love we have a madman
    Tweeting like an angry bird dangerous
    Out to undo everything we deem true
    Nothing but bad hairdo and worse juju

The first poem is a curtal sonnet (meaning a short sonnet having 11 lines and the last line has only two syllables). The reader can easily see what name the acrostic spells out down the left-hand side of the poem.

Companion to the short sonnet, the second poem is a regular sonnet of fourteen lines, however, it is a modern sonnet not concerned with an established rhyme pattern, such as a Shakespearian sonnet (abab, bcbc, cdcd, ee). It does however have its own rhyme pattern abcabcc dbadbaa. With a little effort, the reader can discern in the acrostic letters down the left-hand side , the name of the woman who ran against 45 in the last US presidential election.

Both of these poems seem plugged into today’s current events. The Dresser is satisfied that these two poem merited publication.

On the other hand, poems number 3 and 4 don’t hold up under the test of time.


                                                                      JR (1951-2016)

    Please Darling I need your full attention
    American democracy is deep
    Under dire presidential duress
    Law makers like the current House speaker

    Report U.S. democracy deeply
    Yielding to ratify the little guy
    All law makers like sitting House Speaker
    Negate reason prefer alternate facts

    Nodding to gratify the little guy
    Anxious politicians push tax reform
    Yessing reason mouthing alternate facts
    Real suffering people will lose health care

    Lying politicians promote tax reform
    Under dire presidential duress
    Ailing people can’t afford their health care
    Please Darling I need your full attention

The acrostic which spells forward and backwards the name of a former Speaker of the House makes this pantoum dated. The Dresser can say, maybe this poem worked as an incantation against that Speaker who was happy with “alternate facts.” The truth is that the Dresser would prefer that the world forget this Speaker.


                                                JR (1951-2016)

    Jimbo now that I have your attention
    Are you concerned about voting justice
    Maybe FBI directors don’t count
    Especially when they turn election
    Statistics who said the Russians meddled

    Controversy over email justice
    Or female harassment odd attention
    Mandating perhaps a new election
    Even the Russians not sure who meddled
    Yo my man in heaven come on what counts

Likewise the acrostic in the poem number 4, which spells out the name of a fired FBI director, dates the poem. Perhaps the poem continues to have some merit since we still have the problem, at least among Republicans, about confirming Russian interference in the 2016 election. However, the Dresser would rather zero out this man because he, like the Russians, messed with the 2016 election. Notice that this poem repeats the end words of stanza one but not in the same order. The poem is a nonce form, meaning it has a pattern but doesn’t have a name—ergo invented by the writer.

So the poetics of writing political poetry that will have any staying power is to avoid naming the people in politics. Naming them even in a hidden way might be clever but it is still bad juju. Better to effect the obscurity of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons where she writes about such unmentionable things in her time as same sex love and marriage.

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Scene4 Magazine — Karren Alenier

Karren Alenier is a poet and writer. She writes a monthly column and is a Senior Writer for Scene4. She is the author of The Steiny Road to Operadom: The Making of American Operas. Read her Blog.
For more of her commentary and articles,
check the Archives.

©2019 Karren Alenier
©2019 Publication Scene4 Magazine


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