Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Poems from Guantanamo

I have to admit, for someone who spends most of his waking life writing about poetry and politics, when the two combine I'm sometimes left with very little to say. It wasn't until I saw the front page of the Wall Street Journal today that I became aware of a forthcoming volume from the University of Iowa press: The Detainees Speak a collection of poems written by detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

The poems, most of them carved into styrofoam cups with pebbles, were considered "classified" for many years, and have only recently been given the okay for release by the U.S. military. The collection was compiled by Marc Falkoff, a military defense lawyer with a Ph.D in English, and Iowa offered to publish it. Here, former Poet-Laureate Robert Pinsky (of Colbert Report and the Simpsons)discusses the upcoming collection with the BBC.

Poetry written not out of art, but out of desperation and defiance, I personally can't wait to read the collection, and at the same time, its front page exposure is bringing more and much needed light to the plight of hundreds of men and boys who our own military is holding indefinitely and without trial. Unfortunately, according to Mr. Falkoff, the military rejected many translations of the poems, for "security" reasons, and so laments the collection doesn't do justice to the original verse.

I was going to make a bad joke about the Pentagon brass demanding a strict Neo-Formalist translation to Falkoff's Post-Language Futurism, but, while I'm making jokes these detainees are still suffering in silence. I'm anticipating the release of this collection, I'm anticipating justice for what our own military is doing even more.


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