Thursday, May 25, 2017



(Moria Books’ Locofo Chaps, Chicago, 2017)

             Aesthetically, this may be my favorite chapbook in a long time. Amy Bassin is an incredible photographer, and her images of stone faces give the volume a haunting vibe. Mark Blickley perfectly sets Bassin’s images to quotes from a bunch of murderous dictators and other folks, although, as I’ll argue later, some of these things are not like the others. Aesthetically, one could not ask for more in a chap.

            While I would argue that this book, in itself, is not a poetry volume (although I am sure that some poetry diehards would argue that this collection of quotes constitutes a found poem), there can be little doubt about its place in both the anti-Trump lexicon of work and its worthwhile contribution to the chapbook form. This one runs a little more than the normal Locofo chapbook because of how it’s printed. While the rest of the volumes are usually words or, at best, images on a soft yellow page, this one comes to us printed on high-quality white glossy paper. This makes the pages jump out at the reader, although, as an archivist, I cringe at the thought of long-term preservation of a volume such as this.
            Now that we’ve explored the aesthetic value of the volume, let’s turn to the quotes themselves. While I can understand the value in using quotes from ineffective nationalist leaders such as Mussolini (“The history of saints is mainly the history of insane people.”) and Jefferson Davis (“Neither current events nor history/show that the majority rule/or ever did rule.”), some of the quotes leave me bewildered. For example, the comparison of Trump to Judas, for me, serves little than to associate him with a “bad guy.” Besides, the quote itself (“I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.”) would never apply to Trump, because he has the best blood. It’s fantastic. And he’s gonna show us all how he uses it, because it’s just so great. Seriously, though, Trump was always a demagogue to the capitalists, so who would he have betrayed? A group of people (the American proletariat) that he never gave a damn about in the first place?
            I also hesitate to compare him to the likes of Charles Manson, Josef Mengele, or Pol Pot, simply because I feel to do so dismisses their crimes for the sake of a cheap pop. Nor would I compare him to Stalin, because Stalin defeated Nazis, and the vast majority of his people, in spite of western propaganda, still hold him in an esteemed view. Thus, while I appreciate what this volume was trying to accomplish from a literary sense, I feel that, with better quotes from those closer to Trump’s style (Boris Yeltsin, anyone?), the volume could have accomplished more.


From works for children to the macabre, from academic research to sports journalism, and from opinion essays to the erotic, M. Earl Smith is a writer that seeks to stretch the boundaries of genre and style. A native of Southeast Tennessee, M. Earl moved to Ohio at nineteen and, with success, reinvented himself as a writer after parting ways with his wife of eleven years. After graduating from Chatfield College (with highest honors) in 2015, M. Earl became the first student from Chatfield to matriculate at an Ivy League institution when he enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia. The proud father of two wonderful children (Nicholas and Leah), M. Earl studies creative writing and history at UPenn. When he’s not studying, M. Earl splits time between Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Chattanooga, with road trips to New York City, Wichita, Kansas, and Northampton, Massachusetts in between.

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