Sunday, June 18, 2017



They Went to the Beach to Play by Wendy Taylor Carlisle
(Moria Books’ Locofo Chaps, Chicago, 2017)

                  Oftentimes, we are so caught up in the despair of how a Trump presidency changes our own lives that we forget that his term is a continuance of the same neoliberal policies that started shortly after Eisenhower took office. The chief amongst those policies is the use of an insane amount of force, often to the violent detriment of whomever we happen to have our soldiers and guns and missiles and drones pointed at on a particular day. In this volume, Carlisle uses violent imagery and truth-spewing invective to point out how the rest of the world comes to suffer when they dare stick their finger in the barrel of the American gun.
                  One will have to forgive the author if she doesn’t show restraint; after all, these matters have no pretty way to be spoken of. Inspired by a booming of Israel’s apartheid state in Palestine, Carlisle pens “They Went to the Beach to Play”, accenting the abhorrent violence of the matter with the lines “…Block, run,/kick, until the fisherman’s hut/explodes and the four of you sprint/for cover. O Mohamed, stay/a boy forever, passing a ball,/on a beach, in summer.” The language here would make any reasonable parent want to call their children inside—to hold them and protect them and, at the same time, reassure them. What the poet manages to do is make an abstract round of killing in some faraway locale very personal.
                  In “Making America”, the poet manages to bring about her feelings of futility as it pertains to such motherly inclinations. As she discusses the policies that have either come about or been promised by the administration, she finds herself introspective of her maternal role, quipping, at the poem’s conclusion, that “Around me, children are blown to mush./I am a mother. Don’t we say silly stuff?”

                  The author also takes a moment to dwell on the question of identity politics in the Trump era, and her inclinations to not have to explain herself. In “This Winter” she quips “When I marched I was questioned about/slogans & safety pins & pink hats./I answered the questions politely,/although good manners are not in my nature.” One can’t help but to dwell on how her mannerisms are similar to those of the Democratic candidate, and to wonder, just for a second, if those who won the culture wars could find a way to connect with those who lost, if we would all be able to better express, understand, and communicate what it is we’re trying to say…and thus, prevent demagogues from rising again.


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.

No comments:

Post a Comment