Wednesday, April 5, 2017



If We Were Birds by Janine Harrison
(Moria Books’ Locofo Chaps, Chicago, 2017)


(Moria Books’ Locofo Chaps, Chicago, 2017)

The current project by Locofo Chaps offers a series of chapbooks on the theme of resistance. At last count, these numbered 89, with new ones added all the time. What strikes me as I read through these small books, is the variety and creativity of approaches to the topic. Some work from scientific papers (Marthe Reed’s Data Primer), others use film titles (Nate Logan’s Post Reel), or nursery rhymes (Melinda Luisa de Jesus’ Humpty Drumpfty and Other Poems). There are poems in the “voices” of Trump or those in his close circle, love poems, poems about immigration. One poet offers a novella in verse, another writes aphorisms.

Two good examples are Janine Harrison’s long poem “If We Were Birds,” that takes the plight of the DACA children as its topic and central theme. These young people were brought to the U.S. as undocumented immigrants as very young children, and now find themselves very vulnerable to deportation. They grew up here, “absorbed English like top soil imbued by rain.” They “drank American myths” about hard work and achievement, learning to that they could become whatever they wanted to, that their potential was unlimited. Only later do they come to understand—when confronted by laws and bureaucracy—that their status was conditional, a kind of legal limbo that made things like getting a driver’s license, applying for college or jobs, even crossing state lines for a field trip difficult or sometimes impossible. They learned, painfully, “that we lived outside/looked in a window so clean/if we were birds/we would have flown into the glass.” The metaphor is perfect, picking up on the freedom of birds, that no international barrier can prevent from crossing borders, as well as the innocence of creatures that neither know nor acknowledge the lines drawn by humans. But the metaphor also highlights the near invisibility of the barrier, and its killing solidity.

Where Harrison develops her theme in a long poem, Jared Schickling uses the aphoristic approach of The Pocket Oracle and the Art of Prudence to create his own Trumpaphorisms. Here is a small sample:

Two wrongs don’t make a right, take Donald Trump’s sons for example.

It’s better to let someone think you are Donald Trump than to open your mouth and prove it.

I like Donald Trump. He reminds me of when I was young and stupid.

I’ll stop there, but go and read the rest on your own, and while you’re at it, read around in this impressive group of chaps.


Steve Klepetar’s work has appeared in nine countries, in such journals as Boston Literary Magazine, Deep Water, Antiphon, Red River Review, Snakeskin, Ygdrasil, and many others.  Several of his poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, including four in 2016. He has published 12 collections, the most recent of which include "A Landscape in Hell" (Flutter Press); "Family Reunion" (Big Table Publishing); and "How Fascism Comes to America" (Locofo Chaps).

1 comment:

  1. Another view is offered by M. Earl Smith in the July issue of GR at