Monday, May 8, 2017



(Moria Books’ Locofo Chaps, Chicago, 2017)

            There’s a certain art that goes into haiku, wither it be the standard 5-7-5 style that pervades the American form, or the no syllable form that makes up its Japanese forbearer. Given how the art form has nearly always had a focus on the aesthetic, I was eager to see how poet Kath Abela Wilson would be able to tie in the events of the 2017 election to such a meek style. Thankfully, in less than 500 words, she did not disappoint.
            Much as our current leader has tossed asunder the ideas of our informed democratic society, the poet here has set aside the standard forms and written each verse as if the last lines that she may ever utter are contained in these three short lines. For example, when she writes “pink sunrise/the day doesn’t know/the bad news”, we are left with the uncomfortable juxtaposition of the beauty of nature and the dark, depressing news that a demagogue is now the leader of the free world. This stays true to both the haiku as an aesthetic form, and to the author’s stated missive of both commenting on the human experience and offering contrast between aesthetic beauty and cold realism. 
            She also uses this from to point out the contradictions, paradoxes, and outright flip-flops in the Trumpian agenda. This is clear in stanzas such as “taxing times/making the trees/pay for the forest” (a direct dig at Trump’s plan to offer relief to the rich on the backs of the poor); “surrounded by fences/danger detour no access/to the white house” (a direct shot at the hyper-masculinity that administration shows in contrast with their fear of anyone who is not a straight white Protestant male) and even “checking the wall/he built of lies/his fall” (a direct shot at the administration’s willingness to change their stance on a policy position on a whim..)
            To say the entire book is about Trump would be to give the oligarch too much credit. The author uses the form to reflect on her pride in her husband’s activism (“protest signs/even my husband wears/a flowery hat”) and her mother’s memory (“brave peacemaker/my mother said to build/on the fault” and “even my gentle mother/said beware/’no sympathy for our plight’”) to great effect. This stretches the genre beyond even her preconceived set of boundaries, and, in a  delightful way, gives the reader insight into the mind of a revolutionary writer, one who needs scant few words to get her point across.


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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