Sunday, July 03, 2005

while-we're still-on-iraq dept.

The existential poetry of Donald Rumsfeld.

Ha ha. I have to post this, because its even more hilarious that 'Rumy''s verses. A post-modernist deconstruction of this book. Posted originally by this guy as a review on

A Unique New Voice in American Poetry, September 3, 2003

Reviewer: C. Colt "It Just Doesn't Matter" (San Francisco, CA United States)

"Pieces of Intelligence" is the landmark publication of verses written by the previously unpublished existentialist poet, D.H. Rumsfeld. While Rumsfeld is widely recognized and often quoted, his poetry has received surprisingly scant attention until now.

Rumsfeld first emerged on the scene during the turbulent Watergate years, however his poetry remained overshadowed by more flamboyant voices of the time such as those of J. Dean, G.G. Liddy, and D. Throat. Beginning in the late 70s, Rumsfeld entered the so called "wilderness phase" of his creative ruminations and was scarcely heard from. Turning up in a number of odd corporate and government locations, and once even in Baghdad as a guest of Saddam Hussein, much of Rumsfeld's poetry during this time remains classified.

Rumsfeld's period of artistic obscurity came to an abrupt end with the tragic events of September 11th, 2001. As a traumatized nation struggled to understand what had taken place, Rumsfeld addressed both its disorientation and its deep nostalgia for better times in his now landmark poem, "Glass Box" (December 6th, 2001).

You know, it's the old glass box at the-
At the gas station,
Where you're using those little things
Trying to pick up the prize,
And you can't find it.

And it's all these arms are going down in there,
And so you keep dropping it
And picking it up again and moving it,

Some of you are probably too young to remember those-
Those glass boxes,

But they used to have them
At all the gas stations
When I was a kid.

The beauty of this poem is that it remains both complex and accessible in a manner that appeals to practically every type of reader. The poem contains a clear sense of regression, with each stanza becoming progressively smaller until the final stanza "stabilizes" at the same number of lines as the preceding one. Similarly, while the first three stanzas end in incompletion with expressions such as "It's-", "But-", and "But-" the final one firmly anchors the poem with a nostalgic reference to childhood in a bygone era. At a time when the collective psyche of the nation's populace had become traumatized in an unprecedented fashion, "Glass Box" showed them that the answer to all of their problems lay in the past. The poet had found his voice.

While "Glass Box" may be Rumsfeld's signature poem, it is really his deconstruction of knowledge in the poem "Unknown" (February 12th, 2002) that demonstrates his skill and subtlety as an existential poet.

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.

Because the musicality of this poem tends to fool many readers, they often miss out on its uncompromising logic. One useful trick to avoid the dreamy cadence produced by the "oh" sound in all the "knowns" is to separate them from the rest of the poem an a substantive manner:

Know known knowns
know know

Know known unknowns
not know

Unknown unknowns
don't know don't know.

Even by extracting and parsing the most emblematic term of this verse, we must labor to keep up with poet's logic. The beauty of this poem, as with many of Rumsfeld's more subtle ones is that, indeed, by the time he is done we wonder what it is we actually know.

While I have quoted two of Rumsfeld's more academic poems in this review, readers will be pleased to learn that he is a poet of tremendous variety, which makes his work infinitely readable. Among other genres, "Pieces of Intelligence" also features Rumsfeld's haiku, hiphop and free verse.

Whether you're a sophisticated student of poetry or just a person who enjoys some really cool verse, I highly recommend purchasing the first publication of D. H. Rumsfeld's poetry. I hope that in future we see more of Rumsfeld's verse including his lost earlier poems from the 70s and 80s.

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