In some ways, political poetry is the great pariah, noble but un-publishable. Partly this stems from the challenge of writing a successful political poem. It’s not enough to rail against policies; poets must rail with aplomb and appropriate line breaks. José Luis Gutiérrez writes unabashedly about the state of the U.S. economy in his poem “Biomechanics.” He uses the metaphor suggested in the title, attacks on the body as stand-ins for attacks on the nation. However, he does not pussyfoot around the subject: “Adam Smith had it wrong: the economy isn’t run // by an invisible hand but by a ghost-ship manned / by a crew of severed limbs.” On a day when the president’s new slogan, “Forward,” is being criticized as Marxist, I am proud of poets who protect the nuances of language. Who do not scream, but woo.
As a side note, Gutiérrez’s poem is dedicated to Bob Hicok. I recently read Hicok’s astonishing 2010 collection, Words for Empty and Words for Full, and highly recommend it.