Linh, I’d like to add the books of Peter Dale Scott to those your post will encourage folks to read. His poetic trilogy Seculum, along with his journalistic works, especially The Road to 9/11 and The War Conspiracy, examine the deep politics behind our major post-WWII national tragedies (those we suffered and those we inflicted on others). You will spark some outrage here, I imagine, especially among aesthetes who do not wish this kind of material to find a place in poetry. But it needs to be there. If poets don’t speak about the powers behind the two-way mirror (not necessarily in every poem—there is more to life than those powers, after all), then our poetry will continue to become even more enervated and irrelevant.
Beyond the question of poetry, though, is the question of how long Americans will continue to be swept along by a narrative composed of lies and half-truths. We see that narrative operating right now, in the willful suspension of disbelief surrounding John McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin. The press presents clear evidence that she is a serial liar—a fraud, a fake, a political con artist—and the “you can’t trust the press” current of the narrative kicks in. This and the many other currents of the American narrative (“Americans are the most generous people in the world,” “Americans fight only to bring democracy to the oppressed,” “America’s freedom depends on the ‘invisible hand of the Market,'” and more) have carried us to a very dark place: a place of endless war, corrupted elections, and economic disaster; a place where poets are encouraged to speak only of Disneyfied nature, to indulge in empty linguistic games, to write with one eye on the Awards page of Poets & Writers and the other on the track toward tenure.
On this anniversary of the attacks that did nothing but strengthen the grip of those forces that are so well served by the American narrative, I can only hope that all of us—citizens, consumers, nightmare dreamers—can begin to think our own thoughts and accept our responsibility to see through that blinding narrative. We’ve been told it is reality, but it’s no more real than Reality TV.
We poets especially need to hold our work to this higher standard. If poets don’t strive to see through, what in the world are we writing for?