Fantastic close-reading by Alan Davies (published in Tim Atkins’ OneEdit):
But the present is the tense of poetry. The present is the only tense of poetry. (Thank god (oof!) for those of us who are tense!)
For all writing is a palimpsest. If only it could be so (and enduringly so) all over the pathetic text written by abhorrent history.
We have only ourselves to pardon for the mess we’re in – and I think Kristin knows it or she wouldn’t write with such passion and forgiveness (which is compassion (after all)). We’re in it with her – and made to feel that – and that’s a good thing – the stuff of ageless lambasting poetry. A sort of satire in a way – but dead (dead (dead)) serious.
Reviewed by Andrew David King in The Kenyon Review:
Notions of intention, and how language twists or enriches that intention, are interrogated even more directly in Kristin Prevallet’s “Cruelty and Conquest” which appeared first in The Brooklyn Rail and then How2….Over the course of seven segments, the poem increasingly substitutes the word “oil” for words in an address George W. Bush made to the United Nations in September of 2002. The piece begins as a lineated excerpt of Bush’s speech without any other external modification:
The United States has no
quarrel with the Iraqi people; they’ve suffered too
long in silent
captivity. Liberty for
the Iraqi people is
a great moral cause, and a great strategic
goal. The people
of Iraq deserve
it; the security of
all nations requires it. Free societies do not
intimidate through cruelty
Prevallet’s lineation produces a dizzying effect, one achieved by foraying into the internal tautologies of the text itself. By forcing an excerpt whose tone, like that of Nixon in Zambito’s poem, is largely defensive and justificatory into the constraints of the poetic line, she inserts hesitations where none are dictated by syntax. As sound dissolves, so does logic. The achievement here is twofold: on the surface level, it performs the small miracle of making the political seem even more surreal than it already is. And on a more unconscious level, it prompts the sort of free association that happens when one encounters white space at the end of line instead of more words.