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Speech Acts of Violence

As Judith Butler showed us, and as the assassination attempt in Arizona reminds us, speech acts - especially political commentary in the public sphere - can be violent - and lead to more violent acts.  The sheriff in the case was quick to draw the conclusion that incendiary rhetoric was potentially to blame, and it cannot be ignored (nor has it been) that Palin's website had stamped a gun target over the district of the shot congresswoman Giffords (who is doing as well as can be expected at time of writing).  At times like these, one wants to draw comfort from the hope that good can come from evil deeds - that perhaps this massacre will dampen the powder keg, and   spoil the Tea Party.

But, as was seen recently in Pakistan, assasination of liberal and brave speakers can simply be a herald of more anarchy to come.  At stake here is, at least, this: the world is becoming increasingly intolerant of difference; fundamental positions are hardening; deafness is the new default position; and those not with us are against us.  For all the social networking hype, we are a world at war, and contra each other.  The media, Murdoch most of all, seems, in the West, to be profiting from this Babel of nasty idiocy.  It needs to be reined in.  And, if America was saner, there would be fewer guns around - note that this gunman was not shot down by a pistol-packing citizen, but "wrestled" to the ground.


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To say that early Simple Minds was mannered is like accusing Joyce of being experimental. Doh. The band sought to merge the icy innovations of German music with British and American pioneers of glam and proto-punk, like Iggy Pop; their heroes were contrived,…


Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.

The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
are half my size nowI wanted to wear
smaller and smallerarticles of clothing
I shrunk to the sizethat disappeared

of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
too buoyant to sinktoo waterlogged for land
I becamea dot of sand


With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.