THE DAY AFTER THE LAST ELECTIONS
for Pablo Neruda
Four more years doing time in the Big House
of the Amerikan Corporation,
Bossman Presidente holding the rifle and the dogs…
There’s a new sheriff in town—
identical, in fact, to the old sheriff,
resurrected in a fresh slogan
from the Boot Hill of legal banditry
and duded up in the erewhon drag of intolerance.
Here he comes,
riding over the cries of the Innocents
with an Old Testament fury—
a rootin’, tootin’, six-gun totin’ bottomliner,
with a duty to the Stockholders
to make the world safe for Apocalypse.
Yes, the People have spoken—
but in their sleep, hind legs kicking
like Ol’ Shep chasing dreamrabbits
through 3rd, 4th and 5th world alleys.
The nation is still apologizing to Custer
for having Unions—
meanwhile: the eyes of Saint Elvis float
above billboards advertising the cola
that leads to the method of true smiling.
Waiters jostle with sharks and orchids.
While nobody was watching,
while nobody was listening,
while everybody was ordering another round
of blood on the rocks,
they changed the monkey again—
deja vu, with amnesia, one more time.
from The Big Job by Robert Edwards (Red Dragonfly Press, 2016)
Obviously (and unfortunately) this collection of political poems remain as relevant as ever. If you’re feeling low after the last election, perhaps this is just the book to get you “active” once again.
Robert Edwards is originally from northern Minnesota. He attended Moorhead State University where he studied poetry with Thomas McGrath. His books include Rumors of Earth, Transparencies, Radio Venceremos, and American Sounds. Founder and editor of the magazine Pemmican, Edwards lives in the state of Washington.
The Big Job: Poems 1978 – 2004 by Robert Edwards (180 pages;9781945063008) is available from Red Dragonfly Press and Small Press Distribution.
Comments on The Big Job
The Big Job is filled with exclamations, high-spirited imperatives, and raucous hilarity in poems that are linguistically and formally adventurous without being coy and vague. All of these qualities make them highly unfashionable, but we would do well to read them and see what we’re missing in so much contemporary poetry that works so hard to say so little. In ‘Manifesto #94,’ Edwards wrote the following lines, committing to political action: “Now is the time / to set the wind free in the house. / Now is the time / to unsheathe my tongue / and take the safety off my hand.” Now is still the time. – Jonathan Andersen
Where are we in history? What have we lost? What have we become? That’s what Robert Edwards asks in this vast and decades-spanning book of lyrics and narratives and rants and homages—asks and sometimes answers, but never in a simple way. These are poems in love with, and deeply disillusioned by, America. Unapologetic, partisan, political, urgent, furious, The Big Job is also celebratory as it moves, in its own words, “among the sirens, in the American dark.” The truth is, some books can’t help but be hopeful, because they are so full of decency and real thinking. “Bring everything you have,” writes Edwards. “We need it all / because it is ourselves we make.” – Daisy Fried
Part retrospective, part poetry manifesto, part call to action, behind Edwards’ “Big Job” is a big idea: the need of working people to abolish the stranglehold rule of the rich and powerful and construct the foundations of a new egalitarian society. If Edwards’ allegiance to the working class harkens back to such midwestern literary ancestors as Tom McGrath and Meridel LeSueur, his rich imagery, surprising leaps and turns of language, and creation of a unique poetic voice are as accomplished as any poet writing today. The result of over forty years of writing, The Big Job is a triumph for Edwards, as well as for a growing movement of writers seeking to create socially conscious work on behalf of the 99 per cent. – Christopher Butters
Many a poet envisions him- or herself as a courageous figure, toiling steadfastly, crafting poems in, and despite, the Great American Wilderness. But it’s rare to find a poet who will say, “Now is the time / to make a few enemies.” And actually do it, with passion and joie de vivre. Such is the joy awaiting the reader of Robert Edwards’ The Big Job. – John Bradley
Though we are living through dark times, politically and existentially, we have Robert Edwards’ The Big Job to remind us of what it was like when the passion for justice was strong voiced and packed the streets. In these poems, Edwards brings us an archive of protest from 1978 to 2004 and with masterful poetic voice, he honours his contemporaries and those who have gone before. There is anger here, but also humor and biting satire as he skews those who stir his contempt, from Reagan and Bush to Enron bullies exulting over their exploitation of Grandma Millie. Now, this history of rebellion is more timely and needed than ever. – Marilyn Zuckerman