Amanda Palmer’s ‘A Poem for Dzhokhar’ – a scathing review on Gawker

Amanda Palmer’s ‘A Poem for Dzhokhar’ – a scathing review on Gawker

NOTE: Palmer responded to the rage in a wonderfully non-defensive way. I still think it was a bad approach to a sensitive topic, and she doesn’t deny (or confirm) picking that title for the views, but okay sure one respect point back.

I have to point out that Max Read, the author of this post, clearly doesn’t read enough Internet poetry. The imagery evoked here (I didn’t read the whole thing, but there is an excerpt on the Gawker post), is fascinating.

I was going to write this whole post about writing fictional horror in a world that experience real tragedies on a daily basis, and there’s so much to say on the topic. A friend linked this today and I find it’s a good opportunity to discuss at least one piece of this, which is quality.

This is not the worst poem out there; go to any site that caters to tween LGTBQs and you’ll find a million cookie-cutter posts about identity crises, that kind of thing. But Palmer is clearly capable of doing better, as far as her lyrics go.

I think art is the single opportunity we have to explore the dark underpinnings of human nature. I would rather have an open forum where people can come out and say ‘yes I have wished this person/this group of people were dead’ than have some loner build it up like a pressure cooker and just let it all out in an incredibly harmful, awful way. So I’m not opposed to the notion of writing something like this, if only because I am wondering what the eff was going on in their heads to do this kind of thing…you’ve got to understand it to stop it. (I privately suspect anarchism.)

Anyway, what I do take issue with as far as Palmer goes is the fact that she comes off as a total opportunist. For one, the Kickstarter mess ($1 million and you’re not paying performers? Really?) looks bad. Two, since we know she could do better, why didn’t she? What is with the timing on this?

A dark, discordant song from the perspective of a terrorist/serial whatever (it doesn’t have to be this kid; also, I hear ‘terrorism’ is specifically associated with a political agenda) could be genuinely interesting. I picture something with minor harmonies and then, right as you get used to it, something that slaps you in the face because, as far as society goes, this is taboo and the inability to be complacent about trying to understand the motivation to kill innocents (a higher cause, really, what next, Übermensch?) merits as much discussion as the attempt to understand the philosophy of a killer itself.

So anyway, I think that it is important to keep art free of taboos. But I also think it is important to approach the subject with your brain in third gear. If you’re going to tackle something heavy, you should have the literary/visual/whatever chops to back it up.


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