Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Top Poems of Donald Rumsfeld

My creative writing prof waaaaaay back in college once said that the best poetry provides a "gesture of information and emotional intent." And via this article in Slate, the Poet Laureate of America today is a title befitting Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. As statements made via press conferences, the language is nearly incoherent, but as poetry, old Rummy is Singing the Body Electric. Now that's some truly powerful stuff. Some samples:

The Unknown
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.

—Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

Glass Box
You know, it's the old glass box at the—
At the gas station,
Where you're using those little things
Trying to pick up the prize,
And you can't find it.

And it's all these arms are going down in there,
And so you keep dropping it
And picking it up again and moving it,

Some of you are probably too young to remember those—
Those glass boxes,

But they used to have them
At all the gas stations
When I was a kid.

—Dec. 6, 2001, Department of Defense news briefing

A Confession
Once in a while,
I'm standing here, doing something.
And I think,
"What in the world am I doing here?"
It's a big surprise.

—May 16, 2001, interview with the New York Times

You're going to be told lots of things.
You get told things every day that don't happen.

It doesn't seem to bother people, they don't—
It's printed in the press.
The world thinks all these things happen.
They never happened.

Everyone's so eager to get the story
Before in fact the story's there
That the world is constantly being fed
Things that haven't happened.

All I can tell you is,
It hasn't happened.
It's going to happen.

—Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense briefing

The Digital Revolution
Oh my goodness gracious,
What you can buy off the Internet
In terms of overhead photography!

A trained ape can know an awful lot
Of what is going on in this world,
Just by punching on his mouse
For a relatively modest cost!

—June 9, 2001, following European trip

The Situation
Things will not be necessarily continuous.
The fact that they are something other than perfectly continuous
Ought not to be characterized as a pause.
There will be some things that people will see.
There will be some things that people won't see.
And life goes on.

—Oct. 12, 2001, Department of Defense news briefing

I think what you'll find,
I think what you'll find is,
Whatever it is we do substantively,
There will be near-perfect clarity
As to what it is.

And it will be known,
And it will be known to the Congress,
And it will be known to you,
Probably before we decide it,
But it will be known.

—Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense briefing

Now that's some truly powerful stuff. Maybe the whole administration should consider the elements of Poetics to communicate.. Who knows, it might even get favorable features on The Writer's Almanac. (hat-tip to Tits McGee for bringing this poetry to my attention.)


  1. I thought it was funny at Tits, and I think its funny here.
    I love this stuff. Brilliant.

  2. I wrote a poem about this awhile back, it was so light weight it vaporized and it was never seen again. Do you suppose we can expect two miracles on one topic?

  3. A tipping of the hat is so gentlemanly. I like how you kick it old school.

  4. All those years as a creative writing major... all that money owed for graduate work at USC... and here I sit...
    Really, what else is there to say?
    I give up.
    Tomorrow I begin my career as an Avon lady.