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Finding Poetry in Campaign Pamphlets

By Harriet Staff

Are you fully re-hydrated from watching the debates? Good.

Now, check out this Atlantic article by Andrew Cohen. He wrote a poem from all of the direct mail campaign pamphlets he’s received this year.

He writes:

Day after day they come to my house. By mail. By hand. Borne along with an urgent smile by canvassers who stalk the neighborhood looking for opportunities like me. Stuffed into the handle of my door. Blown around by the wind when I walk the dog. With an eye toward this piece, toward perhaps making some meaning of the insanity of it all, I started keeping them only about a month ago, after I had already received (and promptly tossed out) at least 200 more. They will continue to come, I know, until early November, until the eve of the coming election, when the people who send them will finally realize that it’s just too late.

As the resident of a swing state, evidently in or near a swing district, I live today in a pamphlet world. Every politician seeking my vote this election cycle seems to have decided that the best way to reach me — and to reach me — is to send me colorful, high-gloss, thick-stock political pamphlets pitching me on this or that. What the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling has done for the television and radio industries — think those television campaign commercials are free? — these pamphlets surely have done for the printing industry. I don’t remember ever receiving as many mailed election pitches as I have this year.

One day, all of the pamphlets I have, and all of the ones I will collect between now and November 6, will either be recycled or will help me start wood fires in my fireplace on the days when I can. Some of this garbage may make a difference in the races on which it touches. Some, no doubt, were as wasted on me, and on the related campaign, as all the other junk mail that comes. In the meantime, since I have them here, I thought I would go back through them to give you a sense of the language of the race, far away from the glare of the debates or the cheers of the crowd.

Political operatives are spending millions upon millions of dollars this cycle — more than ever before, I reckon — to get their message into my home, figuratively and literally. And what those messages say tells us an awful lot about the awful nature of politics in America in 2012. On balance, I would say I’ve received many more mailings from Republicans and conservative operatives than I have from Democrats and liberal operatives. Sometimes, it’s impossible to tell, so couched in dog whistles and focus-group-speak is the language of the pamphlets. Here is just some of the poetry of the campaign, taken directly from the text of the mailings:

Make the jump to read the poem.


Posted in Poetry News on Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.