As the back panel says, Rich Murphy’s Body Politic is “political poetry.” But what does that mean these days? Poetry to put on placards for a march against discrimination? Poetry to read on podiums erected at the barricades? Poetry to discuss at university symposiums? Or maybe just poetry to gather insight about the gathering storm?
In “Prologue to the Impossible,” he writes “Short term interest/for short term gain/erases memory, history,/and solves problems/using prison, better yet guns.” What’s to blame? “Corporate thinking manages” he states further on, and he’s probably right. But often the prospects for true progress seem dim. “The Mortar for Oblivion” ends with these lines: “Curbed by stateless, glass-eyed/financiers, debtors wear/leases that choke resentment/and bricks don’t fly.”
Some of Murphy’s imagery veers into the realm of the private, such as “The Big Other short-circuited blood times/between itself and any body.” That reminds me of my first smattering of Dylan Thomas. His dense symbolism made it hard for my youthful brain to pinpoint the real world referents to Thomas’ lines, so I ended up overlaying my own experience onto them. It worked. Try it with Body Politic if you lose your mooring. Who’s to say if your understanding is correct? You’re not at school anymore. You’re not being marked right or wrong.
This is a worthy volume of progressive poetry, trimmed with occasional mysteries you can ponder long after first or second readings.