Rogue Stimulus Revisited
With the election race coming into the home stretch, the “chattering classes” (that’s us) are lighting up social networks and op-eds to denounce the smear tactics of our Machiavellian PM. Carol Goar wrote a quick summary this morning, so we won’t repeat the many charges against the guy. You can read about his misdeeds just about anywhere these days, along with polls that show many Canadians might actually vote for him again. Funny world!
But remember when he prorogued Parliament not once, but twice? Those were good times! If you don’t want to hear the peoples’ voice, just shut down the House of Commons. Talk about creativity!
The last time it happened Stephen Brockwell and Stuart Ross came up with an idea to give back Canadians their voice, and what a chorus it turned out to be. Rogue Stimulus: The Stephen Harper Holiday Anthology for a Prorogued Parliament was filled with poems from across the country celebrating our great authoritarian-in-chief. Reading it today shows how well it holds up and how well it captures our country and our illustrious PM.
It was a fun project and we thought you might like to have a look too. So from now until election day we are going to drop the price of Rogue Stimulus to a mere $4.00. That’s basically the cost of postage and a bubble envelope. You’ll hear from many different voices in this collection and who knows, come October 19th, you may want to add your own.
Below you’ll find Stuart’s introduction to the book to give you a little background on how this project came about. We’ll post Stephen’s preface in a couple of days too.
Happy election everyone!
It’s no secret that good political poems are about as rare in Canada as, well, a prime minister who punts Parliament so he can go watch snowball fights. But, somehow, when Stephen Brockwell called me, just a couple weeks ago, and—after a thoroughly entertaining rant—invited me to collaborate on an anthology of poetic responses to our illustrious pm, it totally slipped my mind.
I’ve had a bit of experience in the field. In 2004, I edited a small anthology called My Lump in the Bed: Love Poems for George W. Bush. I put out the word for that one, selectively, and within about 15 hours, I had over 30 poems. And back in the 1990s, when Prime Minister Jean Chrétien throttled a protestor one sunny Flag Day, I took his words to reporters about the incident, verbatim and in order, and created a found poem called “Minor Altercation.” It ended up getting published widely and I made about $900 from it (that’s about $30,000 in human money). So I liked Stephen’s idea a lot, and I approached Denis De Klerck, the publisher of Mansfield Press (where I’m the poetry editor). Thing about this book is that it had to move with lightning speed: collect the poems, choose, edit, typeset, design, proofread and get it to the printer so it’d be ready for the resumption of Parliament on March 3.
Denis rolled his eyes, smiling faintly, and maybe a little resignedly, as I suppose all publishers do when they agree to that big moneymaker—a poetry book. So later that day we sent out the call: we approached writers we admired; we alerted listservs; we sent out press releases. Our deadline was five days from Denis’s nod.
Over the first four days we received about 200 submissions. Then, just before our Tuesday-midnight deadline, Stephen Brockwell appeared on cbc Radio. The segment was kicked off with an awful limerick, but the interview went well otherwise. In the few pre-deadline hours after the show, another 100 or so poems flooded in. Stephen Harper inspired an awful lot of awful limericks among them. After the deadline, the limericks—and other poems—kept straggling into the inbox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, although I don’t ever want to read another goddamn limerick, I am awestruck by the number of people who pounced on their keyboards to vent their exasperation with Stephen Harper and his despicable second proroguing of Parliament on December 30, 2009. Denis De Klerck, Stephen Brockwell and I salute all of you—whether you sent in some free verse, a found poem, a sonnet, a haiku or…yes…a limerick.
From the 300-and-something poems that arrived, Stephen and I wrestled them down to what we felt was a representative—and high-quality—72. Seventy-two fine and varied poems, by writers and other ordinary people across the country—all giving Stephen Harper what for. (We did get a fantastic limerick at the last minute!) Will Rogue Stimulus bring about the fall of this Little Emperor and his diabolical plans for Canada? Maybe not, but it might give him something to read. Seeing as his government is doing everything possible to slaughter the country’s literary magazines, where else is he going to find poetry—especially poetry about his favourite subject: himself.
Anyway, I don’t want to prorogue your reading of this book much longer. Thanks again to the Canadians from across this country who sent in poems. And to the extraordinary artist Gary Clement for rustling up such a fantastic cover so quickly. And thanks to you, the reader, for buying extra copies of this book for all your cousins.
Enjoy. And see you on Parliament Hill!
January 29, 2010