I thought the book was well-written and sharp and dealt with political and social issues without constantly resorting to various forms of cover, like irony or misdirection (a tendency that I count among my more serious flaws as a poet). I believe there is more peril in being transparent with one’s allegiances, but by the same token, I also feel that such an approach is more honest, and when it works, often makes for a more effective poem.
There’s a penchant amongst poets to want to address the political without being a “political poet.” I understand the distinction (and for me, it brings to mind George Oppen, who explained his 20-year hiatus from poetry by saying that he wanted to focus on his Marxist activism, but did not want to be a “Marxist” poet). On this count, Peace Conference really nails it; that is, it manages political content without being doctrinaire, or worse yet, tentative. Since politics and ethics are as close as most poets ever come to religion, I think it’s imperative to retain the energy and wonder of religious experience without becoming intractable. This can be a very difficult balance to strike, but you bring it off quite artfully in Peace Conference.
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