For the first time, Chris Agee reads from his “startlingly unique” new poetic work, Trump Rant (2021), written between January 2017 and Election Day 2020, and just published.
“A cross between Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Wittgenstein.” – William Crawley
Caustically humorous and polemically compulsive, Trump Rant is a work of meticulous political portraiture: a deep-delving and epoch-spanning investigation into the nature of power in American life, made luminous by Agee’s nuanced, exploratory understanding of authoritarian drift and thwarted democratic aspiration in a number of world-historical contexts, from Belfast to the Balkans to the formerly Confederate South. Free-roaming in its breadth of reference and tonal range, the Rant is at once viscerally personal and unsettlingly resonant, infused throughout with an almost hypnotic sense of scale, largesse, and historical moment.
Already renowned as a poet of emotional delicacy and singular stylistic vision, Agee’s hallmark gifts of writerly intimacy and ethical resolve are here expanded and reconfigured on a panoramic canvas – moving from a pared-back opening section to the accelerating pace and barrage-like linguistic assaults of the latter addenda. But for all its freewheeling furies, shifting emotional registers and Kubrick-like black humour, it remains a remarkably formal work, moored to the relentlessly dangerous drumbeat of Donald J. Trump.
The result is a combination of long-form radicalism and eclectic satire, startingly unique in its blend of aphorism, acuity and epic cultural imagining. Composed chronologically for nearly four years (from early 2017 until Election Day 2020), Trump Rant is a triumph of artistic witness and denunciation; an urgent retort to a global culture of imperilled legal standards and depleted literary response; and an incisive model of enlightenment and outrage in a “post-truth” world being visibly darkened by its criminal shadows.
“What a profusion of insults and vituperation, what a cornucopia of abuse, reproach, contempt, disgust and political and psychological analysis. What an abundance of inventiveness and unfailing imagination and versatility. I am reminded of the copious, imaginative and colourful execration one finds in Shakespeare. Agee’s rant could only have been done by a poet with authentic delight in language and a proper poet’s audacity. It has a poet’s command of cultural allusions too. I admire all these qualities a lot, and enjoyed it immensely. Altogether this little book of outrage is splendid.” – Chris Preddle, poet
Chris Agee was born in San Francisco and grew up in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. After high school at Phillips Academy Andover and a year in Aix-en-Provence, France, he attended Harvard University and since graduation has lived in Ireland. His third collection of poems, Next to Nothing, was shortlisted in Britain for the 2009 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, and its sequel, Blue Sandbar Moon, appeared in 2018. He is the Editor of Irish Pages, and recently edited Balkan Essays, the sixth volume of Hubert Butler’s essays.