A Winner of the 2018 Diode Editions Full-Length Book Contest
sam· iz· dat
- the clandestine copying and distribution of literature banned by the state, especially formerly in the communist countries of eastern Europe.
Imagine a United States in which the First Amendment no longer exists. What would we say? What kind of poems would we read and write? In a series of terrified, lyrical fragments, American Samizdat contemplates this possibility. The Polish poets who wrote under the censoring eye of Communism serve as models for the collection. Throughout American Samizdat, an anonymous speaker agonizes over questions of freedom, truth, and the resilience of democracy; she is the American version of Pan Cogito, Zbigniew Herbert’s poetic alter ego, who once critiqued an oppressive regime through the coded language of myth, fable, and fairytale. Set in a world of 24-hour news coverage, social media, and alternative facts, American Samizdat wonders what we’ve become and where we’re going.
“Numbness is another way / of turning off the news,” Jehanne Dubrow writes in her deeply moving, terrifying, and necessary new collection, American Samizdat. In this brilliant, book-length series, Dubrow somehow gets at the root of our collective anxiety in a disintegrating America where meaning is merely “the last pink light / that glows above a fence” and “[a]n alternative to fact is vertigo, / the floor rising up to strike my face.” American Samizdat will last as a marker of early 21st century America, a “nation terrified,” a nation fed by technology and led by a mad man. “I remember,” Dubrow writes, “when threats // were given colors, red severe, / orange that the risk was high. // Now there is no chart.”
—Allison Benis White