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Friday, April 29, 2011

Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfeld

Something for the 'Inkling' in all of us......

Book Review
Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfeld
Hart Seely, Editor
Free Press, 2003

For those of you who have never heard of the Inklings, I direct you toward this Wikipedia page. In brief, the Inklings consisted of a group of British authors who would meet occasionally to discuss and read their work to one another. Notable members of the group include J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Owen Barfield. In addition to discussing serious works, the Inklings used to enjoy a little bit of fun. One of their favorite pastimes included having a competition to see how long one could read the poetry of Amanda McKittrick Ros without laughing. Mrs. Ros is truly a unique poet, weaving words into a tapestry of literary art which challenges the intellect and self control of the reader.

I wish I had one-tenth of her ability. She is an inspiration to me.

Hart Seely, the editor of 'Pieces of Intelligence,' pored over the words of Donald H. Rumsfeld's interviews and news briefings given while he was Secretary of Defense during the early years of the Bush Administration. What he discovered was that beneath the veneer of a professional statesman beats the heart of a poet. In many instances Rumsfeld demonstrates a variety of poetic forms depending on the message he wishes to convey. Mr. Seely has organized these different styles of poetry into seven chapters, including one on Haiku(my favorite), Sonnets, Lyrical Poems, and of course, Free Verse.

It was hard to pick one poem to quote as a favorite; I found I loved all of the poems, and would disturb the quiet of my household with laughter as I shared this book with my wife and children. They did not seem to appreciate it as much as I did. Here is one example, taken from a DOD briefing in December, 2002:

The Story

I was briefed on that story before I came down.
I have not gone over it.
It's interesting.
Let me try to put it in context,
And then I'll see if I can answer it.

I have no idea what it's about.


As it is said in the Introduction, the poetry of D.H. Rumsfeld demands to be read aloud. I strongly recommend this book as one which will be enjoyed the most when read aloud to one's colleagues, friends, and loved ones. It is not a serious book at all, and it pokes fun at a very capable public servant without being malicious. While this book did not inspire me to write any more of my own 'Bad Poetry,' it did prompt me to purchase Mr. Rumsfeld's memoir 'Known and Unknown' on sale at our local Costco. Mr. Seely's good-natured treatment of former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld left me admiring him not only as a statesman during a difficult time in our country's history, but also as a poet worthy of imitation.

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Mary my mother, take my hand today, and all days.
Lead me away from all occasions of sin.
Guide me in fulfilling your last words in the Gospel,
"Do whatever He tells you."

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