Amanda Palmer wrote a very bad poem. “A Poem for Dzhokhar” was posted to her blog over the weekend, and the world is infuriated. This is, in part, because, as mentioned previously, it is a very bad poem. The worst poem ever, perhaps, some literary critics are pointing out.
Is “A Poem for Dzhokhar” the worst tribute poem of all time? slate.me/12B8NKl
— Slate (@Slate) April 22, 2013
here it is the worst poem anyone ever wrote amandapalmer.net/blog/20130421
— max read (@max_read) April 22, 2013
Amanda Palmer Stoops to New Low With Exploitative Boston Bomber Poem, writes Spin today in what has been a common reaction. But why such hyperbole? People don’t tend to get up in arms about poems too often these days outside of study hall and faculty mixers.
The aggressively negative reaction is also largely because Amanda Palmer can’t walk out her front door without it feeling like she’s trumpeting her presence to the firmament.
One day I hope we have the science to merge Amanda Palmer, Miranda July and Lena Dunham into a twee, navel-gazing Voltron of intolerability.
— Jeb Lund (@Mobute) April 22, 2013
So be it, she’s a compelling, often infuriating presence on the cultural radar, and provocation has long been her game. There’s also still a lot of leftover animosity to the songwriter and performance artist over her Kickstarter success, and subsequent PR fumblings from last year.
The crux of the criticism here moves beyond all of that, however, with most of it centering around her attempts at harnessing her star to the Boston Marathon tragedy. That’s rightfully troublesome, because she’s certainly the only single person in the world to have seen the bombings and the subsequent manhunt for what they really are: traffic and ratings gold. Everyone from the news networks who ran around the clock coverage of the story, to the politicians who jumped in front of a camera to proclaim that bombing people is bad and should be illegal, to the civil-rights heroes criticizing Boston’s reaction to shutting down the entire city, to celebrities and artists throwing benefits to help the victims, to every publication and website in the world sifting through the remains for #FRESHTAKES are simply carving themselves off a chunk of that good terror publicity. Palmer is no different than the rest of us. She’s no different from me. What’s this blog post besides another attempt to grind some gristle off of the already-picked over horses carcass? I wrote three separate articles about the events myself — how lucky I was to live in the actual town where the terrorist was hiding out! Felt pretty great, aside from all the machine guns out on my front lawn, and the whole wondering whether or not there was in IED in my trash can thing.
But even saying that now, I’m simply doing what every single person, outside of those literally injured or killed, or who lost family members in this horrible tragedy, have been doing; inserting myself into the drama. Don’t kid yourself, that’s exactly what you did with every “Oh my god, I used to live down the street from there”, or “I used to know a friend who traveled within 50 miles of that spot where maybe something happened.” Friends coming out of the woodwork to ask me if I was ok over the week were trying to leverage proximity to me in order to feel like they were part of the ordeal themselves too. Are you supporting Boston on Facebook? #BOSTONSTRONG? Does your heart go out to the people hurt in the marathon? Are they in your prayers? That’s weird that your prayers exist on Twitter and Facebook. Maybe you’re actually trying to accomplish something else when you say things like that? Maybe you’re trying to do exactly what Palmer has done here? At least she went through the effort of formatting hers into a half-way thought-out verse of sorts. Everyone wants to play six degrees of tragedy separation when something like this happens, that’s all Palmer has done.
I wrote about this in Slate the other day, decrying the performative nature of grief. Since then it’s gotten so much worse. All the world’s a marketplace, and we’re all scrambling to carve out market share for our own personal brand.
There’s a quote on one of the many, many, negative comments on her blog post from Palmer that is very telling. “This isn’t about me. Or him. It’s pretty much about everyone,” she wrote.
Palmer has done here what the role of the artist is supposed to be. To take our flaws and reflect them back to us. We just don’t like what we see in the mirror this time. We all look a lot like Amanda Palmer.