Culture

Revisit Harold Pinter’s Powerful Anti-War Poem ‘American Football’

Culture

Revisit Harold Pinter’s Powerful Anti-War Poem ‘American Football’

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In 1991 as the horrors of the Gulf War carried on, Nobel-winning British playwright and poet Harold Pinter found himself disgusted with the chasm between the language we used to talk about war and the visceral destruction actually being carried out. The result was a poem called “American Football.” But, as he recounted a year later, he couldn’t find anyone to actually publish the damn thing, filled, as it was, with “offensive” language, a bit of hypocrisy that only further hammered home his point. It was turned away by the Independent, the Observer, the Guardian, the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books before eventually being published by a small journal called Bomb. Each and every one of them fucked up.

Pinter wrote about the frustration of being unable to convince a series of editors, many of whom were sympathetic to the poem, which you can read here, along with Michael Billington from Life and Work of Harold Pinter, who wrote:

Pinter’s poem, by its exaggerated tone of jingoistic, anally obsessed bravado, reminds us of the weasel-words used to describe the war on television and of the fact that the clean, pure conflict which the majority of the American people backed at the time was one that existed only in their imagination. Behind the poem lies a controlled rage: that it was rejected, even by those who sympathised with its sentiments, offers melancholy proof that hypocrisy is not confined to governments and politicians.

Some of this may sound familiar in today’s political climate. (h/t @ladyhaja)

 

American Football
(A Reflection upon the Gulf War)

Hallelullah!
It works.
We blew the shit out of them.

We blew the shit right back up their own ass
And out their fucking ears.

It works.
We blew the shit out of them.
They suffocated in their own shit!

Hallelullah.
Praise the Lord for all good things.

We blew them into fucking shit.
They are eating it.

Praise the Lord for all good things.

We blew their balls into shards of dust,
Into shards of fucking dust.

We did it.

Now I want you to come over here and kiss me on the mouth.