On February 1, 2016, the date of the Iowa caucus, David Breskin began a project that would carry him through the American presidential election. An ex-journalist, Breskin set out to "cover" this most strange and historic election, under the pressure of a reporter's daily deadline, by writing one poem a day. He created a deliberately awkward, rollickingly restrictive form - seven beats per line, 11 lines per poem - and, noting our preference for the convenience of sound-bite news and junk-food polls over more nutritious fare, called them "7-11s". The result is Campaign, a fierce, prescient, oddly moving and scathingly funny book.
No one is spared (not Ted, not Marco, not Carly, not Hillary nor Bernie nor The Donald, not the Pope nor Scalia nor even Jeb!) as Breskin shines a searching light on the hubris and folly of our would-be leaders. Yet he also captures what is fine about America and Americans, even under siege. "Smashed glass of freedom, a toast / for this sad ballad country / that orphans its immigrants."
Campaign is a record of the election unfolding in real time: its distractions and psychodramas laid bare, its bit-part players of single news cycles recycled, the silliness of its silly season skewered. All the while, the drumbeat of essential issues sounds throughout these 77 beat poems, reminding us what was - and remains - at stake.
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Verbal snapshot of the 2016 election cycle