Friday, February 16, 2018



Stubborn by Sheri Reda
(Locofo Chaps, 2018)

            It’s not hard to be outraged at the actions and policies of the current administration. After all, Donald Trump and his nepotistic government threaten to destroy the very core of democracy while descending America into its very own type of fascist hell.  That being said, to blame the rise of the Trump oligarchy solely on those who voted for him, and on his own actions, is extremely short-sighted, according to Stubborn, a chap released by Sheri Reda, a wonderful poet from the Chicagoland area.
            The Locofo resistance chaps have taken on a life all their own, and Sheri’s, while a form of resistance, manages to do more than just ridicule the current power structure of the country. Instead of just spewing righteous indignation, Sheri reflects inward, and seeks to avoid the holier-than-thou attitude that pervades bourgeois liberal politics. For example, in her poem “Not so Bad in Lincoln Square”, she acknowledges the paradox of wanting to be a savior and to be critical when she writes “Not so bad, only a stabbing/this time thank god. Kids/knew each other. Didn’t live here/thank god.” Given the gun violence issues that plague Chicago, this portion is reflective of a greater problem in politics on the soft left, and it’s an issue that Sheri touches on brilliantly: Instead of mourning the tragic loss of life of a child, the soft left seeks to make sure that the issue will not cost them anything politically before offering a moment of human empathy.
            Her willingness to take on the fake emotional drive of the soft left is even more apparent in her opening salvo, entitled “First Love.” While she uses clever double entendre to drive her point home (in reference to the constitution, she says “13th! That’s a good one./I’m taking it out as we speak.”), she also acknowledges the inherent paradox in the idea of free speech: While Locofo’s project uses the idea of free speech, and poetry as its medium, to attack Donald Trump, it also lends credence to the fact that the things that Trump himself says are a product of the same free speech. The paradox becomes thus: Do we keep free speech, in all of it’s unlimited, banal, disgusting glory, or do we finally put limits on it to protect us from what id distasteful and undesirable in our world?
            The argument that Reda makes, in my view, is that we must figure out for ourselves what price we’re willing to pay in order to be comfortable. And to that point, Reda acknowledges that we’re not done negotiating.


M. Earl Smith is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, with a Masters of Arts in English Literature. He currently teaches English at Harcum College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, while pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. His current research interests include 16th-19th century manuscripts as well as children’s and young adult literature.