“I will sing as often as I can,” Demaree writes near the beginning of this politically charged manifesto. And that, I think, is the thread of hope coursing through this aching, vehement denunciation of the political landscape, namely the presidency of Donald Trump.
To Topple a Tyrant
Demaree and his poems hold no punches. For all their verve and steel, for all the outcry and despair resonating throughout, they never cross the inelegant border into maudlin. He has taken our country’s predicament and turned it into art. He has taken Trump, turned him into a pulsating effigy against which he casts truth after truth. Certainly, I’d take the alternative: no Trump. But if we must suffer, at least we have this bolt of light to guide us when the horizon always looks dim.
Demaree is brilliant in a passage like this, blending metaphor with gritty reality to say, “I see so many squirrels jumping into the fire when they run out of branch. I’ll never forget that smell. I’ll never forget how that smell did nothing to slow you down.”
Rarely have I encountered a collection whose title is twined so deeply in each poem. Trump operates as a fire that never gives its citizens the benefit of its burning. And Demaree transitions between delicacy and hard-hitting kicks to show exactly what state we exist in. When he says “I want them to realize they’re going to have to lie to their grandchildren about it,” I get the feeling he isn’t just targeting those in the poem who supported such a tyrant long enough to get him elected but also those of us who might stray from doing all we can to topple such an appalling leader.
As poet, as protestor, Demaree uses his voice and his art to do what many might not have the courage to do and he does so carefully, craftily, withholding no criticism where it is due. Though it comes early in the collection, I return to these lines as a sort of closing: “I want lush details chronicling the reasons why we no longer listen to people like that. Once I read all of that I will go back to writing poems about my wife.”
If I was to measure the quality of poetry by the activism-based, humanitarian-promoting response engendered from reading, few things encountered recently would rate as highly as this. Maybe someday, Demaree and I might go back to writing poems about our wives. But in the meantime, we have work to do.
A Fire Without Light by Darren C. Demaree is published by Nixes Mate Books.