Poetry And Political Satire
Is poetry an effective form for political satire and what are the limits of satire today?
I first became aware of Trillin’s work listening to him on A Prarie Home Companion. In many way’s Trillan’s witty barbs are similar to those of Garrison Keillor but directed more towards topics that interest me. A great example of this is his New Yorker article about trying to learn Spanish in order better enjoy Latin American cuisine.
“I try not to let a decade pass without renewing my assault on Spanish, which I keep hearing described as an easy language to learn.”
– Calvin Trillin
A good deal of Trillin’s work is focussed politics and in particular using poetry for the purpose of satire. He has a column doing this for The Nation. as well as poltical satire in the form of his poetry. A recent podcast of the Al Franken Show (link no available) explored this work in depth.
As much as I enjoy Trillin’s work, what fascinates me even more about him, Franken and other similar writers and comedians is the way political satire has been reborn. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is an example of a kind of satire that’s exploded out of skit style comedy into its own sort of news-comedy hybrid. In fact since the “millenium” waned we have experienced a renaissance of satire. his has gone hand in hand with a deepening, in some circles at least, of critical and partisan political reportage.
This kind of satire is fun. I enjoy it. But, it’s often drenched in cynicism as well. This makes partial sense, since political drama is so often absurd and lends itself to being analysed ironically. But, this trend might also be corrosive as well, if it undermines our belief in the political and social institutions we need for our society to function well.
“It’s not denial. I’m just very selective about the reality I accept.”
– Calvin Trillin
A lot changed between when this article was written in 2005 and today. If you’re interested in this topic then I’d suggest checking out the 2016 article This Week I Quit Late Night Satire