This weekend, as law-enforcement officers across the country devoted their resources to the manhunt and capture of the dangerous criminal Reese Witherspoon, an actual crime against humanity was being ignored: Musician Amanda Palmer was writing the worst poem ever composed in the English language, "A Poem for Dzhokhar."
This is how the poem starts (WARNING: If you visit her site on your phone, you will be asked to download "The Amanda Palmer App," which may induce internal bleeding and permanent blindness.):
you don’t know how it felt to be in the womb but it must have been at least a little warmer than this.
you don’t know how intimately they’re recording your every move on closed-circuit cameras until you see your face reflected back at you through through the pulp.
you don’t know how to stop picking at your fingers.
you don’t know how little you’ve been paying attention until you look down at your legs again.
you don’t know how many times you can say you’re coming until they just stop believing you.
you don’t know how orgasmic the act of taking in a lungful of oxygen is until they hold your head under the water.
This is bad. It's bad writing, it's bad timing, it's bad ideas; it's inane and self-serving, and adds nothing to our understanding of the marathon bombing, or of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, or of terrorism. Well: it adds a new way to make jokes.
And also the poem adds Palmer, elbowing her way in to the conversation, insisting on her right to speak for a teenager she never met and to whose thoughts and feelings she has no access, demanding that we recognize her bravery for doing so, and then later telling us all that it's our fault we misunderstood:
Just in case: I did. It still sucked. But Palmer's not wrong! It is about more than just what we think it is. It's not just about a basic inability to craft a compelling image, it's also about Palmer's own egotism. "A Poem for Dzhokhar" is not, really, "for" Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old college kid who, along with his older brother, allegedly detonated a bomb at the Boston Marathon last week. It's for Palmer, a deluded and opportunistic narcissist who sells rhetorical snake oil to people too full of unearned self-regard to join an actual cult. It's another way she can make sure people are looking at her, and we shouldn't even write about it—if we write about it, she wins—except that in this case she has actually created something remarkable: a world-historically horrific poem.