One by one
the fireworks exploded
without a single burst of sound
without a single touch of color.
And nobody cheered because
nobody wanted to celebrate
the country of the free and
the home of the brave
when everyone was
locked behind bars
Eight years ago today,
I walked into my second grade classroom
and didn’t know what my teacher was showing on the projector.
I didn’t know what the word “inauguration” meant,
or what the words our new president spoke really meant.
I’d heard the words liberty and justice for all.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
All men are created equal.
And that is what I learned to associate with America.
Today, I know what is happening.
I know what an inauguration is,
and I know what those words really mean.
I know that they don’t mean what our reality currently is.
And I am scared for the second graders of today.
The second graders of today who are learning
that liberty and justice for all doesn’t mean much
to our new leader.
Who are learning that maybe all men all created equal,
but all women and all immigrants and all
people of color and all disabled people and
all religions and so many others
are not given the same chances.
When you have to sit down and tell a bunch of
nine year old children that they have to be
bigger and stronger inside than
the leader of the free word-
that’s a problem.
And I’m scared for all the second graders of today.
Okay, writers, let’s have a serious talk about James Franco.
We have been talking some shit about this guy for a while now, and maybe it’s worth revisiting that. Last year, shortly after Franco made a video of his less-than-inspired and less-than-inspiring “inauguration” poem, we set out on a mission to hate on everything Franco attempted to contribute to the literary world. We even wore cardboard-cutout masks of his face around AWP in Boston.
But the guy is trying, people. He really is. Perhaps what we need to consider is that Franco has so much fame and so many resources, that his trying is significantly more public than our own. I mean, I wrote a really shitty poem the other day, shared it with maybe four people, and then it disappeared into the ether.
The difference is that if Franco tries to share a shitty poem with even one person, that person is most likely going to pass it on to a dozen of their friends. And on and on.
And all of us writerly folks are itching for the next chance to piss on his work.
That’s why we’ve been going nuts over this upcoming Franco adaptation of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying.
(Don’t get me wrong, here. I definitely was a little weirded out the first twenty times I saw his face below WILLIAM FAULKNER on the updated book covers.)
Just think about it: you’re not going to boycott Franco’s As I Lay Dying because you have such low expectations for it; you’re going to pay $12.00 to see it when it’s still in theaters because you have such low expectations for it. And if it turns out to be a spectacular movie, sure, 75% of you will trash it because you and everyone else thinks it should be trashed; but 25% of you will be glad you paid the price of admission.
When I launched theLast Annual James Franco Award, I was not being serious. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I sincerely want Franco to send me his poetry. And I want it to be good. Should I not encourage him to write great stuff? That would kind of be like having James Franco as a student and telling him in every workshop, “I’m sorry, I just can’t take you seriously, James Franco. Maybe you should just give up or be somebody else.”
Yes, I will turn away any submissions that do not fit with the aesthetic of our press; but I’d be crazy to hate on Franco just because it’s cool to hate on Franco. When he sends me a poem, he will win the Last Annual James Franco Award. And if the poem knocks my socks off, I’ll publish the hell out of it.