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The Mueller Report as Poetic Text

The Mueller Report as Poetic Text

by Ben & Sandra Doller

View NOW on 1913’s YouTube channel.

As William Carlos Williams predicted, “It is difficult to get the news from poems / yet men [sic] die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.”

It is no secret that literacy and reading have radically altered in concert with technology, from the pencil to the printed book to the personal computer to the tweet. We live in an era where short and viral forms are consumed more readily than the long and literary. At this moment in U.S. history, this change is not just a neutral aesthetic shift in attention; the consequences of our inattention to language and published work are, in fact, dire.

U.S. democracy is wounded—perhaps mortally—by a collective willful illiteracy. In refusing to read the 448-page heavily redacted Mueller Report, the representatives of the people of this country seem content to let the facts of an illegitimate president’s rise and continued corruption go the way of other outmoded literary technologies, with the actual report getting little more reading attention than a small press poetry publication.

Yet, even the following stark facts bleed through the redactions in The Report: Our current president was aided and installed by a hostile foreign power. The election of this president did not in fact represent the will of the people. The current president and his administration are readily willing to obstruct justice in order to continue to remain in power, at any cost.

The consequences of this illiteracy are grave: The current administration is holding babies, children, and innocent men and women fleeing violence, in cages; indefinitely. Migrants, people of color, US citizens, world citizens, women, trans communities, the vulnerable are being targeted daily by this president and this administration. The Supreme Court and the judiciary have been taken over by religious zealots and pro-corporate interests. Environmental protections have disappeared. The gun lobby runs our government. The current sitting president is an admitted serial and unrepentant sexual offender. The list goes on. The sheer length of this list risks normalizing the abnormal facts and numbing the audience to their importance.

Our original conception of this project was a naked celebrity reading of The Mueller Report—anything to get the attention of the American public. We’re interested in treating this document as an urgently poetic text, voiced by artists expert in urgent uttering. Treating any legal document as a poetic document asks questions about the difference between legal language and poetic language, language’s use and function, and the life-altering consequences of language in the law. Anyone who has been “sentenced” knows this; anyone who abides by the law knows this; people who write the laws know this; people who read poetry know this.

This video collaboration between 150+ artists, each reading/presenting/performing 3 pages of The Mueller Report, is itself a testament to the power of collective attention, and the very mountainous mass of information we are faced with and must process. The pebbles make the boulder, the boulders make the mountain. As poets, as editors, as writers, as publishers, as artists, as citizens, as non-citizens, as humane feeling people, we take seriously our job, to attend to language and its consequence, to speak–sing, read, whisper–the words that must be spoken. To record it. To witness. To alter. To act.

“Of us there will be nothing left, but our fellow human beings will speak through our pictures.” -Inger Christensen

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The collective Mueller Report reading video project is over 24 hours long and features: a naked woman in a hole being shoveled with dirt while reading The Report, snow in place of redactions, song and guitar, an empty chair, Lucy on the beach, a red skull, red-white-and blue string wrapped around a bearded man, a baby, a nursing mother, digital video text art, eminent poets and artists and performers, people READING.

Our infinite gratitude to the following participants in this intervention, in order of appearance:

VOLUME 1: ALLISON COBB / CLAUDIA KEELAN / ANDREW WESSELS / RONALDO WILSON / DURIEL HARRIS / A. RAWLINGS / SHANE MCCRAE / DIANE WALD / MONICA MODY / DOUGLAS A. MARTIN / BEN & WILD ALPHABET DOLLER / RAE ARMANTROUT / LEE ANN BROWN / CARRIE OLIVIA ADAMS / MARK FAUNLAGUI / FRANCESCO LEVATO / SARA RENEE MARSHALL / TOM BELLER / EMILY KENDAL FREY / SANDRA ALCOSSER / MIA YOU / JULIE CARR / HAROLD ABRAMOWITZ / ROBYN SCHIFF / LAURA SKOKAN / CHARLES BERNSTEIN / SANDRA DOLLER / VALERIE SAYERS / RICHARD MEIER / KIM KOGA / JANET HOLMES / SASHA STEENSEN / ADAM BISHOP / AMARANTH BORSUK / CA CONRAD / FANNY HOWE / ELENI SIKELIANOS / HR HEGNAUER / SOPHIE FETOKAKI with ERLEND DANIELSEN, MARI KESKI-KORSU, EMMA LANGMOEN, JULIA MOGENSEN, RIIKA VUORENMAA AND JACOB ZIMMER / JANE LEWTY / ELEANOR ANTIN with DEBBY & LARRY KLINE / ANDREW ZAWACKI / ABRAHAM SMITH / KATIE FORD / T COOPER / LAURA VENA / CHET WIENER / SELAH SATERSTROM / ADAM DAY / SUSAN BRIANTE / KRISTINE DIEKMAN & TONY ALLARD / SALLY KEITH / JUANA MEDINA / SARAH MANGUSO / RON SILLIMAN / PRAGEETA SHARMA / MANUEL PAUL LOPEZ / NICK TWEMLOW / JENNY MINITTI-SHIPPEY / DUSTIN PEARSON / EMILY AUST / ANSELM BERRIGAN / JARED STANLEY / MEGAN MILKS / AMY THOMAS RYAN / SARAH CISTON

VOLUME 2: / LUCY IVES / DIANA ARTERIAN / KARLA CORDERO / MELVYN FREILICHER / BEN SEGAL / EVIE SHOCKLEY / JR WALSH & JILL KATHERINE CHMELKO / CHRISTINE DAVIS MERRIMAN / DEBORAH TOBOLA / ANA MARIA SPAGNA / STEVEN KARL / ERIKA MOYA / ABY KAUPANG / CRIS CHEEK / JOEL BETTRIDGE / JENNIFER K. DICK / J’LYN CHAPMAN / DEBORAH POE / CYNTHIA ARRIEU-KING / SARETTA MORGAN / ELIZABETH WILLIS / PIERRE JORIS & NICOLE PEYRAFITTE / DAN THOMAS GLASS / AUBREY LENAHAN / BRIONNE JANAE / JILL MCCABE JOHNSON / J. MICHAEL MARTINEZ / MICHELLE TARANSKY / CATHERINE THEIS / HOLLY WILLIS / LEIF HAVEN / TAVIA STEWART / JOSE ANTONIO VILLARAN / PATRICK COLEMAN / JENNIFER FIRESTONE / CHERYL CLARK VERMEULEN / LISA SAMUELS / MELANIE NOEL / BRENDA COULTAS / MEREDITH CLARK / SOPHIE LARSMON / HEIDE HINRICHS / BRIDGET WILSON as SPARK AWESOME / CECILE IBARRA / CLAIRE SCHWARTZ / SARAH ROSENTHAL / DANA TEEN LOMAX / JAIME CORTEZ / QUINSY GARIO / CHRISTOPHER BOLIN / SARAH BISHOP / ROXI POWER HAMILTON / DEBORAH POE w/STARSHINE / AMY SARA CARROLL with RICARDO DOMINGUEZ & ZE CARROLL-DOMINGUEZ / JORDAN PALCISKO / MATTHEW COOPERMAN / MATT SIEGLE / LAURA THEOBALD / LILY HOANG / JERICHO BROWN / SANDRA DOLLER / BEN DOLLER / WILD ALPHABET DOLLER / EDWIN TORRES

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