Post-Truth Poetry
Young Poet Will explains why no one should waste their time on Joseph Charles McKenzie's sycophantic dribble of a poem, written as an apparently serious celebration of the inauguration of Donald Trump.

'With purpose and strength he came down from his tower,
To snatch from a tyrant his ill-gotten power.
Now the cry has gone up with a cheer from the crowd:
'Come out for the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!'

As my mates might know, I like to write. I was fairly pleased when a month or so ago I got an offer to have 2 poems published in the Society of Classical Poets.

About 4 hours ago, I found out that the same journal had published a by Joseph Charles MacKenzie written for Donald Trump's inauguration ceremony. (It should be noted that this is not the official poem. However, when contacted for a response, they claimed they were recommending the use of the piece) It's horrible. A truly sinister piece of work. I can honestly say that I feel like a worse person for having simply read it. Evan has since responded - claiming that he doesn't agree with the views expressed in the poem - but to publish the poem is to lend it a platform it doesn't deserve.

This is the letter I wrote back. I know this is not the most interesting topic, but I've always tried to be an open person.


As of today I'm withdrawing my poems from any involvement with the website. Please do not publish or consider them as entries in the previous competition.

I find myself unable to support a journal that offers a platform to the sickening poem 'Pibroch of the Domhnall'. Personal views aside, I was unable to read it without my stomach churning. The piece is 60 lines of narcissim, fragility and sinister undertones.

There are many ways in which I do not agree with Barack Obama, but one thing he did have was class. I am sure you are familiar with both poems read at his inaugurations – 'Praise song for the day' and 'One Today'. The words 'Barack' and 'Obama' do not appear once in either work – but somehow, MacKenzie manages to work Donald or his family name into this poem 25 times. It is worrying to see ancestral language used so prominently in a poem about elected office, especially when the consensus is that Trump is violating nepotism laws by appointing his son-in-law to a cabinet position and blatantly in conflict of interest by having his sons lead his business empire and Ivanka sit in on phone calls with foreign leaders. It also signals the shift away from talking about a shared vision for the country and instead has Trump's name literally in the refrain – to be repeated by the crowd, hailing his name. Does this ring bells? Because to me and most other normal people reading this poem it is either an unbelievable display of ignorance or a deliberate parallel.

I would love to know what exactly made Barack Obama's two consecutive terms as president 'ill-gotten'. Or why MacKenzie feels the need to trivialize the problems faced by citizens of countries such as North Korea, Sudan and Uzbekistan by calling Obama a 'Tyrant'. I am not sure if he understands this word, or if he is writing fantasy. Not 2 stanzas in, he compares the first African-American president of the United States of America to a slave master. It is worth reminding you that Donald Trump faced a lawsuit in 1973 for refusing to rent apartments to African-Americans, yet MacKenzie has the nerve to say it is the Democratic party – the party of MLK, John Lewis and the Civil Rights movement – that are the real slaveholders. This line is utterly abhorrent, make no mistake. It is so abhorrent that it makes it extraordinarily hard to critique the rest of the poem. It stands out to the reader like a deliberate taunt.

Trump talks about 'crippling corruption' yet plans to appoint many of the people from the very institutions that crippled the American financial system. His treasury secretary's very reputation as a 'swamp monster' precedes him, and it is implied that the economy has suffered under Obama when a quick Google search, or question to anyone of merit on the subject will tell you otherwise. Mr Mantyk, I am not sure if you are familiar with the concept of 'gas-lighting', but let me tell you – these words are a fine example. Trump's entire campaign was built on reneging on promises and it is no surprise that his approval ratings have dropped to a historic low immediately before he is inaugurated, as he no longer feels the need to lie to his supporters.

A proper classical poet
on a CD sleeve earlier

I consider the line 'ne'er gaining from that which his hands did not make' a great insult to the working man and woman. You do not become a billionaire through manual labour. Neither do you become a billionaire through just and fair work. You do not 'earn' a billion dollars. The term is 'stealing'. It was the hands of tens of thousands of ordinary Americans, and equally as many underpaid workers under the Trump and Ivanka Trump clothing lines in China and Indonesia that made his fortune; his golden rooms and enormous skyscraper. How patronising, then, to talk about being a 'giver whilst others just take'. Or honesty, and truth. Trump represents the very worst that the post-truth era has yet to offer.

How can he talk about being a 'true friend of the migrant'? Border walls, religious bans, the infamous 'rapists and murderers' quote. 'Welcoming the worthy' brings an image to mind where those with different shades of skin do not belong. A 'right' type of immigration. The Scots are welcome – the Syrians, the Latin Americans, the Africans are not. Were it not for the thin veil of plausible deniability that MacKenzie is referring solely to followers of ISIS – hardly a 'horde', by any means – rather than all muslims, this paragraph would not be out of place in the writings of Adolf Bartels. It is equally sickening to see the anti-intellectualism follow in the next paragraph, boasting of the death of academe. The rhetoric is vicious, childish and petty. Trump promised to bring the country together – and calls the great teachers of America 'ignorant hirelings' and 'backward'. One would be forgiven for thinking this is hugely ironic. Most of Trump's voters were not racists – but most racists voted for Trump. The 'learned' mind that he is, Mr Trump has been found to speak between a 4th and a 7th grade level depending on the speech analysed.

The last 4 stanzas are no less disgusting than the first 6. I just cannot fathom how somebody can read of the black man, the poor man, the sick, the imprisoned young – and assume that President Elect Trump has their best interests at heart. You are entitled to believe what you want, of course. If MacKenzie truly believes that Trump has some plan to reduce the world's largest prison population by stopping criminalising young African-Americans, or legalising the personal use of marijuana, or banning private prisons, or that Mr Trump no longer feels the need to patronise African-Americans, or wants to provide socialised healthcare – then I am prepared to read these lines again, and attempt to make sense of them. Until then, I'll consider it hollow words like the rest of his campaign. 'Make America Great Again' means NOTHING without action for ALL people.

Stanza 8 is shocking. What a complete lack of grace to include these first two lines especially. Plausible deniability is indeed MacKenzie's only friend in this poem. Nobody is reading this and not thinking of the vile rhetoric he used against Clinton in the election, and seeing him telling women how to look and behave. If they want to behave like 'us chaps' – so what? It is unbelievable how he can criticise people teaching 'backwards visions' and 'policing our words and our thoughts' and then instruct women how to behave in the same poem. If I wasn't seething with rage before, 'a woman's first right is the right to be born' did it for me. All rights are equally important. You CANNOT ban or restrict abortion and then leave the 50% of newborns that happen to be women to fend for themselves, acting like you've done them a great service by ensuring they're born into households that are often too poor or not in a good place to raise a child. It is also a woman's right to not be sexually assaulted, yet the President-elect is on tape all but admitting to it. Bragging about it. Saying it's just 'locker-room talk'. This should not be normalised.

You are not a saviour of women for restricting abortion. It is women who receive abortions – who have the control over their own body. You are TAKING AWAY these rights. It is the first right of a mother to decide when to have children. So horribly offensive was the rest of the poem that by the time you reach stanzas nine and ten, you are almost pleased to see raw egotism instead of hate and ignorance. That implies you were able to finish the poem.

So no, I don't want to be associated with any website that provides a platform to this. The only merit to the poem was that it had a rhyme scheme and a theme. The poetry was good, and the message was so sinister that it should have no place in our society. 60 lines of talking about his glorious birth right and his noble genes, stroking his ego, and the hail in every refrain.

Mr Mantyk, you know exactly which country and era this poem reminds you of, and it isn't Scotland 500 years ago. This is not poetry. This is not noble. It is propaganda.