Amanda Palmer Sparks Controversy Over Boston Marathon Poem
Amanda Palmer has prompted outrage over a poem she wrote which is dedicated to one of the Boston Marathon bombers.
‘A Poem For Dzhokar’ was posted on amandapalmer.net just 48 hours after 19-year-old terror suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev was discovered under a boat in a Watertown resident’s backyard, having seemingly attempted to commit suicide by shooting himself in the throat.
Addressed throughout to an unnamed ‘you’, the poem has drawn hundreds of remarks from online commenters, many of whom criticise Palmer for the insensitive timing of her post, and for her attempts to establish empathy with the bombers at a time when there is still much confusion over motives for the attacks.
You can read the full thing in here, but lines like “you don’t know how your life managed to move twenty six miles forward and twenty eight miles back” should give you some idea of the level of insight on offer in the poem. Perhaps more offensive, though, is Palmer’s assumption of feelings on the part of Dzokhar in lines like “you don’t know how to make sense of this massive parade” and “you don’t know how to get away from your fucking parents”.
Criticising the poem, online commenter Diggingellen wrote “This isn’t a poem for Dzjokhar, it’s a poem for yourself because you imagine you know how he feels. This just makes you the CNN of poets, though – you didn’t know this boy, but you’re putting words and feelings into his mouth when he can’t anymore. Sometimes a huge crowd and the lack of a time delay turns an act of creative response to tragedy into something hurtful and presumptuous, and this feels like one of those times to me. You are trying to be empathetic but you are papering over his real personality with one you’ve constructed for the purpose of empathy. Please don’t make this about you, and don’t make your own feelings into his feelings using the megaphone you wield. Be better than CNN.”
Replying to the post, Palmer attempts to dodge the accusation by saying “this isn’t about me. or him. it’s pretty much about everyone.” But, as diggingellen points out, how else are we to interpret a line like “you don’t know how precious your iphone battery time was until you’re hiding in the bottom of the boat”? Or, in reference to a man whose car the brothers are alleged to have hijacked: ”you don’t know why you let that guy go without shooting him dead and stuffing him in some bushes between cambridge and watertown.”
Palmer’s poem (and defence) seems misguided at best, vain and self-serving at worst.