Wyoming Arts Council

Bush and Bin Laden meet in Hix poems

From a University of Wyoming press release:

President George W. Bush and al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden have never had a conversation.

Until now.

In his latest book, “God Bless,” released this month by Etruscan Press, UW English Professor H.L. Hix pits excerpts from Bush speeches against arguments from bin Laden in a unique poetic dialogue that embraces politics, literature, language and culture.

“These are two people who ought to be talking but aren’t, so I’m going to make up a dialogue between them,” says Hix, who also serves as director of UW’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. “I think there’s important dialogue that hasn’t happened, and I’m trying to generate that dialogue.”

In his book, Hix, a finalist for this year’s National Book Award, creates poems using Bush’s own words from speeches, executive orders and other public statements. He also constructs poetry from the letters, speeches and other discourses of bin Laden.

“God Bless” also includes candid interviews with a diverse panel of experts, ranging from M. Javad Zarif, the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, to CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen.

“It’s a weird book. It was even a weird book for me,” says Hix, whose previous 10 books were poetry, philosophy or literary criticism. “I’ve never done anything like it before, and I don’t think I’ll ever do anything like it again.”

He laughs and adds, “I don’t know how it started happening, I just sort of found myself doing it.”

As part of his research for the book, Hix says he read more than 8,000 pages of speeches by the president, obtained from the official White House Web site, and “pulled out language usage that I thought was interesting.”

He then studied bin Laden’s words and wrote what he called “interleaves” that use both direct quotations and reconstruction.

Unlike his previous books, Hix believes “God Bless” could receive mainstream media attention because of uniqueness and subject matter.

But, he says, “I have absolutely no idea what to expect because my previous books are philosophy, literary criticism and poetry and those types of books have tiny audiences, very few sales and very small press runs. In my ‘fantasy life,’ I hope it gets some real play and will be a prompt for dialogue.”

“God Bless” is available for purchase at local bookstores or through Etruscan Press. The cost is $19.95.

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