“Seething Nation! Vast & Flowing! Day & Night & Dawn!” Bold, sweeping, investigative, rhapsodic, hilarious, heart-rendering, thought-provoking, Edward Sanders’ three-volume, America: A History in Verse uniquely and brilliantly tells “the story of America…a million stranded fabric / woven by billions of hands & minds”. It is by turns angry, wistful, defiant and extremely funny re-inventions of historical and biographical worlds, a highly original mix of chronicle, anecdote, document, reportage, paean and polemic.
Volume 3, 1962-1970 begins with “the time of a randy young president with a bad back / who attracted the squint-eyed scorn / & even the hatred of the / National Security Grouch Apparatus,” of “a strange man named Johnson / & then the reappearance of an even stranger man named Nixon.” It was the time of Vietnam, civil rights, space shots, and evil—”the only word for some of it.” But it was also the time of the poet’s youth and Oh! what bliss to be young, alive, and high in those excruciatingly interesting times, those days “when we searched for meaning / in the sawdust floors of rebel cafés / or the stardust soars of psychedelic haze.” What a whirling hurry of years it was, what a flash of time! And what a necessary, twenty-first-century Whitman Sanders is, channeling Clio for our great nation, ”where so many sing without cease / work without halt / shoulder without shudder / to bring the Feather of Justice to every / bell tower, biome & blade of grass.”
Long may Sanders sing us the 1960s, and long may his America “dwell in peace, freedom & equality / out on its spiraling arm / in the Milky Way.”