Poetry Review

Review: Richard Loranger’s Unit of Agency

Like so much of his earlier work, Richard Loranger’s Unit of Agency exposes what is there for us to see if we would just open our eyes and look. He discusses what is dangerous, wrong, and painful in the United States. He shows us how and where corruption has hurt the nation while questioning the nature of nationality to begin with. It is important and compelling work in the tradition of political poets who take on the task of speaking truth to power and exposing the doublethink that has led to many of the injustices that we see around us.

Loranger dissects the MAGA movement in a number of poems where he takes on the persona of MAGA supporters. In MAGA Poem #3, “Get With The America Program,” he takes on the entitled voice of anti-imigration and general racism:

This is OUR outside,
and if you don’t like that
you can get the fuck outta here
or face the consequences.
That’s right, you heard me.
This is OUR America.
I’m talking about AMERICA. (25)

This is the jingoism that is often a part of the MAGA movement, the followers merely repeating what the former president has said again and again. He shows however how that kind of rhetoric has become codified in much of the conversation of some of our citizens, and how it repeats and spreads. One of the dangers of nationalism is the way that it slips into everyday life and soon what would have been unthinkable is spoken and seems unremarkable, but he shows us how remarkable it is. In a later poem, he writes:

And we sure don’t need any of your not American opinions.
Got some? Come over here and tell me.
I’ll stab you in the throat (27).

Again, he shows how violence in reaction to conversation has become a commonplace and even ignored occurrence and how wrong that reality is.

It is not just the United States that he is exposing here; it is institutionalization itself and how institutions like nation, religion, and education are often created for the purpose of controlling other people. In “Sonnet on the Origins of Written Language in Mesopotamian Culture as an Esoteric Tool for Crowd Control,” he writes,

They carved with a daunting pedestal inscribed
with blah blah blah blah, first unforeseen code
until the code was cracked, the pedestal cracked
into terrible words: “You can possess the lives
of men obsessed with that which they cannot
possess. Make a wanton mystery of death.

Here, he discusses the dangers of civilization, written language, and religion all at once, not making the argument that none of them should exist, but rather like George Orwell, pointing out where the danger is so that we might understand it and resist those bad elements that exist within any system.

Richard Loranger’s Unit of Agency comes out of a tradition of political poetry, but the nature of civic evil is that it shifts, so his work is different, and more appropriate for our time than previous writers’ work. It is necessary for us to listen to what he has to say and consider to what degree we agree, and if we are complicit in active evil. If we are, it’s important that we have the ethical strength to change.


Front cover of poetry book Unit of Agency by Richard Loranger
UNIT OF AGENCY by Richard Loranger

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