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Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfeld Hardcover – June 9, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; English Language edition (June 9, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743255976
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743255974
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,503,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Hart Seely is an award-winning reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard. His humor and satire have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, National Lampoon, and on National Public Radio. He is the editor of Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfeld and coeditor (with Tom Peyer) of O Holy Cow! The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto. Seely lives in beautiful Syracuse, New York, with his wife and three children.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Introduction

The poetry of D. H. Rumsfeld (as he is known to the literary cognoscenti) demands to be read aloud. Like the epics of Homer, or modern African-American street poetry, Rumsfeld's oeuvre originated as oral improvisation, initially heard only by hard-bitten reporters and round-the-clock viewers of C-SPAN. Unlike most modern poets, who closet themselves with pen in hand, Rumsfeld surrenders to his poetic muse when confronting the boom microphones and iron-willed interrogators of the Washington press corps. During news briefings and media interviews, Rumsfeld quietly inserts haiku, sonnets, free verse, and flights of lyrical fancy into his responses, embedding the verses within the full transcripts of his sessions, which are published on the U.S. Defense Department's website.

A former Navy pilot, congressman, White House chief of staff, and pharmaceutical executive, not to mention a two-time secretary of defense, Rumsfeld has made a career out of turning divergent schools of thought into one coherent message. That versatility is reflected in his poetry.

At times, Rumsfeld composes in jazzy, lyrical riffs that pulsate with the rhythm of his childhood on the streets of Chicago. From there, he'll unfurl a Homeric tale cautioning us about the ways of bureaucracy. He'll fire off rounds of irony with a Western cowboy's sensibility, enough for some to call him "America's poet lariat." Or in poems like "The Unknown," his most disturbing work, Rumsfeld mixes Zen-like enlightenment and indifference, probably culled from his many trips to the Far East. "There are some things we do not know," the poet warns. "But there are also unknown unknowns."

For all its known and unknown unknowns, Pieces of Intelligence is less about national affairs than about the poet himself. From the era when gas stations held "little things" of glass to the leak-filled corridors of present-day Washington, Rumsfeld stands out as a man whose quest for real answers long ago required the kinds of questions no reporter dared to ask. "What in the world am I doing here?" he says, in "A Confession." His answer is no less a riddle. "It's a big surprise," and nothing more.

Sometimes comic, sometimes dark, D. H. Rumsfeld's poetry is irreverent but always relevant, occasionally structurally challenged and always structurally challenging. Pieces of Intelligence is the U.S. defense secretary's long-awaited first collection, combining precision-guided insights and a revolution in metaphorical affairs, to take the reader on a dazzling journey of the spoken verse.

Copyright © 2003 by Hart Seely

from Chapter One: War is Peace: The Zen Master Poet

The Unknown

As we know,

There are known knowns.

There are things we know we know.

We also know

There are known unknowns.

That is to say

We know there are some things

We do not know.

But there are also unknown unknowns,

The ones we don't know we don't know.

Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

Needless to Say

Needless to say,

The president is correct.

Whatever it was he said.

Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense briefing

Muscles

Abu Zubaydah.

He had holes in him.

And he had some infections.

And he was not in great shape,

And he obviously talked

When people asked him questions.

And he said this, that and the other thing.

Has he started to give any intelligence?

I would assume so,

But anything useful?

It's not clear yet.

And I don't know that I want

To get into daily reports on it.

But his health is improving.

Now why don't the rest of you people

Go do pushups like this guy?

Look at those muscles!

He's got muscles in places

I don't even have places.

Look at him!

April 12, 2002, stakeout at the Pentagon

Copyright © 2003 by Hart Seely --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Customer Reviews

A very funny book!
Gwen
I appreciate learning more about those who can be so pivotal in history.
caroline haw
I hope I receive one for Christmas as well.
Gerald Oleson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 99 people found the following review helpful By louienapoli on July 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Hilarious and startling. This book contains some real gems of what they call "found poetry," except it's all utterances from our Secretary of Defense. I admire Rumsfeld enormously, and his bizarre utterances have been turned into poetry through the inspiration of Hart Seely. It's just hard to believe these things were actually said. Gordon Lish must be green with envy. Take, for example, The Unknown:
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know we don't know.
Another favorite is The End of the World:
Puffs of dust
End up crawling
Up your leg
And hitting your knee
Because it's,
There might be
As much as an inch
Or two or three.
Come on, the reviewers who sniped at this collection reek of partisanship. I can't recall any politician talking extemporaneously like Rumsfeld. This is unwittingly brilliant, hilarious stuff. Whether you like the current administration or not, this book is worth owning for the sheer incredulity it inspires.
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89 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Maginot on September 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The emergence of a unique poetic voice
"Pieces of Intelligence" is the landmark publication of verses written by the previously unpublished existentialist poet, D.H. Rumsfeld. While Rumsfeld is widely recognized and often quoted, his poetry has received surprisingly scant attention until now.
Rumsfeld first emerged on the scene during the turbulent Watergate years, however his poetry remained overshadowed by more flamboyant voices of the time such as those of J. Dean, G.G. Liddy, and D. Throat. Beginning in the late 70s, Rumsfeld entered the so called "wilderness phase" of his creative ruminations and was scarcely heard from. Turning up in a number of odd corporate and government locations, and once even in Baghdad as a guest of Saddam Hussein, much of Rumsfeld's poetry during this time remains classified.
Rumsfeld's period of artistic obscurity came to an abrupt end with the tragic events of September 11th, 2001. As a traumatized nation struggled to understand what had taken place, Rumsfeld addressed both its disorientation and its deep nostalgia for better times in his now landmark poem, "Glass Box" (December 6th, 2001).
You know, it's the old glass box at the-
At the gas station,
Where you're using those little things
Trying to pick up the prize,
And you can't find it.
It's-
And it's all these arms are going down in there,
And so you keep dropping it
And picking it up again and moving it,
But-
Some of you are probably too young to remember those-
Those glass boxes,
But-
But they used to have them
At all the gas stations
When I was a kid.
The beauty of this poem is that it remains both complex and accessible in a manner that appeals to practically every type of reader.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By J. Lewis on March 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
It's funny. Our Secretary of Defense has a unique speaking style, often asking a series of rhetorical questions to which he provides responses as though interviewing himself. When some of his more meandering pronouncements are broken into free verse, the effect is hilarious. I bought these as Christmas presents for friends and co-workers and got universally great reactions.
It's too bad people on the fringes can't laugh at others and at themselves. I believe that if you can't laugh at yourself, you don't get life's greatest joke. (Did I write that? Yes, I did. Do I believe it? Absolutely. Thanks, Rummy.)
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Go to [...] to see many of these excerpts for yourself, such as quotes from Department of Defense news briefings. First search by the date to get to the press release, then usually there is a link at the bottom to the actual transcript, where you can search for the quote.
Things to understand about this book:
1) These are Rumsfeld's own words, taken from interviews, press conferences and the like. They have only been broken into poetic forms.
2) This is not "poetry by Rumsfeld." It's not like the guy fancies himself a poet. He fancies himself a Defense Secretary.
3) Just because it demonstrates the laughable qualities of a right-winger does not make it left-wing propaganda.
I loved it so much I typed the whole thing to a file and have been e-mailing one poem a day to dozens of friends. I get regular thanks, even from the conservative crowd.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By James T. Krist on April 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Give credit to Hart Seely for taking the words of an original "Vulcan"* and parsing them as free verse. Honest, Seely is not making this up. The sources of the Rumsfeld quotes are all cited.
--
*(Mann & Mann, _Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet_, Viking, 2004, ISBN 0670032999)
I don't see this as Left-ist or Right-ist; it's just Rumsfeld! Listen to one of his Press Briefings and you'll hear how his statements sometimes go off on wild tangents.
And it gives insight into the Rumsfeld philosophy. For example, consider:
The Unknown
As we know,
There are known knowns,
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know we don't know.
- Feb 2, 2002, Dept. of Defense news briefing
Remember that Rumsfeld said he couldn't predict what would happen in Iraq, both in testimony to Congress and to interviews with the media? Before the war, he insisted its cost was "unknown," hence the appropriations for it weren't in the 2004 Budget. That was the reason the $80 Billion supplemental appropriation was needed last Fall.
Or consider this November 2003 quote from Douglas Feith, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy,
"We don't exactly deal in 'expectations.' Expectations are too close to 'predictions.' We're not comfortable with predictions. It is one of the big strategic premises of the work that we do." ... The limits of future knowledge, Feith said, were of special importance to Rumsfeld, "who is death to predictions." "His big strategic theme is uncertainty," Feith said.
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