by Chris Agee
Caustically humorous and polemically compulsive, Trump Rant is a work of meticulous political portraiture: a deep-delving and epoch-spanning investigation into the nature of power in American life, made luminous by Agee’s nuanced, exploratory understanding of authoritarian drift and thwarted democratic aspiration in a number of world-historical contexts, from Belfast to the Balkans to the formerly Confederate South. Free-roaming in its breadth of reference and tonal range, the Rant is at once viscerally personal and unsettlingly resonant, infused throughout with an almost hypnotic sense of scale, largesse, and historical moment.
Already renowned as a poet of emotional delicacy and singular stylistic vision, Agee’s hallmark gifts of writerly intimacy and ethical resolve are here expanded and reconfigured on a panoramic canvas – moving from a pared-back opening section to the accelerating pace and barrage-like linguistic assaults of the latter addenda. But for all its freewheeling furies, shifting emotional registers and Kubrick-like black humour, it remains a remarkably formal work, moored to the relentlessly dangerous drumbeat of Donald J. Trump.
The result is a combination of long-form radicalism and eclectic satire, startingly unique in its blend of aphorism, acuity and epic cultural imagining. Composed chronologically for nearly four years (from early 2017 to Election Day 2020), Trump Rant is a triumph of artistic witness and denunciation; an urgent retort to a global culture of imperilled legal standards and depleted literary response; and an incisive model of enlightenment and outrage in a “post-truth” world being visibly darkened by its criminal shadows.