Moez Surani, ةيلمع Operación Opération Operation 行 动 Oперация

(Bookthug, 2016)

Operation by Moez Surani is a long poem in the form of a lexicon, listing every code-name for a military exercise undertaken by United Nations member states from 1945 to 2006. Inspired by the precepts of Conceptualism (which often presents data without much ancillary judgement), Surani examines the poetics of the military (whose protocols require that each violent mission receive a moniker, whose metaphorical connotations must convey both a dignity of purpose and an element of secrecy). Surani notes that “no word is exempt from connoting violence” (so that, for example, such pastoral diction as tulip or haystack might collaborate with such militant diction as lance or shredder). Much like The Iliad, which lists names of combatants (if not casualties) in a roll call, so also does this poem itemize the “enlisted” language drafted into service by every armed force in the world. What might the Yankee dodger of such conscription think upon discovering that the poetic author of Evangeline gets recruited for Operation Longfellow, a “seek-and-kill” mission along National Highway 14 in Vietnam? What might lyric poets think upon discovering that Operation Orpheus refers to a series of subterrene explosions, designed to verify the seismic signals generated by nuclear testing, camouflaged underground? The year of my birth, 1966, for example, features 392 operations (the most of any year), contributing such words as crimp and latchkey to dodge and buckskin. The poet reminds us that, even now, dictionaries have become our battlefields, with politicians repurposing definitions, so that each word might become little more than a euphemism, either wonted or heroic, for some criminal atrocity; thus, the poet, like a pacifist, must protest such attacks upon the candor of meaning itself.


Christian Bök