"MacAfee manifests the three elements—Passion, Provocation and Prophecy—that are the measure of all great books of poetry."
One Class collects Norman MacAfee’s major poems from the period 1965 to 2008—ecstatic, serious and often very funny works about war and peace, sexual liberation, utopias and murderous class divisions. They include the prophetic poem-screenplay “I Am Astro Place,” about six New Yorkers in the fraught years between Orwell’s 1984 and Kubrick’s 2001; and “Life During the Coup,” a shattering chronicle of the aftermath of the 2000 election. The book ends with a poem MacAfee wrote for a celebration in November 2005 at the U.S. Capitol of what would have been Senator Robert Kennedy’s 80th birthday. Other speakers that day included Barack Obama, Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi. The poem was broadcast on C-Span and can be seen on MacAfee’s website: normanmacafee.com
MacAfee’s books include The Gospel According to RFK (Basic Books), The Death of the Forest (opera to music of Charles Ives; Blankert Dance Concerts), and co-translations of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s poems (Farrar Straus Giroux), the letters of Jean-Paul Sartre (Scribner), and Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables (Signet). The Death of the Forest will premiere in Holyoke, Massachusetts in 2010/11. MacAfee writes about culture and politics in the Huffington Post
Bob Holman on One Class: “Like history where dates are midnight assignations, like sexual encounters that bristle with political implications, One Class presents a unified social theory of life and art, love and politics and aesthetics, that is fearless and human. When Salman Rushdie forked over his 5 bucks to buy MacAfee’s chapbook ‘The Coming of Fascism to America’ at the Bowery Poetry Club, I saw in his face the same look I get when I read this work—it’s real, it’s unwavering, it’s art in the classical sense that gets dirty as life is in this Horrific Triumph of Capitalism. Somehow MacAfee tells the truth and doesn’t leave you hopeless. Somehow MacAfee gets it right.”
Roberto Tejáda on One Class: “[MacAfee’s poetry is] Whitman, Pound and Pasolini breathing in a register wherein the present suddenly irrupts . . . generous in its embrace and many-accented in its perspective.”
Jack Hirschman on One Class: “How good it is to read a poet with some political consciousness who doesn’t throw it in the pot of experimental egoism, so that the reader actually comes away from One Class with a sense that he or she is part of a living process that is momentous. Whether or not one agrees with what Norman MacAfee means by the title, no one will be able to deny that these poems are forms of political excitement, even incitement, and that like the Italian master, Pier Paolo Pasolini, whose work he has has so brilliantly translated, MacAfee manifests the three elements—Passion, Provocation and Prophecy—that are the measure of all great books of poetry.”
Cover art, William Allen, One Class, oil enamel on board, 2006.