Bringing back the danger: David Lerner’s Mein Kampf

If we are talking about shouting verses from the windows of public transport, if we are talking about danger, then we must look no further than David Lerner’s poem Mein Kampf. My wife first introduced me to this poem quite a few years back and it’s one of those poems that never loses its energy. So roll this up and put it in your back pocket, photocopy it and leave one all your workmates desks, ask them if they’ve got theirs…

Let’s make poetry famous!




Mein Kampf

“Gary Snyder lives in the country. He wakes up in the morning and listens to birds. We live in the city.” – Kathleen Wood

all I want to do is
make poetry famous

all I want to do is
burn my initials into the sun

all I want do do is
read poetry from the middle of a
burning building
standing in the fast lane of the
falling from the top of the
Empire State Building

the literary world
sucks dead dog dick
I’d rather be Richard Speck
than Gary Snyder
I’d rather ride a rocketship to hell
than a Volvo to Bolinas

I’d rather
sell arms to the Martians
than wait sullenly for a
letter from some diseased clown with a
three-piece mind
telling me that I’ve won a
bullet-proof pair of rose-colored glasses
for my poem “Autumn in the Spring”

I want to be
by everyone who teaches for a living

I want people to hear my poetry and
get headaches
I want people to hear my poetry and

I want people to hear my poetry and
weep, scream, disappear, start bleeding,
eat their television sets, beat each other to death with
swords and

go out and get riotously drunk on
someone else’s money

this ain’t no party
this ain’t no disco
this ain’t no foolin a

grab-bag of
clever wordplay and sensitive thoughts and
gracious theories about

how many ambiguities can dance on the head of a
machine gun

this ain’t no
genteel evening over
cappuccino and bullshit

this ain’t no life-affirming
our days have meaning
as we watch the flowers breath through our souls and
fall desperately in love

this ain’t no letter-press, hand-me-down
wimpy beatnik festival of bitching about
the broken rainbow

it is a carnival of dread

it is a savage sideshow
about to move to the main arena

it is terror and wild beauty
walking hand in hand down a bombed-out road
as missiles scream, while a
sky the color of arterial blood
blinks on and off
like the lights on Broadway
after the last junkie’s dead of AIDS

I come not to bury poetry
but to blow it up
not to dandle it on my knee
like a retarded child with
beautiful eyes

throw it off a cliff into
icy seas and
see if the the motherfucker can swim for its life

because love is an excellent thing
surely we need it

but, my friends…

there is so much to hate These Days

that hatred is just love with a chip on its shoulder
a chip as big as the Ritz
and heavier than
all the bills I’ll never pay

because they’re after us
they’re selling radioactive charm bracelets
and breakfast cereals that
lower your IQ by 50 points per mouthful
we get politicians who think
starting World War III
would be a good career move
we got beautiful women
with eyes like wet stones
peering out at us from the pages of
glassy magazines promising that they’ll
fuck us till we shoot blood

if we’ll just buy one of these beautiful switchblade knives

I’ve got mine


Read more about the life and work of David Lerner and buy his books from Zeitgeist Press.



Filed under poetry & publishing

13 responses to “Bringing back the danger: David Lerner’s Mein Kampf

  1. What a fantastic poem – I’ve printed it off to send to my mum – ha! Everybody has been arguing lately about how no-one in the general populace wants to read poetry – well it is good to see you actually doing something about it (as usual). Rage on regardless Graham.

  2. Haha, Me Too! “the literary world
    sucks dead dog dick” “I want to be
    by everyone who teaches for a living”
    Hahaha, I love this poem, thanks Graham. I will have to look this guy up.

  3. jules

    best love poem ever written… step to the side brian patten.

  4. First person I thought of while reading this was Paul Squires. This is awesome and cathartic. Was it just me or did the pace get faster and faster until it was like a Dennis Leary rant?

  5. Amanda Joy

    “I’d rather ride a rocketship to hell
    than a Volvo to Bolinas”

    Impossible not to grin with all your teeth showing while reading this! 🙂


  6. Oh yes! This poem just clarified for me why I lean towards philosophy. I don’t want to solve our problems. I want to fashion them into psychological weapons and make my readers eyes bleed into their stomachs. Thanks Graham.

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