It Was a Year of Pirates


From the Archive

We’re going down!


A couple of weeks ago, before the president attacked the show on Twitter, I was asked to appear on Morning Joe. This surprised me. I was under the impression that Morning Joe was a political program. It seemed to me the producers had made a mistake. Maybe they’d mixed us up with the New York Review? With the London Review? Or, could it be … the Partisan Review? After I found the studio in Rockefeller Center and was deposited in the empty green room, my anxiety continued to mount. Howard Dean bounded in, looking for a piece of fruit among the battered doughnut boxes, and bounded out. In the corridor outside, I heard producers discussing the Senate health bill. As I was led onto the set, the previous guest, Al Franken, gave me a vague, encouraging pat. I must have looked as nervous as I felt. Not just nervous—disoriented, as if I’d wandered into somebody else’s dream.

The hosts nodded hello, then, just before the commercial ended and we went on air, Joe Scarborough mentioned a poem, one we’d published in the Review. “You know when you read something that makes you want to drop what you’re doing and run upstairs and find a highlighter?” he asked the others. “That’s how I felt when I read that poem that begins with the pirates.” So the penny dropped. I had been invited as the editor who’d published “Historically Speaking,” by Stephen Dunn, the same poem that haunted me all through the election—and the opening piece in our Winter issue. It was a better reason than any I could have dreamt up.

It was a year of pirates in speedboats,
anonymous bullies spreading privacies
on the Internet, and the worst of them
doing worse than that and wishing to be known
for what they’d done, their perfidy
an advertisement for a cause …

Subscribe now to read the whole poem—and everything else we’ve published over sixty-four years of grappling with piracy, anonymous bullies, and other current events.