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A Poem from “Our Age of Anxiety”



November 15, 2019

Henry Israeli’s fourth book of poetry, “Our Age of Anxiety,” was published by Wine Pine Press in September as the winner of the 2019 Wine Pine Poetry Prize. An associate teaching professor in Drexel’s Department of English and Philosophy, Israeli shares his inspiration behind the collection alongside its titular poem.

Henry Israeli on the Inspiration Behind “Our Age of Anxiety”

Henry Israeli - Associate Teaching Professor at Drexel University

W.H. Auden wrote “The Age of Anxiety” directly after World War II, a lament for a lost generation that had just endured perhaps the most horrific events in human history. My thought was that we are living in a new age of anxiety, but instead of industrialization and secularism, our demons are unfettered technology and malignant historical amnesia.

Like the post-war era where alliances and borders were being reshuffled, we are again in an era of global flux, where allegiances that have kept the tribal world in check are being dangerously toyed with by none other than those who claim to be our leaders.

The book is somewhat political, of course, but also speaks to our collective emotional perilousness on a personal level. I think the title poem, “Our Age of Anxiety,” expresses these disparate congruencies that came together lethally in 2016 and continue to permeate our day-to-day existence.

Our Age of Anxiety

Book Cover: Our Age of Anxiety

Many have taken off their white shirts
and are waving them in the air.
I’ve come so far I hardly have to talk
or walk anymore. Soon I’ll be able to conduct
my business without leaving my bed. Still,
our very existence is endangered by one lonely rat
chewing on a wire. Turns out nothing so much as
the old country resembles the new country.
Turns out there are no ghosts, just pixelated
monsters roaming our homes, our streets,
grinning, mocking, floating between us wherever we go.
It’s all part of an algorithm generated in Moscow.
They tell me my love for the natural world threatens
the corporate dream of annihilation.
I long for the days I was oblivious as a dandelion.
Ever since I woke up on the floor
of a vacant factory I’ve felt myself entangled
in radio waves, in this aftermath.
I’m scared of the government’s fear of me
for where do I stand on the most important issues?
I don’t stand for anything, and that’s their point, isn’t it?

Catch Israeli at a reading and creative writing discussion on Thursday, November 21 at the Gershman Chapel! Part of the UArts Visiting Writers Series, the event will start at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Note: All views expressed in this poem are the opinions of the author and do not reflect the views or political opinions of the university.