Ara Shirinyan’s Your Country is Great: Afghanistan – Guyana (Futurepoem books, 130 pp., $15.00) is a poetic engagement with travel writing and geopolitics, where every country from Afghanistan to Guyana (I assume there will be a second volume for the remaining countries) is defined solely through the flattened language of the internet.
Your Country is Great mines online citations of each country’s qualities and gathers them into mind-numbing scripts of unceasing inanities, “instead of accepting current notions of language as a medium of differentiation” Shirinyan “demonstrates its leveling quality, demolishing meaning into a puddle of platitudes.”
Your Country is Great is composed of 81 different poems, one per country, each of which is written solely through internet searches on “[country name] is great.” The results—with all the typographic and syntactic errors intact—are then simply arranged. Shirinyan’s only concession to the ‘poetic’ is enforcing line breaks.
Shirinyan empties the word “great” of all context and force, flattens it to the level of punctuation – suddenly every place on earth is “great”: “I don’t need no dude to say / that Barbados is great / for me to know that”, “”Belarus is great and amazing”, “”Brazil is great; amazing food, intelligent people”, “Canada is great!”, “Ecuador is great!: / ‘don’t be afraid.’” The platitudes are unceasing, but this communal writing also undermines itself.
The barrage of ‘greatness’ empties as the internet’s choir of voices offers such caveats to praise as “’living’ in Belgium is great, / although the deathmetal scene is / not that big over there” and “the need to reduce fat intake in Belgium / is great / and a thorough approach / is desirable.” The rhetoric of travel narratives, and even postcards home from wandering tourists (the mindless prattle of “Having a great time, wish you were here!”), are flattened into a sameness where every destination no matter how mundane is “great” simply because “The people are great, / a lot like us.”
Shirinyan’s Your Country is Great: Afghanistan – Guyana poeticizes the mundane, and makes the language of hyperbole tangible by emptying out its strength. This book is great.