Smuggling Elephants through Airport Security

In the preface to their 1798 Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth and Coleridge remind us that “It is the honorable characteristic of Poetry that its materials are to be found in every subject which can interest the human mind. The evidence of this fact,” they go on, “is to be sought, not in the writings of Critics, but in those of the Poets themselves.” I’m excited to be joined today by Brad Johnson, just such a poet, who finds something of interest in every subject that presents itself before the human mind in his excellent book Smuggling Elephants through Airport Security.

Nothing is off-limits in Smuggling Elephants through Airport Security. This ultimately American text positions big ideas in public spaces, often discovering the absurdity and humor in such connections. Johnson makes poetry of the dizzying influences affecting the post-postmodern American, skipping whimsically from the Pixies to Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” from the Confederate flag to unisex public toilets, from eggplant emojis to Vladimir Putin stealing Robert Kraft’s Super Bowl ring. Rich in voice and character, Smuggling Elephants through Airport Security collects observations that provide a succinct feel for the twenty-first-century American zeitgeist. 

Brad Johnson’s first full-length poetry collection, The Happiness Theory, was published in 2013, and his work has appeared in Atlanta Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, J Journal, and whole host of other publications.

The MSU Press podcast is a joint production of MSU Press and the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University. Thanks to the team at MSU Press for helping to produce this podcast. Our theme music is “Coffee” by Cambo. 

Michigan State University occupies the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary Lands of the Anishinaabeg – Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi people. The University resides on Land ceded in the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw.
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