Amanda Palmer Writes “A Poem For Dzhokhar”

The oft-controversial musician published a poem inspired by the Boston Marathon bombing suspect. As expected, response is mixed.

Amanda Palmer in a ball pit at SXSW. Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images

Musician Amanda Palmer is no stranger to controversy. She’s received criticism for her use of Kickstarter, crowdsourcing unpaid musicians, and alleged exploitation of disability, among others.

Her latest work, “A Poem for Dzhokhar,” is providing more ammunition for detractors — though some fans vehemently defend it. Written in the second person, it seems largely directed at suspected Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: The title is the clearest indication, and the poem also refers to “mourn[ing] your dead brother” and “hiding in the bottom of a boat,” a seeming reference to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s capture.

Here’s an excerpt:

you don’t know how it felt to be in the womb but it must have been at least a little warmer than this.

you don’t know how intimately they’re recording your every move on closed-circuit cameras until you see your face reflected back at you through through the pulp.

you don’t know how to stop picking at your fingers.

you don’t know how little you’ve been paying attention until you look down at your legs again.

you don’t know how many times you can say you’re coming until they just stop believing you.

you don’t know how orgasmic the act of taking in a lungful of oxygen is until they hold your head under the water.

you don’t know how many vietnamese soft rolls to order.

you don’t know how convinced your parents were that having children would be, absolutely, without question, the correct thing to do.

you don’t know how precious your iphone battery time was until you’re hiding in the bottom of the boat.

The full version of the poem can be read on Palmer’s blog.

An aerial shot of the boat where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev hid from police before his capture. Darren McCollester / Getty Images

Much of the response to the poem has been positive. User Dchase writes, “My heart breaks for him, there is no way to commit such an act of violence without becoming a victim of it yourself. My heart breaks for the hate I have seen all over the internet this last week, and the ignorance that goes with one group of people thinking they’re righteous and some how better. Hate is hate.”

Then there are those less receptive to Palmer’s message, like user TheGreenDevil, who responds, “That little fucker killed an 8 year old boy, a cop, and two women, not to mention maimed hundreds of people. He’s not a child. He has free will. He didn’t have to do what he did. He could have dropped a dime on his brother. He didn’t have to place that bomb. He could have surrendered to the police when they stopped him and his brother. He didn’t. He made his choices, and may that fucker pay every single day that remains of his life for his choices.”

Amanda Palmer performing at Coachella in 2009. Michael Bucker / Getty Images

On Twitter, Palmer has been retweeting some of the more supportive responses.

@amandapalmer Heart broken all over again. So often we forget all the humanity. <3 Thank you.

— x3jennax3 (@Jenna)

@amandapalmer Compassion. Interconnectedness. Recognition that every single thing is an act of love or a cry for healing. Thank you.

— itsme_karyne (@itsme_karyne)

She’s also acknowledged the backlash.

.@amandapalmer Amanda, he killed an 8 yr old. He would have killed 100s of kids if given the chance. How on earth is that worthy of empathy?

— ginalou (@ginalou)

While Palmer is responding to some of the criticism, she stands by the poem, noting that “the poem is actually about more than you think it is,” and advising people to read it again. She also retweeted a follower who said empathy is not the same as “condoning all actions.”

And although the poem may seem inherently controversial to many, Palmer claims to be surprised by the negative response.

wow. i'm getting scolded on my blog comments for writing a poem. wasn't expecting that, honestly.

— amandapalmer (@Amanda Palmer)

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