After sitting with the copy on my nightstand since the book’s debut, I finally sat down and read Rachel Fulton Brown and Dragon Common Room‘s Centrism Games: A Modern Dunciad. Having read it, my only regret is that I did not do so sooner.
A bit of background is in order: Dr. Rachel Fulton Brown is a medievalist at the University of Chicago, and is known in our circles as a traditional Christian professor fighting against social justice indoctrination and infiltration of the humanities.
One wouldn’t think the more esoteric realm of medieval history would be a major battleground for the ultra-woke, but it makes sense: the modern West is profoundly a product of the Middle Ages. With that in mind, it becomes clear why the progressive revisionists wish to dominate the field: in rewriting medieval history to fit their woke narrative, it makes the rest of their revisionist project—of casting all white, male, Christian endeavors as inherently wicked—that much easier.
Milo Yiannopoulos’s short book Medieval Rages: Why The Battle for Medieval Studies Matters to America, details that struggle in more detail. I highly recommend picking it up, as it highlights the length to which the wokesters have gone to silence Dr. Brown. Correspondingly, it demonstrates Dr. Brown’s incredible courage and fortitude—as well as her cleverly elfish responses to her critics.
Dr. Brown founded a Telegram chatroom, Dragon Common Room, to be a “a place for training in the arts of virtue and poetry. And mischief making for God. We fight the demons with laughter and wit.” I participate infrequently in chat, but it has become one of my favorites on the platform. In addition to fighting “demons with laughter and wit,” Dr. Brown and her merry band of righteous mischief-makers wrote, workshopped, edited, and compiled Centrism Games, releasing it as a handsome little volume consisting of seven poems of thirty stanzas each.
The seven poems constitute a mock-epic narrative, modeled after Alexander Pope’s satirical epic The Dunciad. Whereas Pope’s Dunciad mocked the goddess “Dulness” and her agents, Centrism Games lampoons the goddess Fama—Fame—and her o’er eager knights
And what champions they are! It’s a motley crew, including the Cuomo Brothers; a fiscally conservative gay Republican couple seeking to have a surrogate baby; a cast of Hollywood weirdos (including J.J. Abrams and Meryl Streep—the latter ridiculously poised to the last); a lady priest who succumbs to witchcraft; and a pregnant girl enduring multiple demons urging her to have an abortion. Gwyneth Paltrow even tries to sell her Goop nonsense at one point.
Into this mix—and into the court of Fama—crashes Gavin the Green Knight, an ornery, crass, Truth-telling figure who takes the piss out of nearly every character in the poem. Much like Gavin McInnes–who I have to believe inspired this character, along with the unusual Arthurian tale Sir Gawain and the Green Knight—the Green Knight drops withering Truth bombs upon his unsuspecting, unwilling targets, causing them great consternation and fury.
The Green Knight, other than the pregnant girl, constitutes the most interesting character sequence: he begins as a righteously crude disrupter, but his own failures and attempts at atonement slowly come to light. There is also a tantalizing link between the Green Knight and Fama, as the suggestion that while the Green Knight is speaking the Truth, he, too, depends upon Fama’s sway. If he is meant to evoke Gavin McInnes, this reading makes sense: Gavin is hilariously, bombastically truthful, but that Truth-telling is dependent, to some degree, on fame. Did he become famous for telling the Truth, or did he tell the Truth to become famous? In an age when fame and “doing it for the Insta” seems to be the highest social honor, can even Gavin McInness—or Gavin the Green Knight—escape Fama’s clutches?
The other majorly compelling character is that of the pregnant girl. She wanders alone in a strange land, facing various demons and individuals putting forth arguments as to why she should get an abortion. She steadfastly refuses and rejects every argument, but there seems to be some doubt and uncertainty. The absence of her father—whose identity is a big twist!—and the nefarious influence of her mother don’t help the situation.
This poem was also the one that seemed the most rich in layers of meaning. Indeed, I can’t pretend to fully understand all of its allusions and metaphors, and will have to tackle it again. That is, of course, one of the hallmarks of good poetry—the surface level narrative is clear enough, but the depths of meaning to be plumbed reward repeated readings.
Fortunately, Centrism Games is a quick read. It took me a couple of days, but that’s because I was reading intermittently. One could easily sit down for a couple of hours or so one afternoon and read the entire thing in one sitting. I fully intend to sit at my desk with a highlighter and some pens to go back and see what I missed.
But don’t let the depth scare you—this poem is very fun to ready, and very funny. The Hollywood weirdos running around on Fama’s quest are hilarious, and makes for a scathing lampooning of their skin-deep lifestyles. The adventures of the two Cuomo Brothers in New Orleans makes for some gamboling buffoonery. The two gay Republicans bribing a clearly disturbed campus SJW to carry their mixed-race love child to term demonstrates the vacuousness and emptiness of a purely fiscal “conservatism,” and mocks the idea that two men could raise their kid in a “traditional” conservative household.
As the poems progress, they seem to turn darker. “The Lady Priest” is one such poem, which starts with a self-righteous and self-loving female priest talking about tolerance and what not, when she is invited to a Gnostic gathering of witches offering secret knowledge. The poem culminates in a disturbing sequence in which the lady priest rejects God and quaffs deeply from a bowl of human blood, seeking to gain ultimate knowledge. She ends up blinded for her troubles, but comes to think she is a goddess.
It’s a disturbing sequence, but it implies that her willful disregard for Scripture—her become a lady priest, when the Bible clearly prohibits women from serving in such a position—was, in essence, her rejection of God. As long as she persisted in the unbiblical sham of being a woman priest, she was flaunting God’s Truth for her own “truth.” That rejection of God’s Perfect Order led her down the seductive path to attempting her own, wretched apotheosis—but, instead, it turned her into a figuratively and literally blind slave to the Devil.
Well, that’s perhaps enough armchair analysis. I can highly recommend Centrism Games. As I write this review, the book is only $4.78 on Amazon in both formats. I’m sure some people do fine with Kindle, but I much prefer the physical paperback. It also has nice, wide margins to make notetaking easier. Dr. Brown and her merry band of DCR poets really thought of everything.
One final coda: I’m filing this review under my new-ish Supporting Friends Friday series. I hope it is not to presumptuous of me to consider Dr. Brown and the denizens of DCR friends. Dr. Brown and I chat infrequently—I don’t want to bother her too much!—on Telegram, about everything from God and poetry to dogs—and she has very graciously shared some of my posts to her Telegram and Facebook pages in the past. She has celebrated my minor literary milestones—I published my first book almost at exactly the same time Centrism Games debuted—in the chat, and I always appreciate her feedback and insights.
I would never ask her to help me move furniture or to crash at her and her husband’s place in Chicago, but if for some reason they ever had to come to Lamar, South Carolina, they’d have a place to stay!
As for the folks in the chat, they are lovely people, and I have enjoyed getting to know them a bit better (and need to do so further). At least one of them has sent me poetry to critique, and has picked my brain about a play project. I will occasionally sing bombastic snippets of Sir Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” into my phone, which always seems to get some laughs.
But even if I knew nothing of these people, I would still recommend Centrism Games. Knowing some of the personalities behind the work’s creation has made my appreciation more enjoyable, perhaps, and witnessing the early collaborations in chat was a treat, but the work stands on its own.
—I think you’ll agree.