“This Land's Not Your Land” by Elvis McGonagall – Slam Poetry

McGonagall was the world champion in slam poetry in 2006 and is famous for creating poetry that relates the world we live in. Many times, they’re satirical and relate to current events and issues. “This Land’s Not Your Land” falls under that category. In his poem, McGonagall takes a classic American folk song and twists it into a modern day alternative that expresses his own beliefs about what’s wrong with America.

Slam Poetry formed in the 1990s and became known for its energy and vitality. It helped revitalize poetry as a performance art. Typically poets perform at poetry slams and are judged based on their delivery and content of their poems by a panel of judges or peers. This style became very popular with a young group of developing poets of diverse backgrounds. Most pieces of slam poetry tend to be political, drawing on the world’s injustices and problems.

McGonagall drew upon the popular perception of American conservatives to create his poem. Like many other people, McGonagall grew discontent with Bush’s regime and wrote a series of poems bashing the republican president and his supporters. He did this by taking a song about American freedom, prosperity and justice and twisting it into a piece of political satire. Even the title and “author” have been changed to match times. Instead of Woody Guthrie (The creator of “This Land is Your Land”), it is now Backwoodsy Guthrie symbolizing the perception that republicans are redneck hicks from the backcountry. Instead of “This Land is Your Land,” McGonagall changed the title to “This Land’s Not Your Land” to symbolize the racial, economic and religious intolerance within America.

In true satirical fashion, McGonagall picks on corporate America, rednecks and Christians. He acknowledges their intolerance of others and how they believe anyone who is different are “communists” or “arty-farty funks.” He pokes fun of American values which have changed from freedom and happiness to burgers, guns and Starbucks. Lines like “We're pumpin' out Mohammed's diesel/
Fillin' up Christ's limousine” reveals McGonagall’s belief that Americans went to Iraq for oil. His sacasm shows up clearly when tells us how the “golden arches of MacFreedom/Built on African debt” or how we exploit “Asian sweat.”

Link to Poem
Link to one of McGonagall's readings (This is another poem, not This Land's not Your Land


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