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Prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, to help troops identify key members of the Saddam Hussein regime, the US Defense Intelligence Agency and Central Command created a deck of playing cards featuring photographs (when available) and brief descriptions of 52 of the top-55 individuals the United States government sought to detain.
 
According to Pentagon spokeswoman Megan Fox, only 200 of the so-called Personality Identification Playing Card decks were printed and none distributed as originally planned. Nevertheless, the popularity of Iraq’s Most Wanted reproductions and satires targeting the Bush Administration was remarkable. For the public and media alike, playing cards became not only a trendy wartime artifact, but a site of debate over the ethical status of the administration's actions.

Struck as many were by the potent symbolism of playing cards in the context of a controversial war, in the summer of 2003, I began writing a book-length series of epistolary love poems addressed to Saddam Hussein and the others in the "Deck of Doom," using a private, idiosyncratic language characteristic of intimacy. I named each poem after the addressee in the Department of Defense deck. The intent of the method was not to humanize and excuse their crimes, but to provoke, through play on the expression “most wanted,” thought about the psychosocial underpinnings of love and war and the rhetorical strategies that attend them.

By early 2004, having completed a first draft of Most Wanted, I decided that a powerful, if not fitting, presentation of the verse would be in the form of a deck of playing cards. The end-result, Most Wanted: A Gamble in Verse, features brief but representative excerpts from the full-length poems.

To see samples from Most Wanted, click here.

Acknowledgements
I would like to thank Hermine  Meinhard, John O’Connor, Rachel Zucker, and Joy Katz for reading and commenting on early drafts of the manuscript; Vivek Chadaga for his guidance and graphic design work; Yan Lu and Philips Guo for their help arranging a printer in China, though to no avail; Printer Masters India for printing the cards; Kirstin Chappell for building this Website; Tony Patino for building the gallery; and Wendy for her continued support and inspiration.



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