Reed Magazine February
2003

Reed, whose father, artist David Reed ’68, was a classmate of Sherry’s, makes no secret of his own goals—“My intention is to blast Orwell. ” Both Reed and Sherry hold Orwell partially responsible for shaping the American mindset during the “cold war,” a term coined by Orwell. Reed, who wrote Snowball’s Chance in only three weeks following September 11, views 9/11 as the end of this mindset, and the replacement of one set of enemies and alliances with another. In light of the Bush Administration’s push for war with Iraq, the end of the book is particularly worthy of attention. “Chilling,” says Sherry, “in the accuracy with which it foretold the bloodthirstiness of the American response to 9/11”:

The animals heard Snowball, who had somehow acquired a bullhorn, announcing “We were prepared for this.” And without pause, that great pig Snowball called the extremist attacks “The Massacre of the Twin Mills” and for it he vowed — “Revenge, justice, retaliation. The blood of beavers shall flow in the Woodlands!”

James Sherry’s interest in literary and visual arts and in historical perspective is lifelong. Already an active experimental poet, he majored in history at Reed, writing his thesis on the idea of glory in the Italian Renaissance. After he graduated Sherry began publishing “lazy sonnets,” parodies of the traditional form in which he took away part of the poem “to see what would happen.” His literary experimentation put him at the center of the development of “language poetry” in the 1970s and ’80s.

To support himself, Sherry first did freelance writing and moved to technical documentation, then to computer programming. However, his passion has always been poetry and literary criticism. Even now, as an executive in IBM’s software group, he would rather talk about the weekly poetry reading Segue sponsors than worldwide markets strategy, the field in which he works. Sherry explains that poetry and computers have certain similarities, however: “Language, syntax, accuracy—computers and humans just take slightly different paths through language to the objects of their attention.”

Kim Fisher ’94 and partner Heidi Neilson ’91 own Square Water, a small design company in New York.

 

Reed Magazine February

2003