E. E. Cummings' "next to of course god america i" is a brilliantly biting piece of satire and a textbook example of how to properly write a formal poem. The full text follows below:
"next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims' and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn's early my
country 'tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?"
He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water
This poem was written in 1926, but could just as well have been written in 2012. The chauvinistic rhetoric parodied by Cummings has stayed the same; only the suits who speak it have changed. Cummings strings together the most common clichés of American politics in such a way that their utter meaninglessness is brought to the forefront.
Cummings' earliest poems were textbook formal poems, and his roots in the traditional school of poetry show here: this is a sonnet in iambic pentameter. Its brilliance lies in its fluidity despite the form, the way the poem reads like normal speech instead of "like a poem." Every rhyme is inventive and the rhythm always comes off as natural, never sing-songy.
My favorite three lines are probably: "in every language even deafanddumb / thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry / by jingo by gee by gosh by gum." I also love the reversal of expectations in "lions to the roaring slaughter." Finally, the way the last line breaks the meter adds poignancy.
I hope I'm not messing up the Reviews forum by posting a poem instead of a movie, video game or album, but I figure it fits.