The Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld, Set to Music

CD Features Songs Based on Defense Secretary's Statements

'The Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld' CD Cover

The Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld and Other Fresh American Art Songs hide caption

itoggle caption
Elender Wall and Bryant Kong

Composer-pianist Bryant Kong and singer Elender Wall bring music to Donald Rumsfeld's words. Stuffed Penguin Music hide caption

itoggle caption Stuffed Penguin Music

Last year, Donald Rumsfeld's pronouncements from Pentagon briefings and media interviews were arranged into poems. Now those poems have been set to music.

Columnist Hart Seely put the defense secretary's words to poetry in the book Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld. One poem, "The Unknown," was based on one of Rumsfeld's most famous phrasings: "There are known knowns. There are things we know we know..." (See the full text below.)

San Francisco-based pianist Bryant Kong set the poems to music in The Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld, issued on his newly formed label, Stuffed Penguin Music.

No, Rumsfeld doesn't sing. That job falls to a soprano.

Kong tells NPR's Renee Montagne that he composed the songs for friend Elender Wall, who hardly sounds like the secretary of defense. "Certainly if I knew a tenor or a baritone, then we would have written them for him," Kong says. "Any singer can, as it were, play the Donald Rumsfeld character in a musical."

Below are selected lyrics from The Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld.

The Unknown

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.

Department of Defense news briefing
Feb. 12, 2002

A Confession

Once in a while,
I'm standing here, doing something.
And I think,
"What in the world am I doing here?"
It's a big surprise.

Interview with The New York Times
May 16, 2001

Happenings

You're going to be told lots of things.
You get told things every day that don't happen.

It doesn't seem to bother people, they don't—
It's printed in the press.
The world thinks all these things happen.
They never happened.

Everyone's so eager to get the story
Before in fact the story's there
That the world is constantly being fed
Things that haven't happened.

All I can tell you is,
It hasn't happened.
It's going to happen.

Department of Defense briefing
Feb. 28, 2003

The Digital Revolution

Oh my goodness gracious,
What you can buy off the Internet
In terms of overhead photography!

A trained ape can know an awful lot
Of what is going on in this world,
Just by punching on his mouse
For a relatively modest cost!

Following European trip
June 9, 2001

© 2003 Hart Seely. Used by permission.

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