Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Democrats in Power: Poetry Relevant Again!

It's a good thing that America elects a Democratic president every decade--even just to give poets a reason to write something! You probably remember the ode to Bill Clinton in 1993 by Maya Angelou (pictured at right with fellow poet Charles Wright). It was called "On the Pulse of Morning," which, as a title, has an appealing rhythm to it. As Fosco recalls, the poem was a grand vision of Speaking Trees, Singing Rivers, and Crying Rocks (incidentally, not unlike several songs by Rush). It also contained these (unfortunate) rhyming couplets:

So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African, the Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheik,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
I'm not claiming that poetry is easy, but there must have been a better solution than rhyming "Greek" with "Sheik." Ah, the early nineties... such an innocent time!

Sadly, Oprah has refused to release Ms. Angelou from her underground containment facility to write a poem for Obama's Inauguration. So we must make due with lesser talents. Like the respected poet (and pathetic scholar) David Lehman. At the request of the AP, Mr. Lehman wrote this poem to honor Obama's Inauguration.

Probably the best thing I can say about the poem is that it's not terrible. And there is that good line referring to Obama as "thou still unravish'd bride of quietness." That's surprisingly catchy.

Apparently, the AP has asked a number of poets to do this, so we can look forward to offerings from many of the usual suspects of mediocre public poetry (I'm looking at you, Mr. Pinsky). On the other hand, even a poem about vaginas by Rita Dove will be preferable to that poem read at President Bush's first Inaugural:

Honkytonk U
by T. Keith

My grandmother owned a nightclub on the Arkansas-Oklahoma line
Momma put me on a greyhound, and I went
To stay with her in the summertime
I'd box up those empty long necks and stack'em in the back and make
A hand
Then at night she'd let me sneak out of the kitchen and sit in with the band
Yes, I have sacked some quarterbacks and broke my share of bones along the way
I knew it wouldn't
Last forever, semi-pro always means semi-paid
I started climbin' drillin' rig, I'm oil field trash and
Proud as I can be
Then I took my songs and guitar and sang'em to a man from Tennessee.

I've played every beer joint tavern from New York city out to Pasadena
Every corn dog fair and rodeo
And sold out every basketball arena
I like to get down with my boys in Afghanistan and Baghdad city
I am a red, white and blue blood graduate of Honkytonk U.

Moving stuff.


todd said...

All that's nice, but can it even come close to the poetic talent of on Ms. Mariah Carey

From her new poetry book, The Unicorn:

I love my unicorn, he knows I am true,
My troubles go poof, my unicorn named Boo

FOSCO said...

Wow, that's a good poem. I always thought her lyrics couldn't stand alone without her music; I was wrong.