Saturday, November 22. 2008
Weekend Cross Post -
originally posted on Poets Online
I read in a post on the Library of Congress blog that in 1982, when Barack Obama was a 19-year-old student at Occidental College, he had 2 poems published in the spring issue of the school's literary magazine of the time.
Here's one of those poems:
Obama is taking on a job that is incomprehensibly difficult to most of us. I'm delighted that he even wrote poetry as a student, and I hope that it may still have a place in his life as reader and writer. But I'm surprised by the "analysis" that these two poems have been given in the press and online lately. (I know some of you are saying that I'm naive for even being surprised.)
The second poem, "Pop," is reported to be about his maternal grandfather, Stanley Dunham.
Someone asked Harold Bloom at Yale University to review it and he said it was “not bad—a good enough folk poem with some pathos and humor and affection... It is not wholly unlike Langston Hughes, who tended to imitate Carl Sandburg" and further says it is much superior to the poetry of former President Jimmy Carter whom Bloom calls "literally the worst poet in the United States."
I never knew critics were so interested (or tough!) on poetry in college literary magazines.
I picked up a book of Jimmy Carter's poetry in the library a few years ago, and I recall liking a few poems about fishing that were there. Great poetry? No. The worst poetry? Definitely not.
Presidents taking their chances on writing poetry is not without precedent.
How about this acrostic poem by George Washington?
From your bright sparkling Eyes, I was undone;
John Tyler wrote several poems that have survived. One was written when his
And we also have the precedent for the inclusion of poetry at Presidential inaugurals. Robert Frost recited "The Gift Outright" (PBS transcript) at John F. Kennedy's 1961 inaugural. (Frost actually that poem from memory because he was unable to read the text of "Dedication" (PBS transcript) which he had written for the occasion. (video of Frost reading "The Gift Outright" at Kennedy's inauguration)
Maya Angelou read "On the Pulse of Morning" at Bill Clinton's 1993 inaugural. (video of the reading) James Dickey read ''The Strength of Fields'' at Jimmy Carter's 1977 inaugural gala at the Kennedy Center.
any of you with me on thinking that having a President that reads, writes or at least has written and read poetry at some point is a GOOD thing?
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