Skip to comments.What Rhymes with Irrelevant? -- A message for the anti-war bards of America.
Posted on 02/07/2003 1:40:56 PM PST by clintonbaiter
When I was an undergraduate majoring in creative writing, I often heard poet members of the department (both faculty and graduate students) complaining about the status of their craft in todays society. Poetry is undervalued and overlooked, they would say. People just dont pay attention to poetry anymore. They dont realize how important it is.
And I would think to myself, well it isnt helping your cause any having Robert Pinsky (the Poet Laureate in 1997) popping up on PBSs Newshour all the time looking painfully self-conscious and reciting verse with all the grace of a vacuum cleaner while trying to act natural beneath a terribly inappropriate George Clooney haircut. Hes a fine poet and all, but he just wasnt delivering the poetry is a happening medium message very well.
I have since realized, however, that contemporary poetrys perception problem (namely that the vast majority of Americans view it as little more than immaterial and self-indulgent babbling which bears no consequence on their lives) does not lie with well-meaning Robert Pinsky. It is rather a problem with contemporary poets in general who reside in an academic and artistic atmosphere so rarefied that they have completely lost touch with the facets of real life that made poetry of old so great and revered.
A very good example of this trend is the extreme and boisterously over the top reaction American poets have displayed to the possibility of an American war with Iraq. As you have probably heard or read, the American poetry community has taken it upon itself to very publicly oppose what poet Sam Hamill is calling the Bush administrations headlong plunge towards war in Iraq. (Oooh, headlong plunge. You can tell hes a wordsmith, huh?)
Apparently war upsets the poets delicate sensibilities and, in some cases, their stomachs.
In an open letter to friends and fellow poets (Im neither, incidentally, but read it anyway), Hamill describes receiving a card from American First Lady Laura Bush inviting him to join in a poetry symposium being held at the White House. I was overcome with a kind of nausea, he says. Rather than reaching for some Alka Seltzer and politely declining the invite, he decided to organize February 12 (the day of the symposium) as a day of Poetry Against The War.
In the end, Laura Bush was forced to cancel the nonpolitical eventwhich would have been one of those rare concrete steps being taken to make poetry more relevant and vital to peoplebecause it was clearly going to be hijacked and turned into an antiwar protest by Hamill and a number of the other poet invitees. It would likely have ended up as simply a convenient venue for poets to harp and complain, as Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Levine has, about the hideous language that emanates from the White House.
I dont believe that many of these poets who are so vehemently and senselessly opposing war with Iraq, lashing out at President Bush (as poet Hayden Carruth has done) as a tin pot tyrant, can possibly be truly great poets. Its not that I think an artists work should be judged by his political opinions. I dont.
One of my favorite musicians is Neil Young, whose politics are polar opposite from my own. I dont agree with his political philosophy, but I can still appreciate his subtle, thoughtful, layered work. To say only bad poets oppose war with Iraq would be as simplistic as well, as simplistic saying that only unfeeling war mongering militarists support it.
But to be a great artist, one must show a certain level of nuance and contemplation. And the vehemently anti-Bush poets who have been in the news of late have demonstrated neither subtlety nor thoughtfulness. They have displayed an inability to see in any shades but black and white and have failed to pick up on any of the most interesting human aspects of the situation in Iraq (e.g., the Iraqi peoples suffering and fear, Saddam Husseins cruelty and sense of omnipotence, the moral repercussions of doing nothing to stop evil in your sights). With their dogmatic, only-we-know-the-truth-and-its-simple attitude, they are showing that they are the kind of poets we most despise: those who do not live in the real world of sacrifices and tough decisions. Instead they are the kind of poets who live in the tenured, coddled comfort of ivory towers of righteous indignationdilettantes with the luxury of being sure about matters they dont have practical enough experience to understand......
(Excerpt) Read more at taemag.com ...
"Like hell he can't."
Do I win the poetry prize?
Ain't it the truth?
What rhymes with irrelevant? Bent, spent, dilettante irreverant occupant, (all of which pretty much describe the Dims and the former and impeached POTUS). The list is almost endless, unfortunately.
"Learn that poem... learn that poem..."
A little poetic license, but it could work.
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