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87 Responses to Richard, This Is Stupid Stuff

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  1. Rod Dreher says:
    January 21, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    And another thing: what makes you think “CultureCons” don’t like the poem? I have no idea what anybody else, liberal or conservative, thinks about the poem (aside from those who have commented in this thread). We’re not part of a hive mind. For all I know the poem was widely praised. I really don’t care one way or another.

    It did remind me of Walt Whitman’s verse, but I really don’t care for Whitman’s visceral exuberance.

  2. Mike says:
    January 21, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    Do you really think being gay is only about ” which sex you go to bed with”? Does it ever occur to you that sexual orientation is an integral part of an individual’s identity? Like your attraction love for your wife-why is this so hard for you to get? I won’t call you a bigot because I don’t know what’s in your heart nor is it productive. As a previous poster noted,Richard Blanco is a symbol of a new inclusive America which apparently distresses some. Certainly it is your right to disapprove of gays but it is highly likely that in your lifetime that your views will be discredited marginalized. I had elderly Southern relatives whom I loved a great deal but their ” coloreds should be treated fairly but know their place” has always made me sad. I heard these things as a small child and have never forgotten; how could people who were otherwise so good be so misguided? I hope you don’t end up being seen that way by your kids or grand kids .

  3. David J. White says:
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    It’s now four more years of Obama I’ve been cryin’ for months to my mama Lord, please grant us hope Spare us all from this dope Let him ride off from here on a llama

    Kudos to you, Josh. You did much better than I could do starting with the same rhyme. I started writing:

    There was a black Prez named Obama Who nonetheless had a white mama

    And then I figured that I’d better just quit right there.

    I suspect the real reason the CultureCons don’t like the poem is that it celebrates the new America, which is no longer monochromatic or monoreligious or monocultural.

    The problem, Mike, is that he makes such an obvious effort to be inclusive that it quickly starts to sound like a laundry list.

    I’m reminded of a scene in the movie Beau James , where Bob Hope played Jimmy Walker, mayor of New York in the late 20s-early 30s. It’s during an election campaign, and he has been making the rounds giving his stump speech to different groups, and at one point he finds himself in a room with a group a people he doesn’t know, with a flag that he doesn’t recognize on the wall. His advisers don’t know who there people are, either. So he starts out saying something like, “New York wouldn’t be what it is without the contributions of the Irish!” Silence from the crowd. So he continues, “But we can’t forgot our debt to the Italians!” Continued silence. So he starts naming every ethnic group he can think of, to the continued stony silence of the crowd, until finally he says “Latvians”, and the crown bursts into applause.

    he didn’t feel compelled to roll his r’s or use the accent from the Taco Bell chihuaua like all of the sanctimonious wind bags on NPR

    There was a wonderful skit on SNL in the late 80s parodying this. Jimmy Smits was the host. He played the lone Hispanic in a newsroom where everyone tried to pronounce Hispanic names and Spanish words with an exaggerated accent. He was the only one who didn’t, and the rest acted like they didn’t understand what he was saying. Sorry, a quick YouTube search didn’t turn it up.

    I agree that writing poetry on commission for specific occasions can be a difficult undertaking, and the results are often far from memorable. That’s why it’s called “occasional verse”.

  4. Siarlys Jenkins says:
    January 21, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    Mr. Pickwick, Sheldon, and Tumarion get my vote. I’m not good at limericks, so unlike some awful trash offered here, I won’t pretend.

    I thought it was a decent poem for the occasion, but a little long, and not a memorable one for the ages. We can’t come up with a Gettysburg Address every four years.

    I’m disappointed that THIS is what Rod thought worthy of discussion about the inauguration of the President of the United States. Considering the almost real time blogging he did about some of those empty presidential debates, I expected more depth, breadth and insight than a little nattering about a poem.

    Now James Taylor doing “America the Beautiful” was kind of underdone. And only one darn verse.

  5. Tyro says:
    January 21, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    I suspect the real reason the CultureCons don’t like the poem is that it celebrates the new America, which is no longer monochromatic or monoreligious or monocultural. I thought it was a fine poem for the new day.

    I think the main point being made was that it was just a poor-quality poem. Poetry itself seems strangely discordant in events like this.

    Poetry is more-or-less dead as a public art form. It’s sad but it’s true. Trying to shoehorn it into the inauguration just reminds us all how anachronistic and awkward these poetic exercises are.

    Yes, there was a time when major events would be commemorated by the writing of a poem that would captured the feelings expressed with the enormity of the event, which the public would read and admire, but that time is no longer with us. It would be as if the president had someone perform an interpretative dance for the inauguration. Now we just stir in our seats and feel uncomfortable and embarrassed about the proceedings.

    I’m not sure whether this is a “conservative” argument or “liberal” argument. I think the “conservative” argument would be that modern poetry has no structure and has been corrupted by post-modernism. My argument, and perhaps it’s a “liberal” one, is that poetry isn’t an appropriate art form anymore for these events– we’ve moved on from such things: there is no longer the Court Poet called upon to compose verse for special occasions. In the same way our presidents don’t wear a top hat and tails for the inauguration, maybe there shouldn’t be poems, either.

    [Note from Rod: I agree with you on this. And I don’t dislike modern poetry as a whole. You’ll remember last summer I had a whole series of posts about the delight I took in having discovered Wallace Stevens, a modernist poet of extraordinary power. — RD]

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    January 21, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    I like poems that have meter and rhyme and that keep careful track of the time Rudyard yes, Walt no, Love Ed Allan Poe cummings’ verse might as well be a crime.

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    The Pro stood up for his say Upon the inaugural day. He rolled out his verse; The Cons had heard worse, But never forgot he was gay.

  8. Glaivester says:
    January 21, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Barack Obama was born in Keenyer Not the U.S. or Armenia You say it is clear No, the prez is from here But I was actually talkin’ ’bout Senior.

  9. Rod Dreher says:
    January 21, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    A clever limerick, paco, but at the risk of derailing a meme some of you liberals would like to launch, I had no idea that the poet was gay when I read his poem, and I still have no idea what other conservatives thought of the poem.

    This seems to be the knee-jerk response from the left:

    Liberal: “Look, the poet is gay! He’s gay! He’s gay, gay, gay, gay, gay! Isn’t this just the best thing you’ve ever heard of? Yay gay!”

    Conservative: “Well, I don’t like the poem.”

    Liberal: “Why do you care so much about his homosexuality? You right wingers never stop thinking about homosexuality. Why do you hate gay people?”

  10. PDGM says:
    January 21, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    Charlieford: You say “Republicans wouldn’t be Republicans if they liked poetry.”

    And then you accuse RD of oversimplifying?

    Pot, kettle, black.

    Address the actual quality of the poem. It stinks, channelling Whitman or not. It is trite; it only works if you already agree with the poet’s ideas. That is a clear example of bad art: art that only works for those who already are on the same page as the writer.

    This is the source of cute kitty cats and balls of yarn, of other fatuous bullshit that does not deserve the name of art. Good art teaches you something; it opens your eyes; it comes from some beyond, not from a bland place where political hacks and speechwriters find their “inspiration.” And this is true regardless of where anyone is on the political spectrum. Truly great art is independent of such fatuous short term considerations; that’s why we have the metaphor of the muses and of inspiration.

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    January 21, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    Actually, Tyro, I agree with Scotty–there are good poets out there, but they’re setting their verse to music and we call them “singers”. The excellent book The Triumph of Vulgarity actually makes this argument, and does so strongly, IMO. Pattison, the author, argues that poetry gradually became disconnected from day-to-day life and that rock music was in part the true descendant of the Romantics, returning to the concept of poetry as expression of primal feeling. I’d highly recommend the book to anyone interested in pop culture. Maybe he should have had Springsteen just rock out….

    Glaivester, I used to think that about cummings before (oddly enough) I watched Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters . The Michael Caine character reads “not even the rain has such small hands” to the Barbara Hershey character. Usually my eyes glaze over at poems quoted in movies, but this really struck me hard, and I was very much impressed. I went on to read a lot of his poetry and discovered two things: One, his poetry, if you look past the funky punctuation and such, is often written in surprisingly traditional forms (he did lots of sonnets, for example). Two, he’s pretty damned good . Don’t let the caps and punctuation get in the way–give him a try.

    Also, FWIW: The poem Frost read for Kennedy’s inauguration was written over twenty years earlier. He’d actually written one for the inauguration, but the wind and bright light made it hard for the elderly poet to read, so he recited “The Gift Outright” (an oustanding poem) from memory. The Fates pulled it off right that day. Also, I didn’t see the inauguration, but from reading it, I don’t think Blanco’s poem was very good–just silly tiresome boilerplate. I thought the same about Maya Angelou’s poem at Clinton’s inauguration, too.

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    I think Gadamer’s definition of kitsch is itself kitsch a la Adorno. It’s not mail armour you can wear it lightly.

  13. M_Young says:
    January 21, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    If I may…

    There was a black Prez named Obama Who nonetheless had a white mama He was elected they say To drive fears away Instead we got more racial drama

  14. M_Young says:
    January 21, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    “Clothes line is quaintly anachronistic for the majority of folks with clothes dryers…..”

    This is a bit of a hobby horse for me. Clothes drying takes up a huge amount of energy. I line dry clothes when possible. Easiest way to take advantage of solar energy. Investment, about 5 bucks for a line, maybe 2 bucks for wooden clothespins. Unfortunately I have to do it on the downlow, as technically the CC Rs here prevent it.

  15. M_Young says:
    January 21, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    Maya Angelou

    A rock, a river, a tree

    Walk into a bar…

    Actually relistening to it, it shown by comparison.

    Now I gotta finish up that report for my boss!

  16. Erin Manning says:
    January 22, 2013 at 12:47 am

    Alas, in a more enlightened age a really good poet would write a take-down of Blanco’s efforts worthy of the art form:

    http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173445

    In this great poem, of course, John Dryden immortalizes a poet named Thomas Shadwell whom he crowns as the heir to the throne of dullness; Shadwell served as England’s poet laureate beginning in 1689 (he succeeded Dryden, who had been previous poet laureate–some interesting history there, actually, but far too much for a comment box).

    Here’s a fun bit of that poem:

    With whate’er gall thou sett’st thy self to write, Thy inoffensive satires never bite. In thy felonious heart, though venom lies, It does but touch thy Irish pen, and dies. Thy genius calls thee not to purchase fame In keen iambics, but mild anagram: Leave writing plays, and choose for thy command Some peaceful province in acrostic land. There thou may’st wings display and altars raise, And torture one poor word ten thousand ways. Or if thou would’st thy diff’rent talents suit, Set thy own songs, and sing them to thy lute.

    Ah, if only we had rival poets laureate fighting public battles of wit like this in today’s day and age, instead of a load of faux diversity [deleted] that fools nobody.

    Instead, we have limericks, which I can’t write, and sonnets, which I also can’t write, but that has never stopped me before.

    On the Inauguration

    There is a madness in the hearts of men Which makes them babble words of honor, praise, And glory when in truth they’ve not yet been Triumphant save in very little ways– This error causes us to give awards And gleaming trophies of all shapes and sizes To children; while to men who drag out wars, We proffer Newsweek covers and Peace prizes. Moved by this same impulse we congregate To laud our leaders when they’ve just begun– For who can ever dare anticipate How we will feel about them when they’re done? And so we sing them in with Blanco verse, And hope that life and poems won’t get much worse.

  17. JJM says:
    January 22, 2013 at 1:06 am

    It was an awkwardly delivered speech. It wasn’t a poem in any sense, any more than Obama’s speech was a poem. Honestly, and you’ll taken offense to this probably, but when I was listening to it I sincerely felt like I was in church for a phone-it-in sermon. The cadance, the fleeting topical references, the mild self congratulating, the endlessness of it, it was all there.

  18. Avi Marranazo says:
    January 22, 2013 at 4:15 am

    “…the real reason the CultureCons don’t like the poem is that it celebrates the new America…” I think the Cultural Marxists holding this opinion should come out and acknowledge their satisfaction in having killed the traditional America.

    Ethnic minorities and “polymorphous perversity” have always been key parts of the strategy to undermine traditional America. There you have the reason for highlighting the poet’s sexuality.

  19. KMT says:
    January 22, 2013 at 5:43 am

    Brilliant, Erin, just brilliant.

  20. Nick says:
    January 22, 2013 at 7:07 am

    The “progressive” mind did foreclose All critique of Blanco’s camp prose In kneejerk unison they say “You just hate him ’cause he’s gay” A liberal’s ignorance always shows.

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    Re: Republicans wouldn’t be Republicans if they liked poetry.

    I’m not sure this is a Republican thing. Most *people* don’t like modern poetry. I’m a Democrat, and I think most modern poetry is garbage, whether the author of it likes to sleep with guys, girls, or giraffes. I think most of the good modern poetry nowadays comes in the form of song lyrics.

    Though yes, this is probably less grating than “God Bless the USA”.

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    Derailing a left-leaning meme Left Dreher wanting to scream, “I don’t care that he’s gay Or his thoughts go astray; He type-casts a pinko regime.”

    Rod, don’t get exercised by the meme. It’s hard to take anything too seriously in a limerick. Including…you! The ludic impulse drives the verse. Cheers.

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    Blanco verse we’ll not rehearse in schools and squares or public affairs. Frost covered this all at an Inaugural before the climate got worse.

  24. arrScott says:
    January 22, 2013 at 9:10 am

    Apologies for the butchery of form I commit here, but an inaugural limerick:

    An Originalist came to the fore; Won the GOP nod and then more. He took little notice When his veep became POTUS: He showed up for the oath on March 4.

    [Correcting a typo in my original comment in hopes that the moderator will delete it.]

  25. Pilgrim says:
    January 22, 2013 at 10:40 am

    This morning I saw an interview of Richard Blanco, where he said he lives in a small town in Maine. I wonder if he will ever feel that makes him a sort of minority…..

  26. Naturalmom says:
    January 22, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Pacopond, love that one just above! (Blanco verse…)

  27. Turmarion says:
    January 22, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Excellent, Erin! Any other disagreements aside, I compliment you heartily on writing a Shakespearean sonnet in the correct meter and rhyme scheme without fudging! You win the thread!

  28. pacopond says:
    January 22, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Naturalmom,

    “Blanco verse” was lifted from Erin’s sonnet. “Frost covered this all” was borrowed from a Billy Collins poem.

    “Forgive me, dear, the secrets I reveal; The things I value most I sometimes steal.”

    I borrowed that from my own self.

  29. Adam says:
    January 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Personally, all poetry is beyond my tastes, so I cannot comment on the one in question. Actually this whole post is pretty worthless.

  30. Pilgrim says:
    January 22, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    I am glad to see poetry included in the inauguration. I don’t understand why the poet laureate, Natasha Trethewy, was not invited to write the poem. According to Wikipedia, she was born in Mississippi, to parents who were illegally married at the time of her birth. Good grief, this woman should have been asked.

  31. pacopond says:
    January 22, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Inaugural poem

    The oaths are read aloud at last. The race Subsides, concludes in hope of something grand, A rite broadcast across a febrile land. Parades and music, words evoke the trace Of what the ancients deigned to call our grace. The audience expects a hymn to span The mass and length of what man means to man, The public volumes of this august place.

    The poet speaks, but measures are awry, And though the syllables are making sense, The sentiment rehearsed, the hearers long For sounds behind the words’ correct array, Marching, dancing feet, breveloquence, A rhyme to make our common speech a song.

  32. Matthew McMahon says:
    January 22, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    Longtime reader who’s never commented here before just chiming in: I love, love, LOVE Erin Manning’s “On the Inauguration”. Pitch-perfect.

    Also, +1 to Rod for the 10:26pm post…

  33. Thursday says:
    January 22, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    The politically liberal poetry lovers I know thought the poem was crap too. One professor called it a bunch of “duckbilled plattitudes.” A radical feminist I know said it reminded her of socialist propaganda from 50 years ago (not a compliment).

  34. George A. Chien says:
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    There once was a blogger named Dreher, Whose opinions came from his *derriere*. The inaugural poet (though Rod may not know it) Was channelling Whitman, *mon cher*.

    From a gay Cuban poet laurate, Comes a lesson to these United States, With poise and elan, *comme un vrai americain*: There’s just no accounting for taste.

    With poets Blanco and W. Berry, Our prez also says, “Let gay folks marry!” Inaugural gays, and same-sex wedding days, I call progress: Your mileage may vary.

  35. Thursday says:
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    Identity politics not only ruins politics, it ruins art too.

    Not so sure about this. True identity politics often makes for very, very good poetry. It’s pallid liberal cosmopolitanism that utterly lacks an ounce of poetry. Poems celebrating your national, ethnic, or even sexual identity can very much work as art. Mark Doty’s Homo Shall Not Inherit is a very good poem, though I don’t agree with all the sentiments. But it rather ferociously embraces life on the margin, rather than give us the happy clappy nonsense we got from Blanco.

  36. Turmarion says:
    January 22, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    pacopond, excellent Petrarchan sonnet! You and Erin rock this thread!

  37. David J. White says:
    January 22, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    I don’t understand why the poet laureate, Natasha Trethewy, was not invited to write the poem

    I’d forgotten about her! Good point! Isn’t that the point of having a poet laureate? If I recall correctly, in Britain it was the poet laureate’s job to compose verse for state occasions such as this.

    There was a black Prez named Obama Who nonetheless had a white mama He was elected they say To drive fears away Instead we got more racial drama

    Thanks, M_Young! I think that’s far better than I could have ended it.

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