A Letter to the Poet Laureate

A Letter to the Poet Laureate

PoetLaureate

The United Kingdom has a state-anointed top-dog writer called a poet laureate, so the United States has had one as well since 1985. He or she is sort of like the village bard made famous in the French Asterixcomic book series, but on a national level.

The oddly juxtaposed adjective for English, à la “notary public,” refers to the laurel tree, wreaths made from the branches of which were used to confer honor in ancient Greece. Classical scholar and poet A. E. Housman refers to the honorific use of the laurel twice in “To an Athlete Dying Young:”

And early though the laurel grows

It withers quicker than the rose.

And round that early-laurelled head

Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead.

(Mention of Housman’s famous poem suggests a short digression. The untimely death of Meet the Press host Tim Russert prompted me to write a eulogy of sorts that was subtitled “To a Journalist Dying Youngish.” More recently I did another parody, To a Journalist Dying Old.”)

360px-Natasha-trethewey2

 

An article that appeared in The Washington Post this past week reminded me that the current poet laureate of the United States is my fellow Southerner, Mississippi native Natasha Trethewey. We both still live and write in the South, though not in the states of our birth. She teaches at Emory University in Atlanta, which, for what it is worth, makes her a colleague of the estimable Harvey Klehr and the notorious Deborah Lipstadt. I was born and educated in North Carolina and have lived in Fairfax County, Virginia, since 1982.

A couple of questions by The Post interviewer and her responses prompted me to send her an email:

April 28, 2014

Dear Professor Trethewey,

I noted with some interest your exchange with an interviewer from The Washington Post:  

What should a great poem do?

Well, the easiest answer to that is that it should touch not only our intelligence, but also our heart. It should move us not just with its subject matter but also its musicality. For my own purposes, those are the hardest things to achieve.

Is Washington a particularly poetic city?

[Laughs] I love Washington, and I think of it as a poetic city because it has a sense of history. I like that I can walk up from the Dupont Circle Metro and read Whitman on the walls. When I’m in Washington I feel in touch with America’s past.

I agree with you completely on your response to the first question, although I must note that achieving musicality is made considerably more difficult by dispensing with rhyme and meter as most modern poets choose to do.  As for the second question, I would first note that poetry, to me, is a way of expressing strong feeling in a compact way, and my experience with Washington, which goes beyond yours by a considerable degree, has certainly stirred up strong emotions in me on many, many occasions.  Permit me to share with you some examples, the first of which would have been timely a couple of weeks ago:

 

April in Washington

Around the basin there’s a ring

Of cherry trees now blossoming.

Showing off the city’s best,

They give the residents a restJeffersonMemorial

From all the darker doings there

That constitute the normal fare.

 

As I observe the Asian gift,

My spirits get a fleeting lift.

Forgetting everything I know,

I enjoy the annual show,

Admiring in her loveliness,

The harlot in a wedding dress.

 

Alas, the “everything I know” is quite a bit and very depressing and it constitutes most of what one can find on my web site whether in prose or in verse.  How it has affected my life may be summed up with the following poem:

Overdoing Learning

Could it be I’ve learned too much?

If charged, I must confess.

My views would be more popular

If I knew much less.66560_396978777040754_1788779382_n

 

I might vote for the Democrats

Or for the GOP

And not have old acquaintances

Almost run from me.

 

Education’s big with them

And ignorance the foe,

Except for those disturbing things

That they don’t want to know.

 

Concerning those disturbing things, and the “darker doings” in Washington referred to in the first poem we might plunge right in by turning the pejorative expression “lunatic fringe” back onto those who use it on free thinkers who have the temerity to question some of the outrageous things fed them by the government and the mainstream press:  “The Lunatic Fringe

One will notice in that poem skeptical reference to the official story in the case of the John F. Kennedy assassination, the suspicious death of Deputy White House Counsel Vincent W. Foster, Jr., and the Oklahoma City bombing.  More assassination skepticism and the broader implications are to be found in “Converging Systems” and “Barren Summit.

Unfortunately, “The Great American Ostrich” has remained unmoved by what has befallen it, and now we find our opinion molders “Waxing Indignant over 9/11 Truth.”

The city, itself, and not just the policies emanating from it, also has plenty of material for poetic inspiration:

Washington, DC

Pennsylvania Avenue

Carved in Stone

Federal Poles

Washington Green Zone

Protection Racket

Phantom Enemy

Our Imperial Capitol

I Wandered with a Wrought-up Mind

 

And, most recently, we have produced a paraphrase of Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago,” also named “Washington, DC.”

As you can see, then, our nation’s capital can indeed be a “poetic city,” and for a lot more reasons than the one you give.

 

Sincerely,

David Martin

 

It’s been a few days now, and I haven’t heard anything back. Oh well, if she’s like the ones around here she probably just thinks I’m hitting on her, or she’s sized me up as someone who can’t do anything to help her career, or both.

 

David Martin

May 1, 2014

 

I felt like this video helps illustrate the Lunatic Fringe Dave is talking about:

Lunatic fringe
I know you’re out there
You’re in hiding
And you hold your meetings

I can hear you coming
We know what you’re after
We’re wise to you this time
We won’t let you kill the laughter

Lunatic fringe
In the twilight’s last gleaming
This is open season
But you won’t get too far

‘Cause you gotta blame someone
For your own confusion
But I’m on guard this time
Against your final solution

We can hear you coming
No you’re not going to win this time
We can hear the footsteps
Out along the walkway

Lunatic fringe
We all know you’re out there
Can you feel the resistance?
Can you feel the thunder?

Lunatic fringe
I know you’re out there
You’re in hiding
And you hold your meetingsI can hear you coming
We know what you’re after
We’re wise to you this time
We won’t let you kill the laughterLunatic fringe
In the twilight’s last gleaming
This is open season
But you won’t get too far

‘Cause you gotta blame someone
For your own confusion
But I’m on guard this time
Against your final solution

We can hear you coming
No you’re not going to win this time
We can hear the footsteps
Out along the walkway

Lunatic fringe
We all know you’re out there
Can you feel the resistance?
Can you feel the thunder?
Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/red-rider/lunatic-fringe-lyrics/#um9qURL3jfimcLOD.99

Lunatic fringe
I know you’re out there
You’re in hiding
And you hold your meetingsI can hear you coming
We know what you’re after
We’re wise to you this time
We won’t let you kill the laughterLunatic fringe
In the twilight’s last gleaming
This is open season
But you won’t get too far

‘Cause you gotta blame someone
For your own confusion
But I’m on guard this time
Against your final solution

We can hear you coming
No you’re not going to win this time
We can hear the footsteps
Out along the walkway

Lunatic fringe
We all know you’re out there
Can you feel the resistance?
Can you feel the thunder?
Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/red-rider/lunatic-fringe-lyrics/#um9qURL3jfimcLOD.99

Lunatic fringe
I know you’re out there
You’re in hiding
And you hold your meetingsI can hear you coming
We know what you’re after
We’re wise to you this time
We won’t let you kill the laughterLunatic fringe
In the twilight’s last gleaming
This is open season
But you won’t get too far

‘Cause you gotta blame someone
For your own confusion
But I’m on guard this time
Against your final solution

We can hear you coming
No you’re not going to win this time
We can hear the footsteps
Out along the walkway

Lunatic fringe
We all know you’re out there
Can you feel the resistance?
Can you feel the thunder?
Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/red-rider/lunatic-fringe-lyrics/#um9qURL3jfimcLOD.99

Follow @BuelahMan

BuelaHuh?

Did I rub you the wrong way or stroke you just right? Let me know below in the comments section or Email me at buelahman {AT} g m a i l {DOT} com

If for some reason you actually liked this post, click the “Like” button below. If you feel like someone else needs to see this (or you just want to ruin someone’s day), click the Share Button at the bottom of the post and heap this upon some undeserving soul. And as sad as this thought may be, it may be remotely possible that us rednecks here at The Revolt please you enough (or more than likely, you are just a glutton for punishment??), that you feel an overwhelming desire to subscribe via the Email subscription and/or RSS Feed buttons found on the upper right hand corner of this page (may the Lord have mercy on your soul).

All posts are opinions meant to foster comment, reporting, teaching & study under the “fair use doctrine” in Sec. 107 of U.S. Code Title 17. No statement of fact is made or should be implied. Ads appearing on this blog are solely the product of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BuehlahMan’s Revolt or WordPress.com

4 thoughts on “A Letter to the Poet Laureate

  1. unflipping believable…psycho-killers…queseque c’est
    http://disc.yourwebapps.com/discussion.cgi?disc=149495;article=150176;
    The mayor of a Brussels district has called for a ban on a proposed gathering of
    far-Right and anti-Jewish activists in the city….don’t they need a permit ?
    http://www.roitov.com/
    Vincent de Wolf, the center-Right mayor of Etterbeck wrote to the governor of the Brussels region to call for a ban on “The First European Conference on Dissidence.”

    While no location has yet been officially set for the event, which is scheduled for May 4, posters and web advertisements claim it will feature the French anti-Semitic comedian, Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, the extra far far far-Right and self -effacing , self-declared national-socialist Alain Soral, as well as Kémi Séba, who has received Check this out
    ***multiple convictions*** <—– now there's something you can hang your hat on… for "incitement to racial hatred"….
    https://adask.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/tuesday-night-radio-racism-homophobia-more-2/
    as if 300 million mass murdered braindeadgoy in the last 100 years is
    something to CROW about…!,
    http://www.eurojewcong.org/belgium/11104-brussels-politicians-call-for-ban-on-dieudonne-soral-gathering.html
    and most notably for a velvet wet noodle "violent incursion" into the
    Marais historic Jewish quarter in central Paris …..
    http://www.radicalpress.com/

    Omnium reruin quarum usus est, potest esse abusus,
    virtute solo excepta.
    There may be an abuse of everything of which there is a use,
    virtue only excepted.

    so who determines value anyway…

    while Mr. A opens another can of W. A.
    tap tap tapping along the way

    Like

You Got Something To Say? Please keep your maw respectful and gab on topic.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s