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Inchoate on Poetry and Politics

college-inn.jpg
college-inn.jpg

On March 20, 2003, the day President Bush announced the start of the Iraq war, I was in my first year of the MFA program at University of Washington. The quarter was ending and Richard Kenney‘s workshop was to have its final meeting in the pub in the basement of the College Inn. It was a full sunny day and I decided to walk there from my apartment, 4 miles, before descending into the windowless bar and the back room we had reserved.

The plan was to read poems together from memory and celebrate the end of the term. We’d just begun when the presidential address broke through our recitations. My friend Meredith was in the middle of “The Mind is an Enchanting Thing” by Marianne Moore. Her voice broke as she tried get to the end, and before she did, most or many of us were weeping. Through the glass that separated us from the rest of the bar we could see people slowly gather around the TV in the main part of the bar.

The membrane that gave us cozy refuge from “the real world” was permeable. The presidential address touched off chemical cascade inside our cell that resulted in a flood of grief.

Last week I was absorbed in a rented documentary series on Rome in the first century. The pattern for emperors was ascendance-intrigue-assassination; the pattern for poets was favor-exile-death.

Today the poets and epic-makers have returned from the (cultural) capitol. The people (including me) are full of bread and circuses after yesterday’s clash of gladiators. It’s the eve of a key contest in the election of a new emperor.

At least one poet of the Clinton court will be watching tomorrow. In case you missed it, Maya Angelou has parted ways with Oprah to endorse Hillary–in verse, no less.