KR Blog

Slam That Jam

“Obama promised on the campaign trail that, if he were elected, he would throw the White House open to as wide a range of people as possible. Last night was intended as part of that.”
— “Obama throws ???poetry jam’ at White House,” Guardian, Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Okay, nice idea. But poets? Mr. President, let’s think this through. Shelley called poets “the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Now, you’ve been a legislator. And a poet. (“Caverns / Filled with apes / That eat figs,” Mr. President? Would that be a reference to the Roberts Court?) So you know, right? Someone’s counted the silverware?

Look, I like poets as much as the next underpaid editor, and I envy anyone who gets within thirty feet of Esperanza Spalding, but let’s not get crazy with this, okay? So you once wrote bad poetry, and Rahm was a ballet dancer. That’s great, but really, it’s not necessary. You had me at “health care reform.”

Just to put things in perspective, Shelley also said that poets are “the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration.” Now I suspect your predecessor thought hierophants are an endangered species. (“Hey, screw ’em. Serves ’em right for getting so fat. Am I right, Rummy?”) But we know better, right? The last thing we need, in your next 72 days, is a White House haunted by hierophants. Trust me, nothing rhymes well with “unfunded mandates.” (Even thinking about those words too hard is somehow vaguely obscene.) But, really, that’s okay. We’ve got plenty of acknowledged legislators, although it would be nice to get that last senator seated, and I’m sure the border patrol will apprehend any inspiration the moment it tries to enter the country.

Literature isn’t immune to economic crisis, and poets need jobs, just like anyone else. So here’s another bit of Shelley’s “A Defence of Poetry” for you:

[T]he future is contained within the present, as the plant within the seed; and equality, diversity, unity, contrast, mutual dependence, become the principles alone capable of affording the motives according to which the will of a social being is determined to action.

Politics may seem prosaic, but as Shelley shows, there’s a deep, soul-inspiring poetry in the ideals that lead us to social action.

And somebody has to feed those hierophants.

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