Tuesday, January 20, 2009
There's been much discussion around the practice — unique to Democratic presidents — of inviting a poet to read at US Presidential inaugurations. The poems to date, frankly, have not been very good, but that's no reason to object to the practice. The problem has been that the poems have tried to do things which contemporary poetry does poorly (historical-patriotic self-congratulation) rather than things which poetry can do well; the poets to date have failed to use the opportunity to exercise their poetic license. It strikes me that an inaugural poem ought to take one of two forms: the visionary, daring to imagine a better state (or, better yet, a state which functions so well we no longer need it), or the didactic, daring to instruct the new officeholder to do a better job. We've been mighty short on the visionary of late, indeed times may be so serious that we don't have the luxury of the visionary, so I'd settle this time for the didactic, going with Vergil rather than Blake, building this time on the concrete deficits and failures of Mr. Obama's immediate predecessor: Know more. Imagine more. Consider the consequences of your actions. Work harder.