Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I Love It When Literature Makes The News

Both NPR and Politico report that poet Richard Blanco will read a poem during President Obama's second inauguration.  From Politico:
The Presidential Inauguration Committee on Wednesday named the Inaugural poet, who will appear at President Barack Obama’s swearing-in ceremony on Inauguration Day. Richard Blanco will be the country’s youngest Inaugural poet and also the first Hispanic and first member of the LGBT community to serve in the position, according to a statement from the committee:
The cynic in me sees this choice a stroke of pure genius. It's a nod to the Latino community in general, and it's a sign that Democrats are willing to reach out the Cuban-American community in particular. The latter group has tended to be solidly Republican.

On the other hand, the fact that Blanco is gay will certainly drive Obama's most ardent and vitriolic opponents into a dither. I can't wait to read Brad Ford's and Steve Sibson's take on this choice. It's always fun to see people foaming at the mouth. (As a side note, I think that some of Obama's critics on issues like drones and the usurpation of civil liberties need to get more coverage. I wonder if that coverage would occur if they did froth at the mouth more often.)

The only possible downside for President Obama is the fact that including a poet may anger Secretary of Education Arne Duncan along with the testing and Common Core folk who think literature is a waste of time. In order to make them happy, Obama would have had to ask Bill Gates to do a public reading of the new Windows tech manual..

Cynicism aside, here's "Burning in the Rain" one of Blanco's poems that was published in the New Republic in 2011:
Someday compassion would demand
I set myself free of my desire to recreate
my father, indulge in my mother’s losses,
strangle lovers with words, forcing them
to confess for me and take the blame.
Today was that day: I tossed them, sheet
by sheet on the patio and gathered them
into a pyre. I wanted to let them go
in a blaze, tiny white dwarfs imploding
beside the azaleas and ficus bushes,
let them crackle, burst like winged seeds,
let them smolder into gossamer embers—
a thousand gray butterflies in the wind.
Today was that day, but it rained, kept
raining. Instead of fire, water—drops
knocking on doors, wetting windows
into mirrors reflecting me in the oaks.
The garden walls and stones swelling
into ghostlier shades of themselves,
the wind chimes giggling in the storm,
a coffee cup left overflowing with rain.
Instead of burning, my pages turned
into water lilies floating over puddles,
then tiny white cliffs as the sun set,
finally drying all night under the moon
into papier-mâché souvenirs. Today
the rain would not let their lives burn.

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