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the impossible vocabulary of sorrow
January 22, 2013 11:07 AM   Subscribe


 
The other 4 Inaugural Poems so far:

1961: Robert Frost -- The Gift Outright
1992: Maya Angelou -- On the Pulse of Morning
1997: Miller Williams -- Of History and Hope
2008: Elizabeth Alexander -- Praise Song for the Day
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:14 AM on January 22, 2013


I don't think having to write a poem for an Inauguration brings out the best in a poet. Maya Angelou is usually pretty good, but her Inaugural poem seemed a bit pompous and twee at the same time. Blanco - I've just read three of his poems. They're pretty good, although his line breaks seem a little arbitrary, but, then, the same could be said of Ginsberg and Whitman sometimes. This one was Whitmanesque to an extreme, which Richard Blanco probably thought appropriate for the occasion. And it was, I suppose. I missed the whole event, myself.
posted by kozad at 11:25 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


the nation's

Which nation?
posted by regicide is good for you at 11:55 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is exactly one country mentioned in the FPP. It is probably that one.
posted by griphus at 11:57 AM on January 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


I loved listening to him read this poem. It sounded so exactly right for the promise that was threaded through the day's events. His pronunciation of the Spanish words reminds me that the promise is one of equality and inclusion--Justice Sotomayor, the First Family and Blanco himself represent the progress thus far from "Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall." I love it that young people were so well included for they are the world that will be. This time there was the youngest inaugural poet and, while In 2009, the unforgettable Aretha Franklin (and her hat) brought star power, this year it was Beyonce. It was also good to see the past not forgotten. Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter were there and Bill Clinton, appearing every bit the party big dog he is, took in the crowd and then, putting his arm completely around Hillary, moved into his place. All kinds of love and inclusiveness was the order of the day. Inclusion is still but a promise, but we have made a start.
posted by Anitanola at 12:11 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I found it charming that he prepared for the reading of the poem by reading it to a snowman that had been constructed by his nephew in Bethel, Maine.
posted by 1367 at 12:13 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't care much for poetry, but I did find the phrase "the impossible vocabulary of sorrow" to be particularly poignant. If a poem has one zinger in it like that it works for me.
posted by dgran at 12:25 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I found it charming that he prepared for the reading of the poem by reading it to a snowman that had been constructed by his nephew in Bethel, Maine.

I've found everything I've read about Richard Blanco in the last week so charming that I'm almost convinced he's not real. (I'm a particular sucker for the 'really good at math but wants to write' thread of his life.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:28 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sadly, MCMikeNamara, it seems Eric Cantor doesn't share your appreciation of Blanco.
posted by Rangeboy at 12:33 PM on January 22, 2013


Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day


Schopenhauer approved this message.
posted by Twang at 12:34 PM on January 22, 2013


The list of things said and done at that podium yesterday that Eric Cantor and I disagree on are probably much longer than our agreements.

Additional link, by the author, Making a Man Out of Me, an essay that gets into more details of his grandmother's verbal abuse that's mentioned by him in the CNN article. Fair warning, he's got a good memory for details and some of these may be pretty hard to read if you've suffered same.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:48 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sadly, MCMikeNamara, it seems Eric Cantor doesn't share your appreciation of Blanco.

"Hispanic, homosexual, and young!"
By such a sight is Eric Cantor stung.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:00 PM on January 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Hispanic, homosexual, and young!"
By such a sight is Eric Cantor stung.

He might groan and wince,
At the poetic mince,
Yet five of six Republicans still enjoy the odd slip of the tongue.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:29 PM on January 22, 2013


Though limericks have more license than pentameters,
You just exceeded the approved parameters.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:37 PM on January 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


There once was a rep named of Cantor
Who winced at poetical banter.
He grimaced at Blanco
As he read his canto
And thus to his base he did pander.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:43 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you're looking for a version that doesn't strip out the line breaks, Macleans has you covered.
posted by sixswitch at 1:43 PM on January 22, 2013



I think that I shall never see
A poet lousier than I

 
posted by Herodios at 1:47 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Though limericks have more license than pentameters,
You just exceeded the approved parameters.


Comedic errors by rank amateurs
Oft offend insular diameters.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:51 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yet five of six Republicans still enjoy the odd slip of the tongue.

Avoid the threat of pain eternal
And do not make near-rhymes internal.
posted by griphus at 1:57 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Poor Cantor! He struggles to climb
To the foothills of Blanco's sublime.
As he shivers in place,
He scrunches his face:
"But surely a poem should rhyme!"
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:00 PM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Grimacey-blimacey,
Senator Cantor is
less than impressed by the
poet's new verse;
gay, young, Hispanic, yet
incontrovertibly,
truly American -
what could be worse?
posted by en forme de poire at 2:05 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Apparently the Chronicle of Higher Ed hated it, for various stuff reasons.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:10 PM on January 22, 2013


Manhunt Hottie.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 2:14 PM on January 22, 2013


I have to confess that I agree with Eric Cantor that this was a pretty weak-sauce poem. The bits about his father and mother especially, it's like he reduced them to those example citizens that politicians refer to in speeches. You know, "people like Bob Blanco, who cut sugarcane so his son could enjoy a higher education! (audience cheers)"

On the other hand, it's not terribly the type of poetry I'm into anyways, and I find it pretty hard to imagine a good poem that could be written for an inauguration. Even Frost didn't manage to come up with one.
posted by whir at 2:23 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, I didn't much like it either. I just like mocking Eric Cantor.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:40 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


From the Higher Ed critique: "probably because good art usually cannot be produced and delivered on demand."
Are you kidding me? Let's start with the songs the Tin Pan Alley greats churned out for Hollywood and the Brill Bldg. turned out for the Top 40.
Not arty enough for ya? Well, then there's Vivaldi. Bach. etc. I'm sure my erudite MeFi colleagues can offer many more examples of good-to-great art produced on demand.

And re: Blanco's Huffpo comments (linked above):
"In order to survive emotionally I learned to read my environment very carefully and then craft appropriate responses that would (hopefully) prevent abuse and ridicule from my grandmother. I explain to my husband-to-be that I am still that quiet, repressed boy whenever I am in a room full of people, trying to be as invisible as possible, but taking in every detail, sensory as well as emotional, that will eventually surface in a poem."

In the recent Nichols/May interview, subject of an FPP here, I think Mike Nichols said something similar - about needing to read people when you're an outsider, and how it relates to being creative. But that only fully resonated with me now, in companion to these remarks.
posted by NorthernLite at 2:52 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I like haikus.
Sen. Eric Cantor
Grimaces because he hates
Young, gay Hispanics. And black people. And gun-control. And women. And unions. And....
Actually, maybe this isn't really good subject matter for haikus.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:41 PM on January 22, 2013


I appreciated the president's choice, symbolically, but I did not enjoy Blanco's poem. The images, the language--with a few exceptions--was mundane. It didn't stir me. I got his point, but just wasn't impressed. I'd never heard of him, so I was excited at what he might bring. But it was the free verse equivalent of a stump speech. The shout-outs to his parents, the images of Everyday America, the Unifying Image. It was mechanical, the moving parts grinding away at their purpose.

Maybe an inaugural poem is a tough gig. You know your audience is national and multigenerational and multicultural. You see yourself measured against Robert fucking Frost in '61. But Blanco's poem sounds like the text accompanying photographs in a USIA book about America to be perused in binational center libraries back in the '80s.
posted by the sobsister at 6:48 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


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