Carruth, whose grandfather wrote speeches for Eugene Debs, calls himself an “old-line anarchist” and a “rural communist with a small c.” On this day he grumbles about President Bush. In 1998 he declined an invitation to the Clinton White House for a celebration of American poetry, explaining in a letter that “it would seem the greatest hypocrisy for an honest American poet to be present on such an occasion at the seat of the power which has not only neglected but abused the interests of poets and their readers continually, to say nothing of many other administratively dispensable segments of the population.” He has long resisted the notion that politics—or anything else—doesn’t belong in poetry. His poems are democratic in the broadest sense, siding with the weak against the powerful, oppressed against oppressor. His sympathies extend even to despised creatures like rats and car salesmen. “I’ve always felt sorry for the rats,” he says.
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