"Poor Salignac! how hard a fate was thine..."
February 10, 2010 4:28 PM   Subscribe

Presidents as Poets, a virtual exhibit from the Library of Congress, examines the lyrical efforts of eight American presidents, including Barack Obama's "Pop," Abraham Lincoln's "The Bear Hunt," and John Quincy Adams' Dermot MacMorrogh or the Conquest of Ireland: An Historical Tale of the Twelfth Century in Four Cantos.

For the sake of idle comparison, a few poems of the English monarchs:

"No Man Immured," by Richard Cœur de Lion. [scroll down]

"Without Discord," by Henry VIII.

"Ah, Silly Pug, wert thou so Sore Afraid," by Elizabeth I.

"A Sonnet Occasioned by the Bad Weather Which Hindered the Sports at New-Market," by James I.

"Majesty in Misery: Or an Imploration to the King of Kings," by Charles I.
posted by Iridic (22 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The last lines of Obama's Underground:
Musty, wet pelts
Glistening in the blue.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:31 PM on February 10, 2010

"I will tell you a Joke about Jewel and Mary
It is neither a Joke nor a Story
For Rubin and Charles has married two girls
But Billy has married a boy
The girlies he had tried on every Side
But none could he get to agree
All was in vain he went home again
And since that is married to Natty
So Billy and Natty agreed very well
And mama's well pleased at the match
The egg it is laid but Natty's afraid
The Shell is So Soft that it never will hatch
But Betsy she said you Cursed bald head
My Suitor you never Can be
Beside your low crotch proclaims you a botch
And that never Can serve for me"

posted by empath at 4:35 PM on February 10, 2010

George W. Bush

I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It's a world of madmen and uncertainty
And potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the Internet
Become more few?

How many hands have I shaked?
They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.

I know that the human being
And the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope, where our wings take dream.
Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher!
Make the pie higher!
posted by netbros at 4:36 PM on February 10, 2010 [7 favorites]

O PRESIDENT! my President! our fearful trip has just begun...etc.

Seriously, I love this glimpse into history, but surely they can't have been the only Presidential Poets. Where's our T.R.?
posted by snsranch at 5:08 PM on February 10, 2010

damn, Obama's 'Pop' is pretty great.
posted by es_de_bah at 5:14 PM on February 10, 2010

In the Arena

It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly;
who errs,
comes up short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows the great enthusiasms,
the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end
the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst, if he fails,
at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those
cold and timid souls
who neither know victory nor defeat.

-Theodore Roosevelt

(Ah, there we go.)
posted by snsranch at 5:17 PM on February 10, 2010

I never knew Harold Bloom was such a dick.
posted by oinopaponton at 5:22 PM on February 10, 2010

Heh... from the "Pop" link:

Obama's poetry, Bloom makes clear, is much superior to the poetry of former President Jimmy Carter (Bloom calls Carter "literally the worst poet in the United States").
posted by 256 at 5:32 PM on February 10, 2010

Asked for comment, Carter replied "Even I think Harold Bloom is a monumental asshole, and I'm famous for my manners and forbearance."
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:46 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Why We Get Cheaper Tires from Liberia

The miles of rubber trees bend from the sea.
Each of the million acres cost a dime
nearly two Liberian lives ago.
Sweat, too,
has poured like sap from trees, almost free,
from men coerced to work by poverty
and leaders who had sold the people's fields.

The plantation kiln's pink bricks
made the homes of overseeing whites
a corporation's pride
Walls of the same polite bricks divide
the worker's tiny stalls
like cells in honeycombs;
no windows breach the walls,
no pipes or wires bring drink or light
to natives who can never claim this place as theirs
by digging in the ground.
No churches can be built,
no privy holes or even graves
dug in the rolling hills
for those milking Firestone's trees, who die
from mamba and mosquito bites.

I asked the owners why.
The cost of land, they said, was high.

Jimmy Carter, Always a Reckoning, 1995
posted by swift at 5:53 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

That's pretty bad. But wait until you read Gerry Wood.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:56 PM on February 10, 2010

Even though Fiasco da Gama already did it in spirit -

Musty, wet pelts
Glistening in the blue.
posted by nosila at 5:57 PM on February 10, 2010

Assuming you guys would offer this in support of Harold Bloom's dickery:

As Bloom notes: “If I had been shown these poems by one of my undergraduates and asked, Shall I go on with it?, I would have rubbed my forehead and said, On the whole, my dear, probably not. Your future is not as a person of letters.“

The phrasing is definitely kind of dickish, but he would be doing most people a favor by saying this.
posted by nosila at 6:00 PM on February 10, 2010

I don't know about you guys, but I genuinely enjoyed George W. Bush's first-person account of the Vietnam War, written entirely in rhymed verse. It may have been amateurish and pedestrian but there was a sort of noble striving toward peace in it that one rarely gets from a soldier, not to mention one of our greatest presidents. It is a shame he went into seclusion to compose his 5-volume biography of the founding fathers; seeing him on the lecture circuit reciting stanzas from his epic is one of my most treasured experiences.

Oh, whoops. Thought this was MeFi Earth-3.
posted by griphus at 6:02 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

literally the worst poet in the United States

Fuck you, Bloom. You weren't there.

Geocities alone was an airstrike made of kitsch, trench warfare across SPAN after red-tinted SPAN. I still carry a few stray lines that became lodged somewhere in my lower back. Every time I use a word like ardor, they reignite. They burn me... with their adverbs. So don't you dare tell me what bad poetry is.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:03 PM on February 10, 2010 [6 favorites]

plantation kiln's pink bricks is sort of a cute chiasmus
posted by kid ichorous at 6:06 PM on February 10, 2010

by digging in the ground,
churches can be built,
or even graves

posted by kid ichorous at 6:21 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

The most successful poet in human history, in terms of number of books printed: Chairman Mao.
posted by ovvl at 8:17 PM on February 10, 2010

This is just to say
I have recounted
The butterfly ballots
That were in

And which
You probably
Were cast invalidly.

Forgive me
They were my majority
So sweet
And so close.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:25 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

The phrasing is definitely kind of dickish, but he would be doing most people a favor by saying this.

Agreed, but also consider: How many possible budding talents throughout history might have gone on to create truly great art were they not discouraged early on by a Harold Bloom in their lives? One can never know.
posted by Throw away your common sense and get an afro! at 8:31 PM on February 10, 2010

And not to rail on Bloom here but his example makes it clear that for anybody and everybody the conservative noise makers accuse of being "elitist" there will be somebody else far higher up the ivory tower criticizing their work of being unrefined and lacking depth.
posted by Throw away your common sense and get an afro! at 9:07 PM on February 10, 2010

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