Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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A Poet Reflects on Inaugural Poems

I don’t know the poet David Yezzi, but I really liked his comments about the forthcoming inaugural poem in last Friday’s (1/9/09) Wall St. Journal. "Bards at the Inaugural Gates." A sample: "Could such a historic occasion give rise to historic poetry? It hasn’t yet. This may be because the public voice has never been the long suit of American poetry, despite its roots in Whitman, who had a way of addressing the whole nation, if not all of mankind... When poetry gets pressed into political service what gets lost most often is the poetry... Poems create this condition with the stories they tell, but more importantly in the way they tell them. Great poems find an expression for experiences and emotions that we would not have words for otherwise. In so doing, they give us those emotions and the experiences fully for the first time. The stumbling block for most political poetry is narrowness. As soon as poetry espouses an interest group, it ceases to speak to the widest audience and fails in its bid for universality.

Take a look, and if someone knows his poetry, give us an appraisal.

Discussions - 2 Comments

I have no comment with regard to the felicity or the infelicity of "Inaugural Poems" except to say that they--like most of the forced and formulaic celebratory spectacles of the coming week--are probably a conceit. But I do want to note this formulation of Yezzi's which is, it seems to me, perfect: Great poems find an expression for experiences and emotions that we would not have words for otherwise. In so doing, they give us those emotions and the experiences fully for the first time. That is just a spectacular way of putting the thing, isn't it? Thanks for posting this, Lucas!

When anything gets pressed into political service, it immediately loses it meaning, its voice, its depth. That is because the domain of the political is de-sacralization.

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