Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ocean/Two by Lu/ Jack Foley on Inaugural Poem

Painting "Ocean" by Ed Coletti (watercolor and archival ink)

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Two Poems by Luis Garcia





(Photo of Lu Garcia reading in Santa Rosa
at Ed Coletti's SoCoCo at the Toad series 1-11-09)



STILL

I still love to walk in the sun
with a story on the tip of my tongue.

I still love to walk in the sun
with a song on the tip of my tongue.

I still love to kneel
in the presence of the sun

with a blossom on the tip of my tongue.
I still love to seek out

those sacred times,
those sacred places.

THIRSTY

Trying
to write poetry
for me

has always been
and I think
will always be

like trying to squeeze
the last drop
out of a forgone conclusion

or the word ill
out of the word
illusion

or water
from the dry mouth
of a thirsty bone

or speech
from the empty mouth
of a rolling stone.

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The following letter to inaugural poet Elizabeth Alexander was written by notable Berkeley poet Jack Foley on January 27, 2009 and is reprinted with his permission. It will also be published in Contemporary Poetry Review--an online magazine.

Dear Ms. Alexander,


I have long considered whether to write this note about your inaugural poem, “Praise Song for the Day.”


It may well be better to let the matter (and the poem) be forgotten, as I believe they will be. Or if remembered, remembered only as still another dull poem written for still another presidential inauguration. I wondered whether you showed the poem to anyone before you decided it was “finished.” Surely a clumsy line like “We need to find a place where we are safe; we walk into that which we cannot yet see” might have been improved. From a purely musical point of view, didn’t you have difficulty saying “we walk into that which we cannot yet see”?


Nobody sets out to write a bad poem, yet, unfortunately, many bad poems have been achieved. Just about any poet of any distinction is guilty of writing badly at times. And I realize that you’ve written far better poems than the one you displayed for the entire nation to see.


But that is what is depressing about it.


Here was an opportunity to show millions of people—millions of people—what an exciting thing poetry is. Look at what you gave them. Look at what you gave all those people who think poetry is dull, genteel, a form of little interest—a dead thing. You gave great affirmation to their opinion; without meaning to, and I’m sure with the best of intentions, you drove still another nail into the coffin of poetry.


I'm sorry to be writing this because I think you are basically a good poet. But now a bad, banal, rhetorically dull poem will be presented to the American people as an example of the high reaches of the art. What a shame.


Sincerely,

Jack Foley

P.S. If you wish to find out anything about me, there’s a Wikipedia article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Foley_(poet)#Biography


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