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


Comment Here on any of the above or below and read the comments of others too. Log in under "Name" or "Anonymous" if you like, but please be sure to sign some facsimile of your name. Actual name is best, but use what you like. Or email me at edcoletti@sbcglobal.net if you have difficulty.

5 comments:

paulagraph said...

Yup, it was a dull poem, but nowhere near as offensive as that opening invocation (what ever happened to the secular state?) by that minister whose name I don't even want to remember. Paula

Mark Eckert said...

Not as dull as Dedication, but close.
And was that not the white haired one
pleading beside the podium, HIS ghost
whispering something like, The Gift
Outright was a fluke; for your sake
and that of all Poetry's,go,deep six
the Praise Song into the old Potomic:
Spare us opprobrium, every Critic's?
Mark Eckert

peN said...

Well, Jack is right on, again and I was surprised by the brevity of his response. If prodded, I think Jack would probably go deeper into the reasons why he feels it is a failed poem and I would like to see that.

What I find disturbing is the lengths people will go to defend the poem. Like the poem itself, their points are abstract and, as such, nearly meaningless.

Margo van Veen said...

Hi Ed,

That's an interesting discussion about the inaugural poem. I wonder what Jack Foley would write instead. And i agree wholeheartedly with Paula of course. I have been tinkering myself with with a little poem inspired by the inaugural speech. What do you think? Is hopefulness trite per definition?



Hope Springs Global

The mold has been broken: Barack H. Obama
Has soberly spoken on the first day,
His message devoid of rhetorical drama
The better the need for change to convey

Obama has spoken on the first morning
All over the world his words have been heard
Spirits once broken newly are soaring
Hope now springs global: change is the word

More dark clouds are forming; we must heed the warning
To weather the storm we will need every hand
Hold on to your dreams for a better tomorrow
We shall succeed if together we stand!

Anonymous said...

A Valentine's Day Cowboy Poem - - -
She Opened My Eyes
and What a Surprise
===================================

Thought I knew
Where this was a goin'
Sure read the signs wrong
That you were a showin'

Thought I knew
What you were a thinkin'
I started fallin' in love
What the hell was I thinkin'

My horse has never
Thrown me so hard
I 'spected us to be forever
Who knew you turned your last card

You cashed in and stood up
Just walked away
Leaving me holding an empty bag
Not knowin' what the hell to say

I still have my horse
Of course
And half less
Of the rest of the mess
===================================
Tom J. Mariani
poemhunter.com and
coffeeconnection.co.uk posted as tjmjr