Inaugural poet try-outs

UPDATE: I’ll continue to count votes up through midnight tonight, Nov. 12, EST. If you have alternate quotes to suggest, you’re free to use the comments, but they won’t be included in the vote tally unless you use the “Other” option in the poll, because I’m way too lazy to figure percentages myself. And of course if you’ve already voted and are curious to see how your choices are faring, click on “View Results” at the bottom of the poll. You may have to refresh the page first.

The blogosphere is abuzz with ideas about which poet Obama should invite to read at the inauguration. He is, however, a rare example of a politician who actually reads poetry for pleasure, so I imagine he doesn’t really need any help from us. But I thought it might be fun to hold some try-outs in any case. The following poll (which subscribers can only see by clicking through to the post, or by going to the page on PollDaddy) consists of randomly ordered pieces of advice from 20 different, living American poets. (At least, I think they’re all living. If not, we may have to summon Nancy Reagan.) You can vote for more than one quote, but please select only your favorites. Tomorrow or the next day I’ll count up the votes and reveal the authors.

10 Comments


  1. “I see America spreading disaster. I see America as a black curse upon the world. I see a long night settling in and that mushroom which has poisoned the world withering at the roots.” Henry Miller.

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  2. These are fun. By the way, since there are no comments on Morning Porch, you’ve had a couple of very funny ones lately. Last week I nearly spit out the apple I was eating when I read about the “clusterfuck” of branches. (Although I suppose you might not have been trying to be funny – it was just an unexpected word choice.)

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  3. I voted for the cornbread one. It seemed like practical advice that could be applied to just about anything. Fun post.

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  4. By the way, it seems that your first person to comment here, Paul, is a bit behind the times. Henry Miller is the last century. We have just elected Barack Obama, we are ready to change things around. We have hope for our country in the US, and for anyone else who needs our help.

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  5. Paul, Siona – Thanks for these additional quotes.

    leslee – Thanks for the feedback. I think you can expect to see a continuing evolution in language and imagery at the Morning Porch, because otherwise I’ll grow bored with it.

    christine – Thanks for voting for the cornbread one; a couple other folks have followed your lead now. I’m sure I could have found a more crowd-pleasing quote from that poet – one of the most exciting younger poets out there – but that one reminded me of the Daodejing’s saying about how governing a state is like frying a small fish, which someone referenced here in a comment last week. As for having hope, yes: and not so much because of Obama per se, but because of the grassroots movement that got him elected. Still, I personally remain anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist in my political leanings, so the Henry Miller quote, while a bit jarring perhaps, does come from a place I understand. (I was one of those oddballs who found Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s sermons prophetic and moving, and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.)

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  6. Dave, about Jeremiah Wright, I agree. I can totally see why he was angry and hurt, my god, it’s completely plain to me.

    If the Henry Miller quote is in the context of capitalism, fine, everyone is entitled to an opinion. But let’s not forget that there’s an entire globe entangled in capitalism. It has engulfed us all.

    To me, the black cloud is made of greed, oil, and shortsightedness.

    And yes, even Obama will say that the election was not about him, it was about us. If you believe in the view that history is propelled by the masses, then the grassroots movement is only a beginning.

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  7. great list! hey, as long as Michael Pollan is proposing a farmer in chief, why not a poet in chief? or at least a holy fool to tumble around the white house lawn?
    here are a couple more.

    “Give me silnce, water, hope./Give me struggle, iron, volcanoes.” -Neruda, “Canto General” (toward the end)

    “the true civilization will be the harmony of men with the land and of men among each other” -this one I don’t know. it was painted on a banner over a revolution scene in a Diego Rivera mural

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  8. Couldn’t resist the Naomi Shihab Nye quote — that’s the last line of “Jerusalem,” isn’t it? One of my favorites among her poems, in no small part because of that line.

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  9. To me, the black cloud is made of greed, oil, and shortsightedness.
    I’ll go along with that.

    why not a poet in chief?
    That would be the poet laureate, no? Currently appointed by the Librarian of Congress, which seems an O.K. arrangement. I’d be totally into changing the title, though. At any rate, I did include a quote from the current U.S. poet laureate.

    Couldn’t resist the Naomi Shihab Nye quote
    Thanks for not naming the quote, though I don’t think you’re the first to vote for it knowing the author. The authorship of couple of the others is probably pretty obvious, too.

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