Main | Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bill Kristol Thinks He's A Poetry Critic

From Bill Kristol's op/ed piece in the NY Times:
Obama has selected Yale’s Elizabeth Alexander to compose and read a poem. I still remember watching Maya Angelou read “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993 — and thinking that American culture really was in a state of irreversible decline, as she indulged in that multicultural cataloguing of “the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew, / The African and Native American, the Sioux, / The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek, / The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, / The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, / The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.” I’ve looked at some of Alexander’s poetry, and am confident she’ll be a big improvement on Angelou. It makes me think our culture isn’t necessarily getting worse. It may even be getting better.
UGH. So now this rabid war hawk jerk thinks he's some kind of poetry critic? Some of Maya Angelou's work and surely her vocal delivery provide plenty of opportunity for parody, but I don't mind telling you that as I watched her Clinton inaugural recitation of On The Pulse Of Morning, I sat there in my office in Miami and wept.

Not just for the historic and unprecedented mention of gay people as part of the tapestry of America, but for the almost overwhelming sense of hope that the piece and the day delivered. Years later when Angelou's recitation of Pulse was sampled in the trance hit Psalm by Inspirione, I had many a "moment" on the dance floor. On The Pulse Of Morning is one of the few poems of which I can recite a substantial portion, and given a beer or ten, I'll throw in my Angelou impression as well. My favorite bit:

I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours--your Passages have been paid.

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.

Give birth again
To the dream.

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.

Yeah, fuck Bill Kristol.

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