Monday, January 16, 2017

Poetry at the Trump Inauguration: A Scattershot Anthology

I've looked in vain for the name of any American poet invited to read or recite at Friday's inauguration of the country's 45th
For better or verse: Robert Frost struggled with a glaring sun to read a new poem at John F. Kennedy's Inauguration, but that's nothing compared to the struggle of even finding a living poet in 2017 willing to add luster to Trump's ceremony on FRiday.
president. Maybe invitations have been sent out, only to be rejected without the kind of attention that musicians and actors who have declined are now receiving.

What sort of poetry would suit the start of Donald Trump's term?  In offering the final anthology of excerpts, I'm taking into account the new president's fabled short attention span. These snippets have a certain order to them, though Mr. Trump is unlikely to be aware of it. He also may not discern that the reasons for inclusion are both clear and obscure, and subject to a range of interpretation — just like much of what he's said in his favorite short form, the Tweet.

The selections are all by American poets, with one exception. The reason for its inclusion should require no explanation.

Fair warning that any such anthology must be an obvious mismatch with the new president was provided with foresight decades ago by Paul Laurence Dunbar, in two quatrains titled "The Poet." Here's the second of them: "He sang of love when earth was young, / And Love, itself, was in his lays. / But ah, the world, it turned to praise / A jingle in a broken tongue."

So, get Kellyanne Conway or Eric Trump up to that microphone on the Capitol steps, and let them intone the following:



One's-self must never give way — that is the final substance — that out of all is sure,
Out of politics, triumphs, battles, life what at last finally remains?
When shows break up what but One's-Self is sure?
   
            — Walt Whitman, "Quicksand of Years"

Each moment of time is a mountain.
An eagle rejoices in the oak trees of heaven,
Crying
This is what I wanted.

             —  James Wright, "Today I Was So Happy, So I Made  This Poem"

May I in my brief bolt across the scene
Not be misunderstood in what I mean.

             —  Robert Frost, "The Fear of Man"

What am I after all but a child, pleas'd with the sound of my own name? repeating it over and over;
I stand apart to hear — it never tires me.

               — Whitman, "What Am I After All"

We ride amid a tempest of dispraise.

                 — Dunbar, "Douglass"

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down....
He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors'

                 —  Frost, "Mending Wall"

nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

                  — e.e. cummings, "somewhere I have never traveled"

Oh, lovely Pussy, oh, Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
      You are,
      You are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are!

                  — Edward Lear, "The Owl and the Pussy-Cat"

A man feared that he might find an assassin;
Another that he might find a victim.
One was more wise than the other.

                   — Stephen Crane, LVI, "The Black Riders and Other Lines"