THIS BLOG IS NO LONGER OPERATIONAL. PLEASE ENJOY WHAT IS HERE, AND DO LEAVE A COMMENT IF YOU WISH. NORTH CAROLINA'S NEW POET LAUREATE IS CATHY SMITH BOWERS. SHE WILL SOON HAVE HER OWN WEBSITE THROUGH THE NORTH CAROLINA ARTS COUNCIL SITE. I WILL BE SHIFTING MY ATTENTION TO HERE, WHERE I AM, (SEE SIDEBAR)USING IT TO DRAW ATTENTION TO WRITERS WHOSE WORK DESERVES ATTENTION. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT ME THERE. For a video of the installation ceremony, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xAk6fOzaNE.
Go to http://www.yourdailypoem.com/, managed with finesse by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer, who says, "Our intent is to make visitors to Your Daily Poem aware of the joy and diversity of poetry."
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
For the Inauguration of Barack Obama: David Hopes
(David Hopes, UNC-A)
One of our best NC poets wrote this poem for the Inaugural Celebration in Asheville last night. It is large-spirited, its perspective broad, its language soaring. David is also a splendid prose writer. I heartily recommend his BIRDSONGS OF THE MEZAZOIC. Does poetry have a role to play in our public and civic life? I believe we have some clues in the poems and comments we have heard, as well as in Obama's speech. What are your thoughts on this?
(The long lines in this poem are sometimes squeezed by the limits of the blog format. Please keep that in mind as you read.)
FOR THE INAUGURATION OF BARACK OBAMA
I see you, Waldo Emerson, looking down from the white steps of the white church in the green town square, your shadow longer than the steeple’s. I see you with your calipers out to measure the progress of the Republic. I see you dragging your stepladder to the center where all the political speeches are made. I see you climb to the top step, arms outspread like wings, waiting for somebody to take you up, waiting for somebody who, with words like a flight of new stairs, with hand beckoning at open door, will take us out and over.
I see you Abraham Lincoln, stirring on your great stone seat in the nation’s capital. I see you stare through the Potomac fogs and the smog of automobiles wondering if the flags that fell into the dust when you fell will be lifted up by anybody, ever. People who stand before you day after day have seen the great head tilt, the eyes turn the slightest turn to the north and west. You are listening. Thunder rolled once from the plains of Illinois, and I think you hear it again, the first report, the gathering of voices under a troubled cloud fringed with glancing brightness.
I see you, Walt Whitman, eyeing the men in their white shirts coming out of offices, wondering when, if ever, to announce the long-awaited wedding between politics and poetry, the white knot to unite the tenderness and the will of nations. I know who would lift his beard to the rising moon to sing the prothalamium. I know who would dance naked where the real Potomac meets the Potomac of the mind, with its clear stream watering all the nations. Souls you saw for sale and sweating in the noon sun have taken the harp and the scepter in their hands. I hear you dancing on the bent grass.
So I say to you now, you old solemnities with your gray eyes and your worries and the bit of deafness from the continual bombardment, you martyrs from the sad gone past, warriors and nurses and mostly-ignored, poor-dying poets, breathe deep. Put grandma’s casserole under the checkered cloth. Take the cider and the moonshine from their alcoves under stone. Tie the ribbon on you haven’t worn these twenty years. Come down to the water to drink. The tables are spread and the fiddlers are tuned, Come down to the dancing place to dance.
Barack Obama is President now. I’m saying this in a quaint old way so my grandmother gliding from the ghost of the Shannon to the ghost of the French Broad, seamless and mystical, will understand. I’m saying this all down-home and elementary so Sherry from the third grade and Jesse who fished the ponds with me and red John from the Projects, who were children when I knew them, and may be children still, come running unafraid. It is a new day. Have you seen such gold on the flowers of the riverbank? Come down to the water to drink. Justice is spreading white cloths on the tables, and Generosity is heaping them high, and finding room for more.
And I am invoking allegorical characters so that Locke and Paine and Rousseau and Aristotle under their crowns of laurel may feel at home, wandering in from their Elysiums, the invitations in their hands written in bold American, come home, come home. The President of a Land Made New in an Age Made Just invites you. Your names were mentioned but you never sat down at the table. Sit now, Walt gossiping at your side and Abraham with his long arms passing the platter. Come down to the water to drink. The feast is prepared and no one has been turned away. I bell thee, I summon thee, I sing thee home.
I've lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina since 1968, though I'm a native of SW Georgia. My paternal grandmother was born in the Blue Ridge, and I grew up wanting to live here. Where I am.
I've published five collections of poetry, the most recent 4 being with LSU Press, and have published poetry in magazines ranging from The Atlantic Monthly to Appalachian Heritage. But I also hike, bang pots and pans around in my kitchen, and love several dogs who leave fur all over my carpets. I write poetry because it's my way of singing back to the world both within and without.