Thursday, October 25, 2007

More Pressing Poetic Questions Posed to Presidential Aspirants

Here are some more questions that I wish moderators (many of whom seem immoderate) would ask the presidential aspirants as the aspirants stand on stage in full makeup under lights and behind podiums (or is it podia?):

1. An aphorism attributed to the famous Irish poet William Butler Yeats goes as follows: "Of our arguments with others, we make rhetoric; of our arguments with ourselves, we make poetry."


Politics is largely about arguments with others, and of course many of these arguments are staged or gratuitous; they are as much theater as rhetoric: that's the way politics works. What is one important argument you have had or continue to have with yourself? Of course, you might begin you answer with a quip, but after that, please describe a serious argument you have had or continue to have with yourself.

2. In the poem "Harlem" and in other works, American poet Langston Hughes wrote of "the dream deferred," referring perhaps to the aspirations of many African Americans, many working-poor families, and other groups. In your opinion, for whom is the American dream, so to speak, still deferred, why, and what have you done about it in your career as a politician?

3. American leader and orator Malcom X once observed, rather poetically, that "We [African Americans] didn't land on Plymouth Rock; it landed on us." What is your reaction to this observation?

4. What is your favorite poem about war, and why is it your favorite poem about war?

5. What is your favorite poem about peace, and why is it your favorite poem about peace?

6. In "Sunday Papers," the new poet laureate Charles Simic writes, "The butchery of the innocent/Never stops. That's about all/We can ever be sure of, love,/Even more sure than the roast/You are bringing out of the oven." To what extent has the United States been involved in the butchery of the innocent?

7. In "Fire and Ice," Robert Frost speculates about whether the world will end in fire or ice. What is your view? Will the world end in fire or in ice?

8. In the poem, "Motto," Langston Hughes writes, "I play it cool/And dig all jive./That's the reason/I stay alive./My motto,/As I live and learn,/is/Dig and Be Dug/In Return." What is your motto--0r at least one motto, by which you live as you learn?

9. In the widely anthologized poem, "This Be The Verse," British poet Philip Larkin writes, "They fuck you up, your mum and dad." [The moderator may have to say "eff" or be willing to be "bleeped".] In what ways did your mum and/or your dad "eff you up," and how have you dealt with this circumstance? By the way, on his Actor's Studio show, James Lipton likes to ask guests what their favorite curse-word is. What is your favorite curse-word? Do you tend to use the f-word in private conversation, or not?

10. In the poem "God's Grandeur," poet and priest Gerard Manley Hopkins writes, "Glory be to God for dappled things. . . ." Assuming for the sake of argument that you believe in God, what would you praise God for creating? Please don't say "the United States"; everyone will see that one coming. Instead, try to think of some particular thing or set of things, as Hopkins does. The more specific, the better. Thank you!

11. Poet Adrienne Rich writes about "The Phenomenology of Anger," a title of one of her poems. Will you please identify one feature of American society that has made you espeically angry in your adult life. Why has this feature made you so angry?
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