A Topical Clerihew

I’ve been struggling lately to write the introductions to a set of more serious poems.  I’ll get there, but meanwhile, a brief excursion.  President Obama has been showing a hint of passion lately, but for most of his two terms in office, the following clerihew applied:

Barack Obama
Avoided drama.
When Republicans began to whine,
He replied with speeches anodyne.

Politics Isn’t a Dirty Word

As we prepare for the 2016 campaign season, it’s time for another of my brief essays.   Consider the following conversation:

“Where’ll we go for dinner tonight?”
“I don’t know – where would you like to go?
“Maybe sushi…or pizza.”
“I don’t feel like pizza – let’s do sushi.”

Sound familiar, even banal?   How many times have you had a conversation like that? I know the answer – a lot.

Well, I’m here to tell you – that’s politics, the decision-making process associated with any form of governance.   Governance is merely the exercise of control over a system or process – in this case, the breaking of daily bread.  Politics in this broad sense is fundamental to our daily lives.  We are all truly politicians.

Why, then, is politics considered a dirty word in some circles, to the point where some candidates for public office are reluctant to reveal their political backgrounds when they publish their ballot statements?   Governance requires that some person or some body of persons be in control.  And those that Roosevelt called “malefactors of great wealth” have engaged in a lengthy propaganda campaign to help insure that they remain the body of people in control.

DON’T BUY IT.  Politics is essential to democracy. Politics is us.

On the Music of Verse

I can neither sing, nor play a musical instrument.  I am devoid of musical talent, just like the rest of my family.  Now, it is true that my mother could play the piano, although since she was completely tone deaf, I’m not sure that counts.   My sister briefly imagined that she could play the drums, and I’m quite sure that that doesn’t count.  My father simply ignored all matters musical.

Despite my family background, I yearned for music and musicality.   Then when I was about ten or so, I fell in love with the musical possibilities of verse…with scansion, the pattern of stress in a poetic line,  with meter, the units of that pattern, and, above all, with rhyme, the similar sounds that can be chosen to end the lines of a poem.  I admired blank verse as well, poetry with meter, but no rhyme, but it seemed to me in those days that even the sublime work of Shakespeare didn’t have the same capacity to stick in the mind as subtly-rhymed verse.   For me, the word “subtly” was important – the less you noticed the rhyme, the better.

As I grew older, I began to see the expressive possibilities that were inherent in other ways of writing poetry, and you will find elsewhere in this blog more mature work that digs deeper than my youthful work; poetry written when I was no longer intoxicated with rhyme.  But I have never stopped yearning for the deep satisfaction that comes with a successful fit of rhyme.

The following poem, from 1970, is just that, a successful fit of rhyme, although the rhymes are perhaps not as subtle as I would have preferred.  Still I found it satisfying, and I was particularly pleased with the unusual rhyme scheme:

I wonder if I should give the rhyme scheme a name?…No, it doesn’t need one, and neither does the poem.

“In Fall, the wood’s my favorite red.”
The youthful nature lover said.
“I like the orange and yellow, too,”
“But red’s the color, seems to me,”
“That every leaf was meant to be.”
I turned to leave the youth alone,
When underfoot, a sudden stone
Pierced the leather of my shoe.
It bled a bit; I plucked it out,
“The same,” I said, “For stones, no doubt.”