Thursday, January 15, 2009

NPR void delivers poetry after all. Kind of.

You know how sometimes when you're listening to NPR in your car you kind of tune out for a second or two or more and then you hear a word that catches your attention and brings you back -- like "poetry" or "poets" for example -- just in time to catch the tail end of a teaser for a story on a show that you haven't caught the name of? Well, last week this very thing happened to me (I know, I live a very mad cap existence) and I have been searching in vain for the story ever since. It was something about how Elizabeth Alexander is doing the inaugural poem for Obama but that no one did poems for the outgoing president and what kind of poem would be appropriate for George W. Bush. Alas, the story has vanished.

But while looking for it, I came across this NPR piece, in which NPR "commissioned some of the nation's most renowned poets to write their own inaugural poems. The real inaugural poems have usually been serious and sweeping affairs. But not so for our exercise. From lyrics to limericks, raps to rhymes, our poets express what the inauguration means to them— in verse."

Featured are Suzan-Lori Parks (who I didn't know wrote poetry, but I did read her play Topdog/Underdog and liked that very much) who has written what I think are song lyrics and not actually a poem. Maybe once it's set to music it'll be good. Nikki Giovanni weighs in with what she calls a rap, which is pretty much a textbook example of what Videogum deplores as "fake rap," which is, sadly, not very good even for something not trying to be very good and embodies, in this way, how I feel about her poetry in general. And, of course, no poetry story on NPR would be complete without Calvin Trillin, who is also overrated but can be amusing, like in the lines "First, Pastor Warren's going to pray / For everyone who isn't gay." Plus I have to give him credit for his rhyming here.

I'm looking forward to what Elizabeth Alexander will deliver on the actual day. Hopefully it will be a lot better than this sad show.

1 comment:

Laura said...

I heard this on NPR as well! And I thought, "Wow - yet another blow to D'Anne's favorite artistic medium. Too bad SHE wasn't asked to participate."