Wednesday, January 21, 2009


This time, an unintended delay. Not only was yesterday (my regular post day) the U.S. Presidential Inauguration it was also the inauguration of a new term of work for me. Forgive or cherish the silence, whatever you wish.

As for the Inauguration: I'll keep my remarks brief and on point and about the Inaugural poem only. Elizabeth Alexander's "Praise the Song for the Day" is not nearly as terrible as Maya Angelou's 1992 effort, "On the Pulse of Morning," but its mediocrity is unsettling. I hope it's not prophetic. Shelley mentioned that poets were/are the acknowledged legislators of the world, the antennae of the race. This is either patently untrue in all cases or just this one, at least one hopes. The citizenry that Alexander describes are so historically and collectively vague that I can only imagine blurs and smears where should be the inlaid features of specific individuals and ages. Have we derived from a bland and silhouetted mass of...mass? Are we tending that way? Is Alexander subtly and subversively relaying a Marxist critique of mass culture in verse, indicating how capitalism tends to intrude on individuality, on the advancement of unique and manifold qualities across the social strata? I assume not.

This poem might've been written for the Invisible Man or Musil's A Man of No Qualities. I'm not sure if Ron Silliman would aver but "Praise Song for the Day" to me seems not only part of the School of Quietude, but affiliated with its capacious graduate school. When I look around me, I see mostly embodied presences, peoples perceived in details, except of course the few thriving deconstructionists that would deny anything but elusive exteriority and illusive interiority and whom I genially refuse to envision as a courtesy to them. But seriously, why must we be fed sentimental confections and hazy depictions of this nation and its people?

Where are you, Walt Whitman, to sing our collective body electric? Where are you, Emily Dickinson, to describe our sovereign souls and minds? J/C