Who would have thought that the gender-barrier crusader Hillary Clinton would be in such a tight race against a candidate before whom young women swoon? Talk about vestiges of patriarchy! Nothing like this has been seen since Beatlemania. But we’re not talking about teenagers who have recently shed their bobby socks and bras, hoping for a world different from their mothers’. No, these are “grrrls” who play a tough game of soccer, trot the globe on spring break, and outperform their male peers academically. The boys have caught Obamamania, but it’s the “grrrls” who actually faint.
More than smelling salts navel and cleavage-baring damsels and their slacker hook-up partners need an airing out of the demagoguery that is cutting off their oxygen.
They need poetry.
They certainly have been fed steady doses of Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni. But such paeans to “multiculturalism” and female empowerment cut off the brain’s ability to reason.
I would bet that none in the throngs that greet Barack Obama have read Allen Tate’s “The Man of Letters in the Modern World,” or been exposed to his idea that the man of letters protects democracies from the excesses of democracy. What the man of letters gives “back to society,” Tate says in this 1952 address, “often enough carries with it something that a democratic society likes as little as any other: the courage to condemn the abuses of democracy, more particularly to discriminate the usurpations of democracy that are perpetrated in the name of democracy.”
We have plenty of political poetry to go around and plenty of poets who have assigned themselves the role of political watchdogs. Go to any poetry reading or open mike and you will hear them spewing out their hatred of Republicans—by name and with plenty of profanity. When I participated in a poetry workshop a couple weekends ago, the poet, a very fine teacher otherwise, felt it incumbent to express her support for Obama both verbally and by showing us her Obama pin. In 2003, the poets who garner the most awards, and grants (awarded, of course, by like-minded peers) refused Laura Bush’s invitation to a White House event.
Today’s fashion among poets is to indict the Bush administration with charges gleaned from The New York Times or MSNBC. The outpourings on the “horror of war” come not from those who have served in the military, but from those who copy sentiments from their peers’ Facebooks and get their cues from teachers.