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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Starting Today: 100 Poems for Obama's 1st 100 Days

Rachel Zucker & Arielle Greenberg's blog of the same name is now a book, and what a thing of beauty it is. Between its covers you will find, among many more finds:

* a "Prayer for a President": keep them safe / keep them safe / keep them safe (Leslea Newman):

* a squeegy guy screeching "Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! . . . his wiping little life . . . stuck on triumph, as if / that's all anybody needs to know this day" (Patricia Smith);

* the revelation that though "the stars don't care . . . the new president said science" (Matthew Rohrer);

* a description of "Michell's Citrine Dress": "color of where / something growing / starts. Spring. Clean / and new." (Lyn Lifsin);

* The reminder that "Hope / has no rearview, / can't live in memory." (Laurel Snyder);

* A jolt away from the honeymoon to the fact that "Cleveland is listless. Everything's on sale." (Michael Dumanis);

* Lots of good advice, including

Better to forget
perfection, to remember we were born
a nation of blemishes,
a posse of strays with cellulite.

If Benjamin Franklin
were alive today,

you know he'd be working a thong
and roller blades on Venice Beach, flying

the freak flag just beneath Old Glory!

America, it's time to unsuck our bellies
and show our ugly asses." (Erin Belieu);

* The persistence of Orwell, as in "We heard free, almost inadvertently, / when it said surveilled. When we talked / and voted, we defined irony." (Craig Morgan Teicher);

* Excitement and relief because "our president / is smiling . . . not smirking." (Diane Wald);

* God saying "quit your crying . . . I stopped the planes, I closed the base, I turned out the lights, what else do you want?" (Kevin Prufer);

* Lynchings where "In some places they held picnics / where a hanged one remained, unnamed and held high . . . [and] some feel the tree still swinging." (David Roderick);

* A parable with newspaper and dogwood logs (Catherine Barnett);

* A great deal of candor "(O Captain, O Presidente. / We are sad, / we are scared. / We are not very pretty, most of us, and / not very rich. / Less rich now.)" (Patricia Carlin).

In here the poems are immediate, full of the now and today of each of those 100 days, but also the resounding echo of our country's history--our founding, our slavery, our assassinations, our Kennedy and our King. There is hope in these poems, hope for change, the risk of climbing "to the top / of a blade / of grass/ [where] the aperture of my wingshell / opens and closes / and opens again" (Aimee Nezhukumatathil), but there is also a great deal of taking stock.

I don't know about you, but I'd much rather read poems about Obama's early presidency than pony up $39.95 for a commemorative coin. In 10, 20, 50, 70 years, people will be asking, what was it like? How did the country react to those first months of having a person of color--a person with optimism, energy, and the drive to forge unity--in the White House? And when they ask, you'll be able to hand him or her this book.


Kimberlee said...

I'm so glad to see your post. I loved that 100 days. :) You shared some of my favorite lines. *Sigh* I can't wait to get a copy. What a wonderful spring gift!

Martha Silano said...

Hi Kimberlee,

It was fun seeing who/what would be posted on the site each day. It would make a nice equinox gift!!