As young and hopeful students looking at this new political age with recently re-instated President Barack Obama, I feel certain that most of us didn't care a bit about the poetry recited at the inauguration ceremony. We were most likely squinting at the Screaming Eagles on TV, yelling at our roommates, “Does Mike play the trumpet or tuba?? Why do these people all look alike?”
While attempting to find your friends in the band was probably entertaining, you hopefully stayed tuned for the reading by inaugural poet, Richard Blanco. Poetry is a beautiful art that we should respect and admire and the swearing in ceremony is one of the few times it is performed in an accessible manner to the general public.
For those of you who are a little less poetically inclined, James Franco offered up a substitute inaugural poem for Yahoo! News. Admittedly, one can only loosely define James Franco's “Obama in Asheville” as poetry. Recited from what seems to be his dark bedroom, Franco recites a work that leaves the listener feeling confused, perplexed and then more confused. The stanzas follow no meter and his words evoke no rhyme. The only thing that any listener can take comfort in is that James Franco is talking on your computer screen, and he looks good lounging in his bed.
Indeed, the poem seems more like a list of the people Franco knows rather than an actual tribute to the president or the American experience. References to books like Heart of Darkness and its relation to Apocalypse Now serve no real purpose in this jumbled mess of a poem. Except maybe to attempt and showcase Franco’s ability to draw comparisons to obscure literature, a skill which he undoubtedly picked up on his quest to become the most educated celebrity in Hollywood. His making light of the death of King Charles and the institutions surrounding politics in general do arouse a chuckle or two, but nothing more than that.
The question then arises, why publish this? Why make light of a historical tradition on one of our nations proudest days when we truly see the fruits of democracy unfold before our very eyes? An even bigger question that arises: is he joking or does James Franco truly consider “Obama in Ashville” to be a magnum opus of poetic genius that is worthy of the inauguration? Let’s hope he’s joking.
Obviously, there must be a reason besides entertainment (especially since the poem provides little to this end). Reading this has got me thinking about the last time I read poetry. At some point in high school, we all had to endure our English teacher's coos as he or she reveled in the glory of the imagery and stanza structure of Shakespearean sonnets.
Personally, I have always found that one cannot truly appreciate what one does not understand. So, did you dislike poetry because it made no sense? If so, I implore you to read the inaugural poem by Richard Blanco called "One Today". It is nothing like you have experienced in your past run-ins with poetry as it is easily understandable for the non-English major.
As men and women ever on the path to excellence, it is important that we live well-rounded lives and experience the unique things that this nation has to offer. Poetry is one of those unique things and Blaco's poem expresses parts of our history and culture. Our nation's history has shaped us and we, in turn, are being given the tools at BC to shape its future.