Monday, September 24, 2007

Poet Laureate Inaugural Speech

Let me first say that I am honored
to be among you and to have been
named Poet Laureate
but on this day I am also ambivalent
oh so ambivalent to accept it
you see I don’t want to be one
of the snobs
I don’t want to be inducted into some
secret fraternity
I want to be
among my audience
who are my public
my role to constantly unveil
what I, in my humble analysis
have found to be
boy, do I wanna bring poetry to the people
for they need it so much
like they also need someone
to show them the light in their eyes
to show them the brief
yet entirely meaningful succor
that poetry affords us
and yes
they need it in a language they can understand
as well
a poetry of relatable experiences
with an eye beyond the mere contrivance
of form
with an eye
to the emulatable code of
humble pleasure, morality
and yes, life lessons
poems to be read by an audience
in airports, in line at fast-food drive-thrus
(I know one poet named Walt
who’d have loved that particular
modern luxury)
and in line at Church
to be read in traffic jams and football games and
DSL and all the
ethnic niches
that add such flavor to this great land
poetry needs an ambassador
a tall dark-haired man, who is well-spoken
with good social graces, well-trimmed nose hair
and an attractive wife
someone whom powerful men will again
be proud to have shared a clambake
and sunny boat ride with
during National Poetry Month

so let’s have no more of this
inwardly-directed sniveling
no more of this intentional difficulty
let’s have a poetry that reminds us
of the eternal truths
the truths that never stop being truths
a poetry of
when the going gets tough the tough get
you see, I believe poetry should
be at least as
urgently entertaining as our best
televised culture
which though well-meaning-well
we abuse and unknowingly allow
the sophists into
to subvert and
self-consciously adorn
with their neuroses
their refusal to be clear
and yes, their resentment
of their audience
who after all
are you
like any other cherished tradition
we must guide and protect poetry
from subversive elements
from willful obscurity
and from itself, if necessary
we don’t want a poetry
that talks down
that condescends us
we seek a poetry
that transcends, and yet
makes poignant
our daily lives
our struggles and our triumphs

after all
if someone writes a poem in the forest
do you hear them?

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