By: Joe Strupp

Former Poet Laureate Pinsky Writes For Christian Science Monitor

by Joe Strupp

During this week’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention
in Los Angeles, you’re not likely to find many news stories referring
to its ‘dreamlike events,’ ‘psychological process,’ or ‘melody.’ Not
unless you read The Christian Science Monitor.

That’s because the 75,000-daily circulation paper has sent former U.S.
Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky west to provide his observations of the
quadrennial proceedings for the Boston-based paper and its Web site.
Pinsky, 60, filed three columns from the GOP convention in Philadelphia
two weeks ago, and plans to offer a similar number of dispatches from
L.A. His first Democratic convention piece ran Tuesday.

‘It was an idea our national editor, Scott Armstrong, had to get a
different perspective from someone who isn’t accustomed to writing
about politics,’ said Jay Jostyn, the Monitor’s communications manager.
‘It allows the reader to hear from someone from a different walk of

Pinsky’s GOP musings, which remain on the Monitor’s Web site, described
the use of ‘irrelevant patterns’ in the Republican speeches, as well
as their ability to enter ‘windows into the strangeness of our minds.’

‘I have discovered that all of the supposedly troublesome elements in
poetry infest political discourse,’ Pinsky wrote in one of his
Republican convention columns. ‘There is the sense of dark or hidden
meaning called obscurity, sometimes in the form of arcane references
and proper names.’

The first observation from the Los Angeles convention referenced the
‘power of culture.’ ‘I won’t pretend to understand the national shared
dream being played out in this election,’ Pinsky writes. ‘But here’s a
theory. Maybe the country’s attitude toward President Clinton is like
that of someone who has defended a brother or friend on the playground,
or in a bar. He has acted like a jerk, but he has been attacked by
jerks, so we defended him.’

Pinsky, who is the author of six books of poetry and the winner of
multiple poetry awards, teaches in the graduate writing program at
Boston University. He has served as U.S. poet laureate since 1997
and will step down this fall.

The following is a poem Pinsky included in a column from the
Republican Convention on Aug. 4:


Three kinds of motive muscle people up

The ladder of power, Lyndon Johnson said:

‘Some want the power because it makes them rich,

And that’s Dick Nixon. Others like the glory,

Hot eyes of women, envious eyes of men –

That was Jack Kennedy. But some like power

For its own sake, for what it lets them do.

And that’s who I am,’ said Johnson, dealing out

The best hand to himself, to prove his point.

But is it all that simple? Some seem to rise,

Like James Garfield after thirty-six ballots,

Largely by chance. Or sheer, free American

Blundering around. In my time as a voter,

The Navy begat Poker, and Poker begat

Nixon, and Nixon begat Agnew, and Agnew

Begat the Little Paper Bags of Cash,

And the Paper Bags of Cash begat Ford.

Ford begat Carter and Carter begat the Little

Imaginary Cakes he made with his hands

When he addressed the nation on television.

The Little Cakes begat Mondale, and Mondale

Begat Dukakis and Dukakis begat

Bush the First and Bush the First begat Clinton.

All fallible and capable and needy,

Thriving and withering on the trellis ladder:

All of our motives, all of the above.


Joe Strupp ( is an associate editor for E&P.

(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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