January 9, 2013

Obama's inauguration poet "tackles 'the intersection of his cultural identities as a Cuban-American gay man.'"

The poet is Richard Blanco, the verb "tackles" comes from Politico, and the quote within the quote is in the Presidential Inauguration Committee press release.

I'm not a poet, but I pay attention to images, and I find the picture of tackling an intersection absurd in a particularly amusing way. Intersection of his cultural identities is also absurd but only in that dry, dreary academic way that makes you want to say to all your children and grandchildren: Do not major in the humanities!

What amuses me about tackling an intersection is that it seems to reveal the author's anxiety about the masculinity of the gay poet. Why make us picture a football move? Admittedly, the verb tackle originally meant to equip (a ship) with the necessary furnishing and then to harness (a horse), and only later "To grip, lay hold of, take in hand, deal with; to fasten upon, attack, encounter (a person or animal) physically." So says the OED. But it's all pretty damned macho.

There's no Blanco poetry at the link, but there is a description of an essay "Afternoons as Endora" from a collection "My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them."
“According to [my grandmother], I was a no-good sissy — un mariconcito — the queer shame of the family,” Blanco wrote. “And she let me know it all the time: Why don’t we just sign you up for ballet lessons? Everyone thinks you’re a girl on the phone — can’t you talk like a man? I’d rather have a granddaughter who’s a whore than a grandson who is a faggot like you.”
Go here for a little more of the writing, including Blanco's description of dressing up like Endora and watching "Bewitched" on TV:
Together we'd turn Mrs. Kravitz into a chihuahua, Derwood into a donkey, or Uncle Arthur into a chair. We were unstoppable....
I was a helpless and scared child, powerless against my grandmother, while Endora was a mighty witch with limitless powers. Unlike Samantha, her foolish daughter, she was a witch who wasn't afraid of being a witch, and used her magic to get her way or enact revenge every time she had a chance.
A fantasy of power. Suitable for a presidential inauguration.

AND: More on Blanco:
"Since the beginning of the campaign, I totally related to [Obama's] life story and the way he speaks of his family, and of course his multicultural background,” Mr. Blanco said... “There has always been a spiritual connection in that sense. I feel in some ways that when I’m writing about my family, I’m writing about him."...

Cynics might say that in picking a Latino gay poet, Mr. Obama is covering his political bases....
Aw, come on. People observing the normal things that happen in politics don't deserve to be called "cynics." OED defines "cynic" as:
A person disposed to rail or find fault; now usually: One who shows a disposition to disbelieve in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions, and is wont to express this by sneers and sarcasms; a sneering fault-finder.
Oh, what the hell. I'll accept the label. With politicians, we should be cynics. By the way, "cynic" comes from the Greek for dog-like (which you can sort of see in the word currish, which echoes in churlish).

33 comments:

Shouting Thomas said...

Talk about searching for the most multi-layered identity politics victim you can find!

This is the sort of shit that makes me glad I'm a white hetero man.

I'm on my own and responsible for myself. I could complain about the deprivations and hardships of my life, but nobody would give a shit.

All in all, I'm glad for that.

chickelit said...

"Block and Tackle" is UK slang for "junk": link

creeley23 said...

This Richard Blanco sounds as PC and multiculti as one would expect from a pretentious hack like Obama. It's too predictable and dreary to contemplate.

If we must have a gay poet for the inauguration, I would like to suggest John Ashbery, arguably the most celebrated living American poet. And heck, he even went to Harvard.

Here's my favorite Ashbery poem and entirely appropriate for a second Obama term:

Worsening Situation

Like a rainstorm, he said, the braided colors
Wash over me and are no help. Or like one
At a feast who eats not, for he cannot choose
From among the smoking dishes. This severed hand
Stands for life, and wander as it will,
East or west, north or south, it is ever
A stranger who walks beside me. O seasons,
Booths, chaleur, dark-hatted charlatans
On the outskirts of some rural fete,
The name you drop and never say is mine, mine!
Some day I'll claim to you how all used up
I am because of you but in the meantime the ride
Continues. Everyone is along for the ride,
It seems. Besides, what else is there?
The annual games? True, there are occasions
For white uniforms and a special language
Kept secret from the others. The limes
Are duly sliced. I know all this
But can't seem to keep it from affecting me,
Every day, all day. I've tried recreation,
Reading until late at night, train rides
And romance.

One day a man called while I was out
And left this message: "You got the whole thing wrong
From start to finish. Luckily, there's still time
To correct the situation, but you must act fast.
See me at your earliest convenience. And please
Tell no one of this. Much besides your life depends on it."
I thought nothing of it at the time. Lately
I´ve been looking at old-fashioned plaids, fingering
Starched white collars, wondering whether there’s a way
To get them really white again. My wife
Thinks I’m in Oslo- Oslo, France, that is.

ricpic said...

Coochee Coochee

America you no love dee gay
America I'll have my say
America you make me hot
America I know a spot
America let's do it good
America you give me wood.


Richard Blanco's inaugural poem

Mitchell the Bat said...

There was a piece in National Lampoon called "I Was a Prisoner in a Cuban Homo Farm."

Something like that.

Michael said...

You would think he could find a transgendered poet. This is just sad and so yesterday.

campy said...

A Cubano? Solidifying Florida for the third-term run.

Rocketeer said...

Chickelit beat me to "block and tackle."

Off topic, I've been expecting a Drudge post all afternoon. Nothing subtle about the images today.

Rocketeer said...

Chickelit beat me to "block and tackle."

Off topic, I've been expecting a Drudge post all afternoon. Nothing subtle about the images today.

Almost Ali said...

A putrid subject well reasoned.

gutless said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Almost Ali said...

Re: I've been expecting a Drudge post all afternoon. Nothing subtle about the images today.

I'm getting the distinct feeling this is not going to end well... for the goo-pot liberals.

RecChief said...

maybe he should tackle his grand-mommy issues instead

Seeing Red said...

He didn't choose a woman again?

creeley23 said...

Checking some of Blanco's poems on the web, he's not as bad as I expected. He is more a poet than an identity poet, happily.

He writes in first-person, semi-confessional plainspeak, jammed with imgaes, typical of current poetry, when it hasn't taken a left turn at Ashbery and become an inscrutable art object.

Burning in the Rain

Someday compassion would demand
I set myself free of my desire to recreate
my father, indulge in my mother’s losses,
strangle lovers with words, forcing them
to confess for me and take the blame.
Today was that day: I tossed them, sheet
by sheet on the patio and gathered them
into a pyre. I wanted to let them go
in a blaze, tiny white dwarfs imploding
beside the azaleas and ficus bushes,
let them crackle, burst like winged seeds,
let them smolder into gossamer embers—
a thousand gray butterflies in the wind.
Today was that day, but it rained, kept
raining. Instead of fire, water—drops
knocking on doors, wetting windows
into mirrors reflecting me in the oaks.
The garden walls and stones swelling
into ghostlier shades of themselves,
the wind chimes giggling in the storm,
a coffee cup left overflowing with rain.
Instead of burning, my pages turned
into water lilies floating over puddles,
then tiny white cliffs as the sun set,
finally drying all night under the moon
into papier-mâché souvenirs. Today
the rain would not let their lives burn.

--Richard Blanco

edutcher said...

Why does Barry need an "inauguration poet"?

Last time it was Maya Angelou, black and female.

Now, it's Hispanic and homosexual?

Is Choom getting ready to come out?

Baron Zemo said...

He should sell off the post to make a couple of dollars for the Treasury. I am sure someone would pay a lot to be the "Official Soda of the Barack Obama Second Term."
Or the offical Window Treatment Company. Or car. Or whatever.

What? He has already sold off most of his soul to his crony capitalist enablers? Nevermind.

Bryan C said...

A pity. Mr. Yeats had already completed the perfect piece for this event.

Rob said...

Look, it could have been worse. We could have been forced to endure Maya Angelou's blather. Remember this stirring poem from the Clinton inaugural?

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

Sam L. said...

Just an off-hand thought, but this has the potential to be an exceptional piece of exceptionalcrement.

Amartel said...

Intersectionality is a new buzz word in humanities. It's where one whine crosses another. Basically, it's a way of ordering the importance of grievances under the guise of comparing their impact. Hybrid whingers, like this guy, have a big leg up on everyone else.

creeley23 said...

Rob: Yeah, the Angelou poem, which many people swooned for -- or said they did, was gawdawful.

creeley23 said...

My prediction is that the Blanco poem will not be dreadful.

I will be curious what he does.

DADvocate said...

He's a real nowhere Man,
Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans
For nobody.


I'm soooo glad that Blanco has a spiritual connection to Obama. That's soooo important. Barf. Blanco's words support the theory that homosexuality is a mental illness, but he's just a mentally ill person who happens to be gay. Must have been his mean grandmother.

BTW - what's with the racist name, "Blanco?" Spanish for white. Is this subliminal hat tip to white supremists?

Chip Ahoy said...

Maya Angelou's inaugural poem began:

A rock
A river
A tree.

Or something like that. Now, why they would not have given the text to the Jumbotron guy in advance seems something of a mystery.

He typed:

Iraq
A river
A tree

OOoooooeeeeeewwwwwwww that's not right backspacebackspacebackspacebackspace

mccullough said...

So this guy has two weeks to whip something up? Tight deadline for a poet.

bgates said...

According to [my grandmother], I was a no-good sissy — un mariconcito — the queer shame of the family
...
I was a helpless and scared child, powerless against my grandmother
...
I totally related to [Obama's] life story and the way he speaks of his family

Huh.

ricpic said...

An Offering

Grandma had my number
But I have my revenge --
I throw her under the bus!

All hail Obama --
My brother in seething rage.
I dedicate her sacrifice to you.

Burn, America, burn!


Blanco's inaugural poem.

ALP said...

What I want to know is:

Who decided poets were the wordsmiths that were invited to an inauguration?

Give me a comedian any day. Give me Lewis Black, Chris Rock, or Louie CK. Can you imagine Lewis Black, his googly eyes bugging out, hands waving wildly?

I can and the pictures in my head are funny as hell!

MayBee said...

A gay poet? No way.

chickelit said...

I don't care who Obama wants as his first poet so long as it's OK to mock him or her, if what he or she writes deserves derision.

No protected classes

Gary Rosen said...

This is a joke, right? It's like something rejected by the Onion as too ridiculous, "gay Cuban-American poet at the Presidnt's inauguration".

Gary Rosen said...

This is a joke, right? It's like something rejected by the Onion as too ridiculous, "gay Cuban-American poet at the Presidnt's inauguration".