Lame-duck presidential poetry, an inaugural address link, and memories of FREEZE

I don’t usually blog on the weekends, but I’ve got some items that won’t be timely in a few more days, and the 40 degree temps and flooding roads are reminding me of how quickly things change. First, I’ve got to share these FREEZE photos of Anchorage winter art installations, taken last weekend when it was ten below zero, just after the Park Strip exhibit started and just before we were walloped by those tropical hundred-mile winds. I assume all the ice has melted now, but it’s not too late to say kudos to the artists, Julie Decker, Dawnell Smith, and everyone else who made — and is making — our city feel like a creative, exciting, proudly northern place to live. (The heads on poles and the blue-lit cones were all made of ice, if that isn’t clear from the pictures.) The FREEZE celebrations will be continuing all month.
Second, a little lame-duck presidential poetry, and an update from a traveling author:“Fiddling poet” Ken Waldman, who divides his life between Alaska, Louisiana, and the open road, is the only writer I know who can produce an end-of-year “highlights” letter that is nearly impossible to summarize. In 2008, the peripatetic polymath and educational outreach expert released a memoir, Are You Famous? as well as a new CD, did “writer gigs” at perhaps a dozen universities and schools, attended countless book festivals, was interviewed from Philadelphia to California, read a poem about Sarah Palin on “West Coast Live,” and is now preparing for the January release of his 8th CD, Some Favorites, a compilation to accompany his memoir. Waldman could teach the rest of us about how to get coverage on radio (having some musical abilities might help) and in print.
Among the promo materials he sent me last year was a book and accompanying CD he put out in 2006: As the World Burns: The Sonnets of George W. Bush and Other Poems of the 43rd Presidency. The collection, like Waldman’s holiday letter, is hard to summarize. Some poems are critical of the administration, but the more intriguing and puzzling poems are told in the president’s own guileless drawl, such as a simple account of how much he enjoys bicycling.

Strangest of all are the unprocessed memories of George Bush’s dreams — about mice, gold, or Saddam Hussein: “In a big empty gym we were wrestling./Really, he wasn’t much competition./I’d pinned him down./No referee decision/about take-downs or escapes./There was nothing/to argue. I’d won cleanly. Carrying/the winner’s trophy, I tripped. It broke in three pieces./ He came from nowhere, grabbed one, and ran…”

And finally, I just have to mention this great New Yorker article by Jill Lepore about the history of inaugural addresses, great reading before Tuesday if you — like me — were poking around, looking for some history on the subject. My family and I read it aloud at the dinner table last night, whetting our appetite for Tuesday’s inauguration, and allowing ourselves to imagine a future of excellent writing, inspiring speeches, and hopefully, clear thinking.

2 thoughts on “Lame-duck presidential poetry, an inaugural address link, and memories of FREEZE”

  1. The power of clear and articulate thought and communication vis-a-vis the Obama administration was also a topic on Meet the Press this morning. In our age of mass cult media, it’s a good reminder that the public really does respond to the power of words, not just the blather of rhetoric.

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