We haven't finished the first 100 days of President Trump, but the Arts & Style section of Sunday's Washington Post publicized the mourning of sensitive liberal poets for the last president. The headline was "An ode to Obama: Haiku from writers working in pairs forges links in a chain of celebratory poetry."
The Harvard Review, a literary journal, is publishing a chain of over 200 poets (working in pairs) working in a traditional Japanese form of poetry, three lines of haiku modified by two seven-syllable lines. The "Renga for Obama" was the brainstorm of poet Major Jackson, wrote Post reporter DeNeen L. Brown. She began the article with a sample poem by Elizabeth Alexander, who wrote and read a poem for Obama's first inauguration in 2009.
Made in Hawaii,
Jakarta. African cool.
And then came Michelle.
A garden kept them grounded.
Those two girls. Kale. Kohlrabi. — Elizabeth Alexander and Paul Muldoon
Poets were instructed to restrain themselves from attacking/"resisting" Trump. ”Art should not be in the service of any political view,” Jackson said. “Art takes in the full range of human experience and puts it through the lens and hopefully we see an aspect fresh and new.”
Supposedly, mourning the Obamas for their brilliance somehow doesn't serve a political view. The prose part of the article concluded:
“For politicians, words are tools,” Jackson said. “For poets, words are jewels. They are the material of our art. It becomes the very material of which we create art.”
The response to the “Renga for Obama,” Jackson said, has been huge. They have not heard directly from Obama, Jackson said, “but the word on the street is that he has read it. He is a very literary-minded political leader.”
Then they are a few more poems, including one from Robert Pinsky, who was U.S. poet laureate during Bill Clinton's second term:
Healing in winter
Lava-flower tea — its wood
Endures like laurel.
Island-born, cool lava-bloom.
You. Presiding, laurel-crowned. — Robert Pinsky and Carol Muske-Dukes
What big ears you have,
Mr. President! and heart
Big as big can be,
Big as the Pyramid & Sphinx
In the drifting sands of Time — Ron Padgett and Ed Sanders
We can. We will. Yes.
From marrow to groove. Yes. We
dare burden to break —
to carry our massive us.
Marching poets. Each. Beat. Leaps — Edwin Torres and Bob Holman
PS: If you can stomach this genre, there is some amusement in a few more the Post did not quote.
Old school. So cool, you.
Solitary writer dreams
Midnight floating world.
Sing Al Green to me, baby.
Sing Barack, sir, as you please. -- Jessica Hagedorn and Thulani Davis
Waves don’t stop talking.
Where is your voice guiding us
through rocky weather?
Without you the country spins
like a mad compass needle. -- Naomi Shihab Nye and Ilya Kaminsky
I hold the gold lei
Thank you for holding us toward
a realized élan
Thank you in peace, in pieces
Of torn petals, lean back black -- Sarah Jericho and Gambito Brown
And yet, it hasn’t
blossomed yet: the emoji
for ‘Barack come back!’
We are waiting—hands on hearts,
basketballs crooked, ball shoes laced -- Dana Levin and Adrian Matejka
And finally, if you prefer your poetry in a more urban dialect, there is this:
Sho. Be brown. Be Black.
Bewilder. Be wild. Be prez.
Be that that’s been that.
Pull dignity off yo’ rack.
Strut that hazelnut strut, Black -- Lillian-Yvonne Bertram and A. H. Jerriod Avant