Friday, November 12, 2004

Where have I lived? Until 2, in Elizabeth, NJ, and from there to 18, in Highland Park, NJ (for those who don’t know, that’s where most of the liberal profs. from Rutgers live); after high school, moved across the river to Rutgers itself, spending a semester abroad in Haifa. Graduated, stayed living in New Brunswick with Dara (now my wife, also a graduate of the HPHS class of ’89) while she finished college (yep, Rutgers), and commuted to SoHo to work as a science textbook editor for a couple of years. We then moved to Seattle for a year, and then off the coast to Vashon Island (home of Berkeley Breathed, and inspiration for Bloom County (hey, look, is this the first new Bloom County since the 80's?)). Came back the NYC for graduate school. Then moved to Massachusetts for further graduate school. Then moved to Salt Lake City for a few months for further graduate school but unfortunately became ill beyond belief and moved back to Highland Park, for family and familiarity. Now own a house here. On our cute one-block street, there were 8 Kerry/Edwards signs and none of the other kind. Dara has lived, besides those places, in Boulder.

So what do I know about “Red America”? I mean know, the way I know the logic of land sloping here? Not much. Even our time in Salt Lake City was surreal, I had contact almost only with the usual kinds of CW people and SLC has a very strong, if not quite so confident, counterculture (like a weed growing between two bricks of a wall, maybe).

So, the pertinent question: if this divide is cultural, red & blue, within a unifying culture, who will write the poem which encompasses both? I know this sounds stupid, but really, if we are a nation (and whatever a nation is, we are), what is the poem? I just don’t know, does Whitman cut it still? Right now, I’m thinking it would take a ‘red stater’ the way it took a Joyce to do what Yeats couldn’t even understand was needed, Ireland way. Or maybe it’s the other way around. It doesn’t have to be (how could it be?) nice, but what would it be? What poetic motions appeal to the ‘Bush voter’ (I mean, besides Henry Gould, who is eloquent as to his taste), on artistic, not moral, grounds? Is that distinction too ‘modern’ for the topic at hand, even though it’s been around as, at least a possibility, for a lot longer than the USA has been?

So I guess that’s another question I have. Whither poetry in the divide y’all are consumed with?

Dare to ask the dumb questions, too.

Update: ok, it's not just a dumb question but a stupid one, given all the other distinctions which are papered over by the facile red & blue dichotomy. Still, I leave the post undeleted because I want to leave the essential (if awfully clumsily conceived and worded) question, which probably has everything to with the country since before it was one, proper.

I don't know, Stuart. I'm a red-stater (never lived in a blue state---maybe that's why I'm sometimes so adamant about my divergent views) and am finding that folks' reasons for voting Bush (as Henry's are) are complicated, and that many folks' reasons for voting Kerry are just as dependent on what their neighbors are doing as we tend to assume about the great Midwest.

Maybe a poem that humanizes all of us, kind of like "throwing a rock at the government"? It's a good question.

I'm sorry if I seemed to have slighted 'red-staters' in any way, all I meant to say was that as far as foodways, manners in saying "great weather we're having, isn't it?", senses of 'personal space,' and the other 894 little items that go into creating 'character,' I'm only familiar, on a body-knowledge basis, with those variations and commonalities blue-staters possess. I know that there are great complexities of thought which went into many Bush votes, and many simplicities of thought that went into many Kerry votes. I am asking, only, with no denigration intended, please understand, and not in an 'either/or' way, either, what qualities lend themselves to poetically representative synthesis? Other than an antigovernmental streak? Dante, for example, wrote to common humanity, and so did Lao-Tze, and they wrote to different countries successfully as well. So what would the poem which speaks to our commonality as a country and a species look like?

By the way, your poem recently posted, I enjoyed greatly.
Thanks, Stuart. I know what you mean about trying to define "America." It's a big place! Too big for me, I think. I may be looking for a way out before too long.

I was thinking of leaving too, two-thirds heartedly. I've wanted to move to Vancouver for a while, I have a few friends from there and it sounds like a very nice city, with a (relatively) large artistic and poetry community even, and Dara likes the idea as well. But there's reasons not to as well. Like this article I just read. Maybe I'll post a link to it on the blog proper, so you (and anyone else) can read it, if interested.
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