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View Diary: Poet Sharon Olds Said No To Laura (124 comments)

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  •  Others Have Made Similar Demurals... (4.00)
    ...and refusals to read at the White House.  I can't remember anyone offhand, but about a year to a year and a half ago Laura Bush tried to schedule some kind of poetry reading, and she had to set the plans aside because so many poets were not just publicly refusing to attend, but were using it as an opportunity to speak out against the administration on a whole host of issues, the Iraq war more than anything.

    The revolution will not be televised, but we'll analyze it to death at The Next Hurrah.

    by Dana Houle on Mon Nov 28, 2005 at 02:47:39 PM PST

    •  Yeah (4.00)
      The poets and other literary folk are just chomping at the bit for the opportunity to refuse an invitation to the WH and denounce the administration.  Surprised the WH would set itself up for this bit of theatre at such a late date.    

      Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

      by johnny rotten on Mon Nov 28, 2005 at 02:53:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Just Thought of a Good Gag (4.00)
        Tell some clueless staffer that Laura's favorite author is Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and give the staffer an address to send an invite for some WH event.  Then intercept the letter and send a public reply.

        The revolution will not be televised, but we'll analyze it to death at The Next Hurrah.

        by Dana Houle on Mon Nov 28, 2005 at 03:12:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well you know this means that Bill O'Reilly (4.00)
          will be invited in her place to read some of his dirty limricks about loofahs.

          On a serious note, I was always taught that if ever I were invtied to the White House, I should accept the invitation.  I now think that if I were invited to this White House, I would hope I would be so eloquent and artful in my refusal.

          The "shiny knives" line cuts deep.  Poets really are the masters of language.  Thank goodness for their wonderful work.

    •  Poets (4.00)
      invited to a White House symposium let it be known that they would have antiwar things to say. The symposium was summarily canceled, and Laura was not allowed out without minders for at least a year. The poets put together Poets Against the War, a website dedicated to expressing antiwar sentiments by poets both well known and anonymous.

      Ironically, the WH symposium was to have included discussions of the work of Langston Hughes and Emily Dickinson, both of them very radical for their times.

      Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war. -- Donald Rumsfeld

      by Mnemosyne on Mon Nov 28, 2005 at 03:38:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Philip Levine (none)
      I saw Philip Levine's lecture here at the University of Minnesota about a month or so ago.  He talked about a similar WH event (possibly the same one) which he refused to attend-- he actually wrote them a letter that said something to the effect that the Bushes didn't "deserve" poetry.  I thought that was great.

      The lecture was pretty great, too.  He talked for about an hour on "the fate of poetry in a consumer age."  It was very wide-ranging, yet completely cohesive.

      A few Levine poems - buy his books if you like them!

      "Well, really the truth is just a plain picture." --Bob Dylan

      by comrade pat on Mon Nov 28, 2005 at 04:45:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Argh, How Could I Forget Phillip Levine? (none)
        Not only am I fond of his poetry, he's a fellow native Detroiter.  I actually heard an interview with him around the time of the Poets Against War thing, and he was great.

        The revolution will not be televised, but we'll analyze it to death at The Next Hurrah.

        by Dana Houle on Mon Nov 28, 2005 at 04:57:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  A major poetic dust-up back in '03 (none)
      over Laura's idea to host a poetic conference about Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes:
      Sam Hamill explained how his idea originated: "When I picked up my mail and saw the letter [the invitation to the symposium] marked `The White House,' I felt no joy. Rather I was overcome by a kind of nausea.... Only the day before I had read a lengthy report on George Bush's proposed `Shock and Awe' attack on Iraq, calling for saturation bombing that would be like the firebombing of Dresden or Tokyo, killing countless innocent civilians. Nor has Bush ruled out the use of nuclear weapons. I believe the only legitimate response to such a morally bankrupt and unconscionable idea is to reconstitute a Poets Against the War movement like the one organized to speak out against the war in Vietnam."

      The response was overwhelming. Hamill's web site, now contains 4,600 poets from various countries in its database. He suggested that the collection might represent "the largest unified voice of poets ever assembled ... all basically saying the same thing in one way or another."

      Or, in the words of Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, "The poet by definition is the bearer of freedom and love, and ...by definition he has to be an enemy of the state and everything the state does, and one of its primary activities, which is war."

      Republicans are people who don't believe that government works and then they get elected so they can prove it.

      by murasaki on Mon Nov 28, 2005 at 05:13:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Jules Feiffer (4.00)
      Did the same in '02, saying in part:
      But I find it unbearably ironic that, while the uses of language are celebrated by you and your renowned guests, elsewhere in the White House language is being traduced and transformed to nudge us into war.

      You can read his "regrets" in their entirety at The Nation, who also originally published Sharon Olds' letter Sept 19th of this year.

      Additionally, here's where you'll find some of The Nation's readers' responses to Ms. Olds' letter.  These include Mr. Pendergras' letter discussing the cancellation of "Poetry and the American Voice" in 2003 due to the efforts of Sam Hamill.

      They burn our children in their wars and grow rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

      by Limelite on Mon Nov 28, 2005 at 05:13:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is the way it is done in civilized societies (4.00)
      I lived and worked in France for a number of years at the level of society where this sort of thing matters.  What she did is exactly how it is done.  You say to power, you may have power from the uninformed, but your future rests with us.  And you don't make the grade.

      Thank god for culture.

    •  And also (none)
      The causes which Ms. Olds feels so strongly about, particularly the physically challenged and those with serious illnesses are also in peril of funding cuts by the actions and approval of this administration. The War and Programs who will help those she feels so strongly about advocating are those which this administration, through its actions, is hurting. And Mrs. Bush might not be an elected official but she does represent this administration and this WH each time she does a speaking engagement, is a guest or a hostess for a function.

      I applaud this women not only for her letter but her convictions and not being tempted to attend a function which would be high profile for her career. She made the noble decision and I respect that tremendously. She put her beliefs above her personal gain. That is not done nearly enough.

      America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand-Harry S. Truman

      by wishingwell on Mon Nov 28, 2005 at 09:10:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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