Saturday, February 06, 2021

Dancing About Architecture

 Cotton candy sunrise clouds

That's a phrase that has been bouncing around my head for months now, and I have not had a place for it. Until now.

Now I'm going to write about poetry, which hovers right next to the notion of dancing about architecture, an idea that has been suggested by Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello, Steve Martin. But I am happy to believe that the person who first declared that "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture," was the inimitable and opinionated Martin Mull. 

Which is not the tangent upon which I want to be stuck, but it is the idea that has fueled my attempts at poetry for decades. Before I was ever a published essayist, before my wife decided to gather together some of these bits of whimsy into bound collections, I was a published poet. It is a part of my literary resume. I was a poet in the most excruciating way possible. That's how I look back on it now. I wrote pained couplets that rarely rhymed in attempts to capture my tortured soul. With a little more talent and access to a synthesizer, I might have become a K-Mart version of Trent Reznor. This is not what happened. Instead, the veil of strife lifted and I eventually became free enough to write complete sentences, only a few of which rhymed. Now there is the occasional flight of fancy that has me in a poetic mood, mostly anniversaries and holidays. If you hang around here long enough, you're bound to run into one or two.

All of which is to say that I am not really a poet. Amanda Gorman is a poet. If you did not attend or watch the Inauguration, you may have missed her poem "The Hill We Climb." I'll give you a moment to catch up if this is the case. She stood up in front of a crowd of officials and celebrities and read for nearly six minutes. She stood in the footsteps of Maya Angelou and Robert Frost. She brought us all words of confidence and hope. "...for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it." Her words appear on the page like prose, but sing from it like a song. These were the words of a twenty-two year old daughter of a school teacher who was speaking for an entire nation. That's what a poet does, move you with words. I look forward to future inaugurations and celebrations where we can hear Amanda's poetry. Maybe not anything as sublime as "cotton candy sunrise clouds," but we can dream, can't we?

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