culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Friday, January 31, 2003
Laura Bush to poets: "Write pretty, or shut up!" Art, like Republican First Ladies, should be beauteous and noncontroversial, says Laura Bush (
New York Times):
WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 — Laura Bush has postponed a White House symposium on the works of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman after some of the poets invited said they hoped to use the event to protest American military action in Iraq.

Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady's press secretary, said the event, originally planned for Feb. 12, had been designed to celebrate the written word. "While Mrs. Bush respects and believes in the right of all Americans to express their opinions," Ms. Rodriguez said today, "she, too, has opinions, and believes that it would be inappropriate to turn what is intended to be a literary event into a political forum."

The poetry symposium, planned as part of a series of White House literary events showcasing American literature, began to attract attention as an opportunity for an anti-war protest. On Sunday, Sam Hamill, a poet and founder of Copper Canyon Press in Port Townsend, Wash., sent an e-mail message to 50 friends and colleagues asking them to send him anti-war poems or statements of protest action in Iraq. Mr. Hamill, the author of 40 books of poetry, had been invited to the symposium by Mrs. Bush.

In his message, Mr. Hamill said he felt "overcome by a kind of nausea" as he read his White House invitation, and decided the only response would be to reconstitute a "Poets Against the War Movement." Mr. Hamill said that he had not planned to attend the White House event himself but that the submitted poems and statements would be compiled into an antiwar anthology to be presented to Mrs. Bush on Feb. 12.

By Wednesday, Mr. Hamill said he had received 1,500 responses, and had to create a Web site, which he named, to handle the e-mail messages that were overloading his system.
Echoing inside the empty chamber of Laura's head: Those gosh-darn poets are ruining this great country of ours! You never know where the next threats to my husband's my opinions might originate. Poets should celebrate the written word — as long it agrees with my husband me. Any emails to the contrary will be dealt with.

"Noelia, get me Ashcroft on the line. After all, I have opinions too," Laura mutters. "And where's my vodka tonic."

UPDATE: The Boston Globe refreshes our memory as to how poets felt about the previous administration of Bill Clinton:
''We had an event in which President and Mrs. Clinton joined kids from Washington public schools, disabled war veterans, former poets laureate Rita Dove and Robert Hass, and we read poems by Langston Hughes and Emily Dickinson. But that was at a time when a lot of poets were happy to be supporting the president, because they thought he was being attacked unfairly.'' [former poet laureate Robert Pinsky]
Note that Langston Hughes and Emily Dickinson were two of the same poets to be feted by the cowardly Laura. Meanwhile, her husband is still struggling with the vocabulary requirements of "The Big Book of Limericks."

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