The Glittering Girl in Gold

I”m only now sitting down to write my hot take on the hope-filled and flawless inauguration. It went off without a hitch, and of course the highlight was the swirling glittering alchemy by the girl in gold.

With her Whitman-esque wonder and firm belief that a song of myself can and must be a song of us as the boundary between self and society cannot be found when you really go and look for it, her poem should really be put next to his in high school textbooks, because like him she writes in the vernacular and sings. I was so thrilled to hear rhyme. Poetry should rhyme. It needn’t necessarily rhyme in the sound of the words, images and emotions can rhyme, but it must rhyme and it must have rhythm as the sister of song, and not those awful belly-gazing broken-up prosody of the New Yorker magazine. And she rhymed in all respects, in sound, in image, and in emotion. It wasn’t moon-june-spoon, but neither did she tie herself to English-lit formalities, neither the strict structures of Shakespeare nor the self-regard of an e.e. cummings, so conscious of his formal rebellion. She was more like Emily Dickenson in this aspect.

Her rhyme scheme and rhythm, regardless of all high priests of high school English, came straight from hip hop. This is how rappers rhyme, with a show-offy youthful exuberance, here in service to the highest honors of the nation, not merely her audience but her aspirations to the better angels (who were mercifully released from making their dutiful appearance, at least in her poem). Her rhymes came and went as they pleased, making opportunistic alliances, where “perfect” leads to “purpose” leads to “compose,” while I must suspect that a rhyming dictionary gave “glade” its its invitation for no reason beyond its comely smile, it is the “-ade” sound, as suffix, that winds it way from top to bottom through the poem. The hip hop rhyme scheme cares not for critics, and “arms” can just go ahead and rhyme with “arms”, and right on recklessly to rhyme with “harm” and “harmony”, and here she side-rhymes with Lincoln, replacing “malice” with “harm,” and reminding us to carry it towards none, aiming instead for harmony.

Maya Angelou, may still she rise, was clearly present, together with a large host of others, which the poet will reveal in her interviews and tweets. But “through a throttling dark we others hear” a bit of Gwendolyn Brooks, a rhymed memory where the inaugural poet spoke of herself, a nation, and its citizens (Whitman again) as “far from polished, far from pristine” while Gwendolyn Brooks, spoke of her “children of the poor” as “unfinished, graven by a hand Less than angelic, admirable or sure.” And like Lincoln, she advised them to “first fight, then fiddle” and hope that one day the moment will arrive to “be remote a while from malice and from murdering. But first to arms, to armor. Carry hate in front of you and harmony behind.” And now the “fearful trip is done,” she can ask us to “lay down our arms, so we can reach out our arms. We seek harm to none and harmony for all.”

Good writing should glitter, not just with rhyme, but with connotation, reference, and memory. Every other word should sparkle with a little flash of something we know from somewhere else. The lifeblood of poem, like songs and campaign speeches, derives from what Derrida called iterability: the knowledge that you can only construct by using words and phrases that have already been said, and already have a history, and already live in the mind of the hearer, who only understands them through a lifetime of swimming in the ocean of words.

…Oh, and Joe Biden did a great job too, and Lady Gaga, Garth Brooks and J-Lo and all the rest.

And it is my opinion now, that no matter how much he deserves it, and no matter how important the precedent. The Democrats should not bother too much with convicting Trump on the impeachment. The Democrats should not always be condemned to doing the Republicans’ dirty work for them, cleaning up all their wars and crashes and deficits and all their other messes. If the Republicans want to get rid of Trump for their own purposes, let them fight that fight on their own. Don’t do them the favor of banishing him from electoral politics just so some cynical spineless Lindsey Graham can claim some completely undeserved moral ground (I am loathe to characterize that swampy ground as “high”). Let Trump run in 2024 and call his idiot army into battle while he hides in Mar-a-Lago. Let him destroy the party that used him so callously. If they want to avoid that fate, then let them clean up their own mess and lead the way to a conviction. The Democrats pushed him out at the ballot box, they are done with him. Forget about him.

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