Primaries and Poetry

The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.

If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.

You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words….

– from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Poetry as Insurgent Art 

Last night was the Republican Iowa caucus. From what I saw, it was a close race, with Mitt Romney barely gaining the victory over Rick Santorum. Without getting too political (I promised my father that I wouldn’t allow this blog to become a political rant), I must admit that I’ve felt quite a bit of sadness and frustration watching the Republican primary season unfold.

It has seemed that the candidates neglect addressing pressing foreign and domestic issues, of which there are many, in favor of engaging in a race to see who can present themselves as being the most closed, provincial, anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-homosexuality… ad nauseam. Moreover, never in my memory can recall a time where a candidate’s religion has played such a prominent role. In fact, on Monday, Talk of the Nation on NPR covered that very issue.  Whether Bachman, Perry, Romney, or Santorum, it seems that they are also in a race to try to “out-religion” each other. Is this really where we’ve come to as a country?

Last night, as I was falling asleep watching Santorum address one group or another as the results trickled in, my thoughts snapped to the poem, “I Am Waiting,” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I went downstairs and pulled my copy of A Coney Island of the Mind off my shelves and read. Seems as timely today as it must have seemed when he wrote it in 1958.

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
Of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the second coming
And I am waiting
For a religious revival
To sweep thru the state of Arizona
And I am waiting
For the grapes of wrath to stored
And I am waiting
For them to prove
That God is really American
And I am waiting
To see God on television
Piped into church altars
If they can find
The right channel
To tune it in on
And I am waiting
for the last supper to be served again
and a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth
without taxes
and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the great divide to be crossed
and I anxiously waiting
For the secret of eternal life to be discovered
By an obscure practitioner
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and TV rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am waiting for retribution
for what America did to Tom Sawyer
and I am waiting
for the American Boy
to take off Beauty's clothes
and get on top of her
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonderI am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeting lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other at last
and embrace
and I am awaiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder
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20 thoughts on “Primaries and Poetry

  1. The whole time I read this post I was nodding my head in agreement. My boyfriend was too (I was reading aloud). Nice to know we’re not alone. There is a difference between political rant and mere observation.

    • I agree. And my frustration isn’t as much political as it is focused at this seeming cultural wave of intolerance and irrationality.

      And yep, its nice to know we’re not alone 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this poem. It definitely nails the feeling I have. Beverly is right. You are not ranting but I think it’s more than mere observation. Somehow capturing a time, feeling, political atmosphere, etc. through art emphasizes much more than a normal political rant (I hope that made sense; I have a feeling it did not).

    • Thank you. And yep, it makes sense, and I think I agree. I think rants, although sometimes necessary and certainly cathartic, can be two-dimensional. Art expresses the same feelings, fears, frustrations with much greater depth and …. okay, now its my turn to not express myself clearly 😉 You know what I mean, right?

  3. Ain’t no rants to save the day. Ranting’s their game. Don’t be against, be for! That, to me, is at the heart of Ferlinghetti’s waiting. Sing! That’s the poet’s game.
    Why watch the Primaries? Why be informed? One can spend a lifetime getting informed, and be no closer to the heart of things!
    Darn, wanted a better comment, but went into song instead. Great post, Kris. Kesey had it right when he orchestrated the magic bus trip across the nation, so did Wavey Gravey: you don’t oppose force, physical or mental, with force, you change the polarity altogether. It’s Jesus and the Roman soldiers, functionaries in a system. Oppose system with soulstem! (I coined that one a while back, but the computer’s flagging it.)
    Bravo.

  4. From what I’ve seen of the limited – but still reasonably excessive – coverage we are getting in the Australian media, “…a race to see who can present themselves as being the most closed, provincial, anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-homosexuality…” sums it up very succinctly.

  5. Poor Reps, they are looking for someone to shadow Obama or Clinton’s quality as speakers and human beings and cannot find anyone.

    Now, so ashamed to ask this, but, how do you put the poem in that grey area, as if it were a quoatation? I’ve been trying to discover it forever… and I can’t. Shame on me as a blogger, I know.

    • LOL, no shame. The truth is, I have no idea. I’ve been trying to figure out it for ages, and after what felt like an eternity of frustration trying to get the poem single-spaced, I deleted it and re-copied/pasted from another place and it just did it. I’m not sure if I could replicate it. If anyone knows how… let us know?

  6. Pingback: Allen Ginsberg and William Blake | Intelligent Life

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