Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Let America be America Again"

A number of friends have recently emailed Langston Hughes' wonderful poem, "Let America Be America Again," which is so inspiring with Barack Obama's election. I just wanted to add to the swelling hearts and share it, too.

As Hughes says:
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
Let America be America again.
And while it was sadly too often true for Hughes that: "(America never was America to me.)"
Now, I hope, Hughes would find that America could be America for him.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Have you renewed your poetic license?

I had a delightful laugh yesterday when reading last week's (11/2) Sunday Oregonian with Brian Doyle's "Modest Proposal for Poetry Inspectors." Nice wit and lovely variation of elastic and elongated (but not excruciating) sentences with tiny tasty tidbits. "Wouldn't that be cool?" I agree that Oregon's poet laureate Lawson Inada should be police chief and Ursula LeGuin should "speak directly by Web camera to every child in every school in Oregon."

Doyle's essay, does, however leave me with a slight distaste in his parodying of teen girls and their poetic habits. Just as many teen boys suffer with poetic angst. Does Doyle imagine that none of these boys' girlfriends dread their interminable poetry readings?

However, I enjoy Doyle's essays, and now I see he has published a book of poems, so I should check it out. Here's another of his essays.


Friday, November 07, 2008

Way Cool Tool

My brilliant colleague Anne-Marie (Info-Fetishist) has updated my class library page with this extremely cool tool called Newsmap, which shows a "tree" or collage of all the biggest headlines, whether in the US, UK, China, etc or around the world drawn from Google news. I wanted to get a screen shot but somehow that didn't work. Check it out.

"In the world of ideas, to name something is to own it" says Thomas Friedman

My writing students have been analyzing essays and book chapters for 2 weeks now. Quite a few were attracted to Thomas Friedman's excerpt "Revolution IS U.S." from his book Lexus and the Olive Tree, and just tonight the current New Yorker arrived with a profile of Friedman: "The Bright Side: The Relentless Optimism of Thomas Friedman" by Ian Parker. (I'm sorry that the website only gives the abstract unless one is a subscriber.)

Parker quotes one of Friedman's friends describing him as tremendous at naming concepts:
"He's created a brand for himself. And the Flat World [a reference to Friedman's books The World is Flat and Hot, Flat and Crowded] is also a brand. He comes up with phrases and hooks that people hang on to, sometimes for dear life. I think that's a unique skill. He writes for the masses. His work is extremely intellectual, but it takes the form of a conversation with a taxi-driver."
Students noticed right away Friedman's chatty style and were quite drawn in. Parker says,
"Friedman is not blithe, or without passion, but his career can be seen as one that has redirected left-of-center dismay or unease (about terrorism, globalization, climate change, American political inertia) into a conversation about opportunity and national purpose -- and, to a large degree, has done this through the insistent marshalling of rhetoric. "I don't mind using rhetoric," Friedman said. 'I get criticized for that a lot: It's 'too cute,' too this or that. But I've never had a reader come up to me and say, "that book was too easy to read. That anecdote went down too easily.' To simplify something accurately, you've got to understand it deeply."
Later, Parker says "In a curious way, this rhetorical challenge [of making metaphors to describe the interplay of forces] has become [Friedman's] subject. As Friedman said, "I've always described my books as books about how to think about a problem. Not necessarily the specific detailed answer."

Absolutely Friedman's style is perfectly aligned with his message; in fact it is his message. I would like to read more of his work.