Friday, June 25, 2010

Poetry of the Rich and Powerful

Recently, Slate published an article about how President Lincoln wrote decent poetry. The article features an interesting poem, one that is keeping with the kind of poetry produced in Lincoln's time. One of the things that article didn't mention was that other leaders have been known to write poetry, including Queen Elizabeth I, who wrote poems in rhyming couplets, and Chairman Mao, who wrote nature poems in the style of Walt Whitman.
Given that leadership and decent poetry apparently went hand in hand, I wondered: what would the poetry of other leaders look like?
For example, if Attila the Hun wrote a haiku, I'd expect it to go like this:
Aetius, you can
regard this your final war
-ning: Rome will be mine.
Not that Attila would ever write a haiku, considering that Attila was a Hun and that proto-haiku began developing some 1,200 years later. But it's still fun to imagine, especially when we imagine cruel leaders capable of writing heartfelt poems.
What if a nameless Viking were to write a tanka?
Shepard! Where is the
monastery of Lindis-
farne? My brothers and
I took the wrong way at the
fork on the river Garonne.
I think this has the potential to be a very fun, and silly, creative writing exercise. I'm putting together a guide for some people at the Center for Poetry on creative writing activities, and even though I wasn't planning on it, I think I'm going to put this in there.

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