American poets may be luckier than I thought. Bearing in mind a Czeslaw Milosz quote that's been nagging at me for a few weeks, "the privilege of coming from strange lands, where it is difficult to escape history," a version of the Chinese, May you live in difficult times, I previously worried I was, as an American, too privileged to write poetry that mattered. Me, or any of us.
But the Nobel Peace Prize committee has made me aware of just how challenging my times, here in America, have been. The prize wasn't awarded to Obama for specific actions. After all, the Oslo decision was made, as I understand it, shortly after Obama's inauguration, when he was still forming his cabinet and choosing drapes.
I woke up around 3 a.m. last night with the realization that America has been far worse off than I ever understood. America, with our dishonestly (first term) elected President Bush, with our dishonest war, our uncared-for children, our illiteracy, our obesity, our quest for continued global domination without any thought for the actual globe we are trying to dominate - and - very importantly - and - our influence - the fact we are a superpower - the dominant economy, even now - has been on its deathbed, writhing, for years.
And ready and able to take down many countries along with us.
So although Obama clearly didn't have much chance to prove himself in his second week in office, or even in his first nine months in office, the Nobel committee felt the stir of something new. Spring. Hope. Change. Buzzwords that weren't lies, even if: Obama didn't help the people of Gaza. Even if: the war in Afghanistan shows no sign of ending. Even if: even if: even it.
The Nobel people and much of the world saw just how sick America has become but unlike terror cells, haters, they have been cheering for us to get well.
WE DO LIVE IN INTERESTING TIMES, Americans. I want my poetry to mean something to my readers (and I know I don't have many, but I have a few). The more it's wrought of sweat (craft: drafts: reading of other poets) and the experience of living in a world that makes little sense (hey, I've done copyediting and proofreading for financial institutions where 10Ks (government filings) 'explain' why fabulously wealthy people should remain fabulously wealthy; I've worked for educational publishing concerns that grew in the wake of the No Child Left Behind act - a lot of teaching for the test - little read education - a lot of teaching-for-the-test books SOLD; hey, I've worked in advertising (enough said?); and on; and on).
It took the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 to assure me I and we and you have a chance at writing poetry that can effect its own style of hope and change. The global community needs that from all poets. America is an innotive and generous country; Oslo knows that. I feel the love.