If you pause
at the right time
can become profound.
Just ask Sarah.
Normally the words “Sarah Palin” and “book” combined in a sentence is all I need to run screaming from the conversation but a recent e-book release managed to not only intrigue but entertain the hell out of me. I Hope Like Heck: The Selected Poems of Sarah Palin, is what’s called “found poetry” – assembled from the emails of the former Alaskan governor which were released in June.
While many readers of her emails sifted for secrets and (yet more) way to discredit Sarah Palin, one man looked through her emails and saw poetry. Michael Solomon created 50 poems from Palin’s missives by taking whole passages of her idiosyncratic text and reframing them into poems by making changes in spacing and pausing.
The hit ratio wasn’t great, it must be said – more than 24,000 pages of Sarah Palin’s emails were released and only 50 poems were found. And, it must be admitted that Soloman was less interested in leaving a poetic legacy than having some fun, as he makes clear in the forward when he writes, “Verse, like America, yearns to be free. Few twenty-first century poets understand this better than Sarah Palin. Not since Walt Whitman first heard America singing has a writer captured the hopes and dreams of her people so effortlessly—and with so many gerunds.”
The terrifying thing is that Palin’s choppy text becomes poetry all too easily. Here’s one offering – “Where There’s Smoke”.
One of Lyda’s aides stopped me in the hall
To say the building was getting a kick
Out of my ‘burnt toast’ episode this morning
That caused the fire alarms to go off
For 20 minutes
And caused an evacuation.
She thought it was funny
I was cooking breakfast in the capitol
And burnt it.
I assured her
I was not in the building this morning,
I was not cooking breakfast here at any time,
And I did not burn any toast.
She looked at me warily,
I doubt she believed me.
The most amusing thing is that the found poetry method taps into our brain’s expectations of free verse and works it’s evil magic on almost any text, changing the most prosaic thoughts into what reads like a poem. If you put in enough pauses it works on almost anything. Try it. Here’s Jamie Oliver, talking about onion soup.
There’s something so incredibly humble
about onion soup.
I only ever get to make it in the restaurant
or for myself
as the missus thinks she’s allergic to onions.
because I whiz them up into loads of dishes
without her knowing.)
Or, from the opening paragraph of Twilight:
I was wearing my favorite shirt –
I was wearing it as a farewell gesture.
My carry-on item
was a parka.
Or Joyce Kilmer’s “Tree”.
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
No, wait, that’s meant to be a real one. But the point stands. Look hard enough and you can find poetry and profound thought anywhere.
Even in a politician’s emails.