Poetry and Politics

The political environment in the United States of America, the whole world, is volatile. I don’t think there has been a more contentious election cycle from election campaigning through end of first term that has severed the unity of many people in the nation, and divided everything from men and women, to family structures, to community and friends, and deepened the well of political prejudice. As artists of the written word, there is no doubt that these societal issues may come out in the work of poet and other artists. Activist poetry, more prevalent today on both sides of the political aisle in America, and scattered through every polarized spectrum of politics worldwide, overtly addresses these ideas and philosophies and in some cases become its call to arms, its pool of inspiration. This political schism has also shown the hand of propagandists, and has shown how the general public does not care for the celebrity and affluent-type dictating political opinions and instructions. Along with separation of church and state, the separation of state and entertainment is requested. While an artist like Dolly Parton may find this obvious and easy to do, it may be hopeless for a poet. A trick of the trades is to be able to balance the artistic creative with real-world conditions and the necessities thereof, like the necessity of money to live comfortably and validly. But to be able to have an artistic career and a political opinion may be no easy task; a delicate balance. Poets and artists like myself, however, whom seem to be overt in their opinions in some public domains, will not intermingle their political opinion into certain aspects of their creativity. So, readers will never see posts on The Root of Many Returns dot com promoting any political party, though members of my personal Twitter stream may be privy to some pretty heavy expressions of political opinion and secularism, readers may experience art that expresses political view. The most obvious that comes to mind is my poem, End the Fed, published in December 2019 on this website.

There is no room for poetry in politics, but the same cannot be said about the opposite. While I have not come across any legislation or political speech that was overtly poetic, unless you think Truman and Kennedy were merely full of symbolism, and MLK allegory and metaphor, I have found certain American presidents turned to poetry for release and expression in various tones and topics. There, too, is also the poets presented at presidential inaugurations, poets of the American Revolution like Emerson and Longfellow, and even peculiar musings like “The Snake” by Oscar Brown Jr., and made popular by singer/songwriter Al Wilson (included at the aft of this entry) that have been injected into the American political scene by figures like President Trump who used it as a metaphor for illegal immigration. For the pleasure of the readers, and for historical pertinence, The Root of Many Returns is proud to present a brief series: Presidential Poems, poetry by American presidents, to be followed by a series of patriotic poems, industrial and post-industrial revolution poetry that honors and reveres the United States of America.

 


The Snake
by Oscar Brown Jr.

On her way to work one mornin’
Down the path alongside the lake
A tender-hearted woman saw a poor half-frozen snake
His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew
“Oh well,” she cried, “I’ll take you in and I’ll take care of you”
“Take me in oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven’s sake
Take me in oh tender woman,” sighed the snake
She wrapped him up all cozy in a curvature of silk
And then laid him by the fireside with some honey and some milk
Now she hurried home from work that night as soon as she arrived
She found that pretty snake she’d taken in had been revived
“Take me in, oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven’s sake
Take me in oh tender woman,” sighed the snake
Now she clutched him to her bosom, “You’re so beautiful,” she cried
“But if I hadn’t brought you in by now you might have died”
Now she stroked his pretty skin and then she kissed and held him tight
But instead of saying thanks, that snake gave her a vicious bite
“Take me in, oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven’s sake
Take me in oh tender woman,” sighed the snake
“I saved you,” cried that woman
“And you’ve bit me even, why?
You know your bite is poisonous and now I’m going to die”
“Oh shut up, silly woman,” said the reptile with a grin
“You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in
”Take me in, oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven’s sake
Take me in oh tender woman,“ sighed the snake.

President Trump read “The Snake” by Oscar Brown Jr. on the campaign trail during the 2016 Presidential Election cycle. He read the poem as a metaphor for illegal immigration. What else could this poem represent in political context?

 

 

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