Saturday, April 24, 2010

First Found Poem

Experimenting with found poetry is particularly easy, so to speak. It's comprised of pieces from speeches, plays, random conversations, internet articles, other poems, notes, letters, posters, essentially whatever you deem poetic, and collaged/arranged/organized how you'd like. So you can take random pieces from different sources or you can work exclusively with one source, editting that as you'd like. It's an especially good type of poetry if you find yourself stuck completely. Like can't produce a word, sort of stuck. Found poetry cheats for you, it gives you the words, your job is then to arrange them in a fashion that conveys a different, more unique, or an off-shoot message not necessarily in the original source. Of course that's not a requirement but I personally believe it ought to be considering you didn't produce any of the words. It's the least you could do.
The found poem below, I took from Barack Obama's speech on the U.S. question of race during his campaign, "A More Perfect Union." The myriad of negative media gleamed from his former pastor, Reverend Wright, and the question of whether America was ready for a black president precipitated the speech. Furthermore (another issue in itself) but one of the reasons I thought to use an Obama speech was because of his eloquence. Aristotle would surely be pleased with his oratical and rhetorical skills. In addition when read, "A More Perfect Union," is an impeccable essay. It's arguably one of Obama's best speeches, in my opinion, though definitely one of his more memorable. With that, here is draft one of "I Am the Son."


I AM THE SON
of a black man from Kenya
and a white woman from Kansas
raised with the help of a white grandfather
who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II
and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line
at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas
[M]y white grandmother -
woman who helped raise me,
woman who sacrificed again and again for me,
woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world,
but a woman who once confessed her fear
of black men who passed by her on the street, who
on more than one occasion
has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

"We the people, in order to create a more perfect union."

Of course
the answer to the slavery question was already
embedded within our Constitution -
a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice,
and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.


And yet words on a parchment
would not be enough
to deliver slaves from bondage,
or provide women of every color and creed
their full rights and obligations as citizens
of the United States.

Most working- and middle-class white Americans
don't feel privileged by their race.
Their experience is the immigrant experience -
"No one's handed [me] anything, [I've] built it from scratch.
[I've] worked hard all [my] life, only to see jobs shipped overseas
or [my] pension dumped after a lifetime of labor."
They are anxious about their futures,
their dreams slipping away;
in an era of stagnant wages and global competition,
opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game,
in which your dreams come at my expense.

This is where we are right now.
It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years.
We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism.
We can tackle race as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial -
or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina -
or as fodder for the nightly news.

We can play
Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day
and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question
in this campaign whether or not the American people think that
I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words.

We can pounce
on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as
evidence that she's playing the race card,

we can speculate
on whether white men will all flock to John
McCain in the general election regardless
of his policies.

We can do
that. Or at
this moment
in this election

we can come together and say, "Not this time."

we want to talk about the crumbling schools stealing the future
of black children white children Asian children
Hispanic children Native American children
we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn;
that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem.
The children of America
are not those kids'
they are our kids

Not this time. This time we
want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room
are filled with whites blacks Hispanics who do not have health care;
who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests
in Washingston. This time we
want to talk about the shuttered mills
that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race
the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans
from every religion every region every walk of life. This time we
want to talk about the fact that the real
problem is not someone who doesn't look
like you might take your job; it's that
the corporation you work for will ship it overseas
for nothing more than a profit. This time we
want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed
who serve together fight together bleed together
under the same proud flag. We want to talk
about how to bring them home from a war that never
should've been authorized and never should've been waged,
and we want to talk
about how we'll show our patriotism by caring
for them, and their families,
and giving them the benefits they have earned.

In the end what is called for is that common stake we all have in one another,
and politics reflect[ing] that spirit.

For we have a choice in this country.

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