December 21, 2004

And the country sin a scene

* Dave Holwerk of the Sacremento Bee calls for Merle Haggard to be named as California's poet laureate. excerpt:

"The job of naming a poet laureate falls to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. And with the post now open (thanks to an unfortunate discrepancy in the previous laureate's résumé), Schwarzenegger finds himself on the verge of having to side with the Chardonnay-sipping literati or those who take their poetry straight up from Hallmark.

"Either way, the governor's choice won't be easy. The state has numerous popular poets and uncountable amateurs, and as any self-respecting English major can tell you, California has no shortage of distinguished serious poets: Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti probably top a long and impressive list. The choice will be daunting, no matter what.

"But it needn't be. One California poet's work is both distinguished and accessible, serious and popular. I'm talking, of course, about Merle Haggard."
"Haggard writes in a style that is clean and spare enough to please the most austere critic. His command of American idiom would make Carl Sandburg envious. But what sets Haggard's work apart - and makes him the best choice as poet laureate - is his subject matter."
"As with any gubernatorial appointment, there may be political objections to Haggard. Anti-war lefties may react with horror because of Haggard's big Vietnam-era hit, "Okie From Muskogee," which he wrote with Roy Burris. Before they get their jockeys too wadded up, they should go to his Web site,, and read his editorial defending the Dixie Chicks.

"Right-wingers may be worried about his "Working Man Blues" or the hints of environmentalism that abound in his lyrics. Some people may wonder whether it makes sense to send an alum of the Preston School of Industry and other California prisons into the schools to talk to kids about poetry.

"To these and other potential objections, all I can say is: We're looking for a poet, not a perfect role model. I hear even the saintly Robert Frost had a mean streak in him."

* A Christmas wishlist from Iraq. excerpt:

"1. 20 liters of gasoline
2. A cylinder of gas for cooking
3. Kerosene for the heaters
4. Those expensive blast-proof windows
5. Landmine detectors
6. Running water
7. Thuraya satellite phones (the mobile phone services are really, really bad of late)
8. Portable diesel generators (for the whole family to enjoy!)
9. Coleman rechargeable flashlight with extra batteries (you can never go wrong with a fancy flashlight)
10. Scented candles (it shows you care- but you're also practical)"

* Steve eats stuff so you don't have to. [via the morning news]


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