Thursday 29 March 2007

Obama's bad enjambment

If you didn't have enough reasons to like Barack Obama, the American senator who is equal parts brilliant orator and amiable everyman, here's one more. He was once an aspiring poet! And, to be sure, not a terribly good one.

Apparently, according to some sources, the U.S. presidential hopeful should be embarrassed that a couple of his bad student poems have surfaced in L.A. To be fair, his poems aren't much worse than mine were when I was 19. We can't all be early bloomers like Keats and Rimbaud, but I believe we should all strive for better enjambment than Obama used in "Pop," a poem about a boy's love for his grandfather.

More noteworthy, perhaps, is the second poem of Obama's found in old issues of Occidental College's campus literary magazines. I think it's one of the weirdest poems I've ever read in my life. Apes. Figs. Rushing water. Here it is:


Under water grottos, caverns

Filled with apes

That eat figs.

Stepping on the figs

That the apes

Eat, they crunch.

The apes howl, bare

Their fangs, dance,

Tumble in the

Rushing water,

Musty, wet pelts

Glistening in the blue.



M. James MacDonald said...


All I can say is, if someone dredged up the so-called poetry I wrote in university, I'd be run out of town, so I can't fault Obama for not being brilliant at 19, as you mentioned.

Still, I didn't get the apes and figs thing either. My guess is, his artistic motivation for the poem was one of two things, either 1) mind-altering liquids or substances, or 2) the need to seem "deep" so that a particular someone would find him fascinating and offer to jollify him ...

My take, anyway,


Anonymous said...

I actually like it. I think it's very abstract. It's one of those poems where you have to imagine it all to understand it.