Sunday, October 23, 2011

Impossible Obama: a note biblical, literary, and philosophical to the new president on the topic of the impossible with special illustrative emphasis on woodworm and fishes

I came across this today when I was tracking down another piece.  I had forgotten this, and perhaps with reason.  I can't call it an unpublishable poem since it is neither a poem and was in fact published in a collection of inaugural poems. On the positive side, it has the longest title of any poem in the collection.

Julian Barnes writes a story called “The Stowaway” in which a woodworm makes unseemly accusations about Noah and his family (did they make of the ark a private larder?).  For that matter, no mention in Genesis 7 of fishes.  Jacques Derrida says true hospitality cannot be compelled, cannot respond to a “one must.”  Noah in obeying an edict of God, in the calculative performance of his hospitality reveals the impossibility of true hospitality – he makes decisions about what to include, what to exclude.  So this is the test for the new president: Wake up in the morning with the impossible on your mind.

From A Writer's Congress: Chicago Poets on Barack Obama's Inauguration. Editor Chris Green, The DePaul Poetry Institute, 2009.

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