Sarah Palin for Poet Laureate
by Julian Gough

Last week, reading Sarah Palin's anguished interview with Greta van Susteren of Fox News, I had an epiphany: Palin is a poet, and a fine one at that. What the philistine media take for incoherence is, in fact, the fruitful ambiguity of verse.

Here she is, in a work I have taken to calling The Relevance of Africa. (Not a single word or comma has been changed, but the linebreaks are placed where they naturally fall.) In it, Palin blends the energy of free verse with the austerity of a classic 14-line sonnet. It reads:

"And the relevance to me
With that issue,
As we spoke
About Africa and some
Of the countries
There that were
Kind of the people succumbing
To the dictators
And the corruption
Of some collapsed governments
On the
The relevance
Was Alaska's"

As Kurtz would have said at the end of Heart of Darkness, had he had Sarah Palin's gift: "The relevance! The relevance!"

A great poet needs to leave open the door between the conscious and unconscious: Sarah Palin has removed her door from its hinges. A great poet does not self-censor: Sarah Palin seems authentically innocent of what she is saying. She could be the most natural, visionary poet since William Blake.

As I searched the internet in a frenzy, for "Sarah Palin" and "poetry," hoping she'd perhaps published a slim volume through the University of Alaska Press, I discovered I was not alone. Hart Seely, the grey eminence of American poetry, who discovered Donald Rumsfeld, has praised her work. Bennett Gordon, of the magazine Utne Reader, has called her a worthy heir to Kerouac and Ginsberg.

Not since Walt Whitman published Leaves of Grass has there been such an electrifying debut. And she is yet to publish a collection! This is an astonishing poetic insurgency. The momentum is building, and will soon be unstoppable.

The current American Poet Laureate is Kay Ryan, a recent and controversial choice. Six weeks ago, Michael Kelleher, the artistic director at Just Buffalo Literary Center, said of Ryan,"She kind of came out of nowhere. She's the Sarah Palin of poetry right now."

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Palin, widely blamed for John McCain's defeat, is now the Kay Ryan of politics. But for President-elect Obama to send her back to Alaska would be a crime as great as Stalin's exiling of Osip Mandelstam to Siberia.

The talent of a woman who can improvise a perfect 17 syllable haiku live, in front of 30,000 people -

"What's the difference
Between a hockey mom and
A pit bull? Lipstick."

– must not be wasted!

If Obama is serious about reaching across the aisle; about ending the divisions between Democrat and Republican; between blue states and red; between Darwinist and creationist; indeed if he truly believes in Change - then he will appoint Sarah Palin as the United States' 47th (and greatest) Poet Laureate.

-Julian Gough

(First published in Prospect magazine. More of Gough's splendid stuff from that fine magazine here...)

More Sarah Palin Poetry

"On Good and Evil"

It is obvious to me
Who the good guys are in this one
And who the bad guys are.
The bad guys are the ones
Who say Israel is a stinking corpse,
And should be wiped off
The face of the earth.

That's not a good guy.

(To K. Couric, CBS News, Sept. 25, 2008)

"You Can't Blink"

You can't blink.
You have to be wired
In a way of being
So committed to the mission,

The mission that we're on,
Reform of this country,
And victory in the war,
You can't blink.

So I didn't blink.

(To C. Gibson, ABC News, Sept. 11, 2008)


These corporations.
Today it was AIG,
Important call, there.

(To S. Hannity, Fox News, Sept. 18, 2008)