Maybe Sarah Palin Can Read a Little Poetry During Her Hiatus


6 July 2009

A lot of ink spilled already over Sarah Palin’s resignation from the Alaska governorship on Friday.  I’m honing in on this quote, from Maureen Dowd’s Sunday NY Times Op-Ed column: 

And so it was, Todd Purdum learned, as he traveled Alaska reporting on Palin for Vanity Fair, that the governor’s erratic and egoistic behavior has been a source of concern for people there.

“Several told me, independently of one another,” Purdum writes, “that they had consulted the definition of ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — ‘a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy’ — and thought it fit her perfectly.”

The “lack of empathy” part reminds me of the even-more ink that’s been spilled throughout the ages on the subject of the artist as moral leader / poet-king.  I am one of these people who believes in the moral power of art, and the empathic, truth-seeking “eyesight” of artists; while at the same time one of the worst articulators/defenders of this belief.  So here are thoughts from artists who say it better than I would:

“I’d like to believe that the ongoing invitation into art deepens our capacity for experiencing ourselves as well as others, thereby deepening our capacity for personhood, our achievement of humanity.”  –Edward Hirsch 

“A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own.  The great instrument of moral good is the imagination; and poetry administers to the effect by acting upon the cause.  Poetry enlarges the circumference of the imagination by replenishing it with thoughts of ever new delight, which have the power of attracting and assimilating to their own nature all other thoughts, and which form new intervals and interstices whose void forever craves fresh food.  Poetry strengthens the faculty which is the organ of the moral nature of man, in the same manner as exercise strengthens a limb.”   -Percy Bysshe Shelley

[Poetry nurtures in us] “a tenderness toward existence.”  –Galway Kinnell

“Man’s capacity for evil is less a positive capacity, for all its horrendous activity, than a failure to develop man’s most human function, the imagination, to its fullness, and consequently a failure to develop compassion.”  –Denise Levertov

Picasso would probably have made a terrible politician, but Chekhov might possibly have been an effective, say, mayor.  Will we ever have a Vaclav Havel, or a Marcus Aurelius, in U.S. politics?   Mostly we have actors and media personalities as far as creative crossovers — which makes sense, given the degree to which politics is the art of the public personality.  Q: What makes the integration of art and politics more organic in non-U.S. contexts?  Why, in other words, would the title of this post likely elicit tomato-throwing and cries of “elitist” from ardent Palin supporters?

(On a somewhat-related note, I’ve always wondered about Condeleeza Rice’s almost-career as a classical pianist and how her musical mind converged, or not, with her political one.)  



2 Responses to “Maybe Sarah Palin Can Read a Little Poetry During Her Hiatus”

  1. aestar101 Says:

    Maybe she could get a BRAIN during her haitus.

  2. Eric Says:

    This was a wonderful post. Shelley said poets are the “unacknowledged legislators of the world,” and I wish that were more true today. I wonder if people learned more from their celebrity worship of Byron than people do from Pitt or Jackson.

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