Elizabeth Alexander’s poem for the inauguration got me looking, and I’m amazed to discover that in more than 6 years I’ve never blogged about occasional poetry. A quick search of the web doesn’t find much by other folks, either.
Herewith a quickie:
Occasional verse is verse written for an occasion, and any occasion will do, from Obama’s inauguration to your great-aunt Sally’s first nose-piercing. One of the jobs of the English Poet Laureate is to write birthday odes for the monarch — Philip Larkin refused the job in an occasional poem suggesting Ted Hughes would do it, and so he did.
Critical regard for occasional poetry has suffered for a century because, in the estimation of some Modernist and post-modern theory, poetry should not be instrumental. Any such theory is wrong.
Here endeth the quickie. One day I may say more.
Just one more thing: the discussions of Alexander’s poem on poetry boards and lists have not been particularly kind, and I participated in that unkindness. It seems I should put my metrical feet where my critical mouth is, and, since I’m late on the weekly sonnet podcast, I’ve written an inaugural sonnet. I’ll record and podcast it tonight after donning my flame-retardant suit.
Jeez, I should read more carefully — see Patrick Gillespie’s comment below. In my (feeble) defense, I might note that there is an article about poets who wrote poems for Obama just above the set of poems, and that some of the same poets named in the article also wrote poems for Hayden Carruth. But it’s no excuse.