Al Gore: Artful Third Grade Poet
If you’ve ever read school kids’ third or fourth grade poetry, especially about the environment, the mawkish lines below by Al Gore must seem familiar. I don”t know what ‘s more disturbing, that this guy is taken seriously by university professors and media anchors or to read in Vanity Fair that these ” lines of verse…are equal parts beautiful, evocative, and disturbing.” Are you kidding me? Whatever happened to critical literary intellect? Note to Vanity Fair Magazine: these lines were written by a grown man! for goddsakes. That’s what should be disturbing.
Here’s how the vaunted VF starts off introducing the “poem”: ”Here’s how the poem begins” In other words: Here we go, boys and girls. Are you ready for an epic? Do you all have your thinky caps on?
One thin September soon
A floating continent disappears
In midnight sun
Vapors rise as Fever settles on an acid sea
At this point the VF writer (Mark Gertsgaard) does a bit of a scolding double take: “It’s odd that none of the reviews of Our Choice have mentioned this poem. Even my old friend Bill McKibben, the dean of America’s climate journalists, didn’t see fit to mention it, though Bill himself wrote a column a couple of years ago pleading for poets, musicians, and other artists to bring their talents to bear in the climate fight.”
That’s because the poem (cover your ears, kiddies) is a purple piece of infantilism. Evidently the old friend, Mr. McKibben (aka the Dean), read this crock and, well… passed.
Vapors rise as
Fever settles on an acid sea
Vapors? Like vapors rising in “Plan Nine from Outer Space”. Scary stuff; that will get us thinking about the planet. And that fever thing…Fever settles on an acid sea? Scar-eeee. No, not the words themselves, but the fact that no one had the prudence to take away Gore’s crayons as he wrote this crappola.
The next lines indicate what the VF reviewer calls “surprisingly accomplished, nuanced …writing. The images Gore conjures in his “…poem turn a neat trick: they are visually specific and emotionally arresting even as they are scientifically accurate…”
Snow glides from the mountain
Ice fathers floods for a season
A hard rain comes quickly
Then dirt is parched
Kindling is placed in the forest
For the lightning’s celebration
Those lines are surprisingly accomplished and nuanced? Is this a joke? In the back of my mind I’m figuring just maybe the reviewer is really being satiric. I mean how can such plopped-on-paper cheap symbols be nuanced?
Visually specific? Why, any adjective/noun grouping is visually specific. Was the reviewer out of school that day, you know, the day where the class discussed the adjective/noun group?
Scientific? What is remarkably scientific about snow gliding from a mountain? Well maybe he’s talking about gravity. But Newton told us all this, and all he had was a gliding apple.
“Kindling is placed in the forest for the lightning’s celebration.” Talk about cheapo symnbolism. And how is this visual pairing scientific? Lightning celebrates (well, maybe after a few beers …)? Don’t you just hate when someone gives lightning an anthropomorphic context? How about lightning’s conflagration instead? It’s still a cheap disescription but it’s sure as hell better than celebration. Symbolism sure can suck in the hands of a grownup masquerading as a third grade literary figure (or maybe I mean third grader masquerading as an adult) . Anyway, kindling’s been in the forest for a long time now and the only celebration about it has come from the kindling gatherers.
Ah, but our obsequious VF reviewer begins to sober up from PC stupor, at least for a moment: “It’s usually a mistake to read too much literal meaning into poetry…” Yeah. But then he gets all gooey again over these lines:
The shepherd cries
The hour of choosing has arrived
Here are your tools
Picture a sobbing scene right about now: “Is Gore himself that shepherd?” this trepid reviewer asks. (The Llord is my Shepard; I shallnot want…) Yes, this apostle cries: “we do have the tools to survive—if we choose to employ them.”
And there you go. Meanwhile, Al Gore’s electric meter at home keeps spinning at 40,000 rpms (er, remember that controversy?) Hey you know what im thinking? Maybe Gore actually wrote this when he was in the third grade. I’ll have to check.