Revoking Blagojevich’s Poetic License?

I have to say that I admire Rod Blagojevich’s steadfastness as a patron of the arts. His deft use of poetry in all things political is a shining example of how a strong liberal arts education can serve one well in positions of responsibility and leadership.

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Following his impeachment this week by the Illinois House of Representatives (114-1), Governor  Blagojevich concluded his near-messianic final press conference with another flash of poetic insight. (Last year he recited the opening lines of “If” by that manly Colonialist curmudgeon Rudyard Kipling, who also, by way of reminder wrote “The White Man’s Burden,” which Blagojevich did not even need to recite aloud.) Blagojevich ended his stint this week as Illinois governor with lines from Alfred Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” concluding:

And though we are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Comparing himself to the epic hero Ulysses is not out of character for the governor. (In fact, he had is own Greek chorus standing at his side.) And attempting to sell a senate seat, shaking down children’s hospitals, gagging a newspaper’s editorial board must indeed have felt like waging a war against the gods of fate. It makes sense that former Gov. Blagojevich concluded with the end of Tennyson’s poem. The beginning of it might have cut a little too close to home:

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an agèd wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I like Jon Stewart’s idea of a Senior Poetry Advisor. I think President Obama should appoint one. There’s definitely a poem out there for every political occasion and no one wants to make a poetical faux paux on their first–or last–day of political office.

Howth: ‘There’s No One As Irish as Barack O’Bama’

We had a great day in Dublin going to “James Joyce’s Tower” in Sandycove where Ulysses begins. Then had lunch at the National Library where we were able to watch the finals of the Poetry Out Loud contest.

I spent a fast hour in the National Gallery peeking at the Irish art of Sean Keating, Paul Henry, and Jack Butler Yeats (WB’s brother) and some of the classics: Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ (1602), Diego Velázquez’s Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus (about which Denise Levertov wrote her poem The Servant-Girl at Emmaus), and Brueghhel and Rubens’ Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (1628).

Dublin, St. Andrews Street, October 2008
Dublin, St. Andrews Street, October 2008

But we can’t forget that the American elections are only 15 days away. While Republicans and Democrats are doing their best to highlight their differences, there is one commonality among the four candidates for President and Vice President that none can deny their Irish roots, writes genealogist Megan Smolenyak in today’s Irish Times.

It is Barack Obama’s Irish heritage that seems to have surprised most, and I confess that I own a t-shirt that sports the title of the Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys song: “There is no one as Irish as Barack O’Bama.” That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but even the candidate was intrigued to learn of his Irish roots and has hinted of a possible visit to Moneygall, Co Offaly at some point.

Why Moneygall? Because that’s where his third great-grandfather, Fulmoth Kearney, lived before heading to Ohio in 1850. Many don’t realize that tracing the place of origin for diaspora descendants is usually quite a challenge, and in the case of Obama, I considered myself lucky to find a couple of tombstones in Ohio for Fulmoth’s father and brother that steered my research to Moneygall.

Their story is a version of the oft-heard famine tale. Members of the extended Kearney family began emigrating to America in the late 1700s, but it was the 1848 death of Fulmoth’s uncle Francis in Ohio that sparked the departure of his immediate family. In his will, Francis left land to Joseph, Fulmoth’s father, but only if he came to America to claim it. Joseph left in 1849 and Fulmoth and a sister followed in 1850, with Fulmoth’s reluctant mother and remaining brother and sister making the journey in 1851.

Recent research into earlier generations of the Kearney line by the Irish research firm, Eneclann, has revealed a colorful family history of wig-making, land-dealing and politics, extending to Dublin.

Slainte, O’Bama!.