The prison poets of Guantanamo obtained the right to have twenty-two of their poems published, but not before the US government looked for codes and other hidden meanings in their scribbled verse. Robert Pinsky and other famous poets lauded this expression of urgency and free speech, stopping short of any evaluation of esthetics.
Ted Tomes, Professor of creative writing at Redstone College, in Redstone. Vermont applauds the expression of free speech and eveen thinks some of the prison poems are pretty good, 'though too sentimental for my taste." What bothers Tomes is the notion that poetry can be the carrier of hidden meanings, codes, and sub rosa plots to blow up buildings. "I think this approach by the CIA is a disservice to poetry. Teachers of poetry have been trying for at least the last one hundred years to convince students that the reason for reading poetry is not to uncover the hidden meanings but to appreciate the full aesthetic of the work. They have set poetry back a generation.
"I've actually heard fellow instructors suggest there is something unAmerican about poetry if terorists are using it to send messages and sing the praises of the Prophet
"Others have gone so far as to suggest that representatives from the CIA or low-level government functionaries are probably better suited to teaching poetry and getting deep into the text than people like myself.
"The head of the local chapter of the American Legion has suggested there is something inherently dangerous about poetry and perhaps we shouldn't expose young minds to such dangerous content.
"While he stopped short of suggesting book burnings, he did suggest a committee of local citizens should thoroughly vett poems currently being taught, keeping an eye out for antidemocratic sentiments.
"He also suggested that, instead of publishing the poems of terrorists, we should force them to read our poetry, the way we force them to eat food. He thought Kipling's poetry, starting with 'Take Up the White Man's Burden' would give the imprisoned a clear idea of Western culture and the responsibility we feel towards those we have imprisoned in the name of God--our God."Posted by Chuck at June 20, 2007 12:47 PM | TrackBack