Presidential candidate Barack Obama fancied himself something of a poet in his day. The New Yorker examines his work with the help of one Harold Bloom, who is surprisingly gentle.
Harold Bloom, who in fifty-three years of teaching literature at Yale University has had many undergraduate poems pressed hopefully upon him said, when reached by telephone in New Haven last week, that he was not familiar with Obama’s oeuvre. But after studying the poems he said that he was not unimpressed with the young man’s efforts—at least, by the standards established by other would-be bards within the political sphere. “At eighteen, as an undergraduate, he was already a much better poet than our former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, who keeps publishing terrible poetry,” Bloom said. (Cohen has published two collections of verse: “Of Sons and Seasons,” in 1978, and “A Baker’s Nickel,” in 1986.) “And then there is Jimmy Carter, who is in my judgment literally the worst poet in the United States.” (Carter’s first volume of poetry, “Always a Reckoning and Other Poems,” which was published in 1994, included a work called “Why We Get Cheaper Tires from Liberia”: “No churches can be built / no privy holes or even graves / dug in the rolling hills / for those milking Firestone’s trees, who die / from mamba and mosquito bites.”)
He already had my vote before this, but now he’s in like Flynn.