Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,
Mario Cuomo once said, “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” I was thinking of that quotation this past week while watching the speeches presented at the Republican National Convention. In his acceptance speech, Romney had an interesting line in which he seemed to confront the poetic magic of President Obama’s campaign rhetoric:
Many of you felt that [optimistic] way on Election Day four years ago. Hope and Change had a powerful appeal. But tonight I'd ask a simple question: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama? You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.
Perhaps one of the strongest points Romney made Thursday night, he suggested that many Americans voted for Barack Obama because we were moved by the great speaker’s rhetoric – the poetic sway of his words – and perhaps because we were appealing to what President Lincoln called “The better angels of our nature” by confronting our racist past with our votes for a post-racist (and for many, a post-Bush) future. As we’ve been told many times, President Obama is also likeable.
In some ways, Romney’s emphasis seeks to inoculate us against Democratic rhetorical flourishes in the future, and, more specifically, he raises the bar for President Obama’s speech Thursday night. As a poet, I have been reflecting upon the opposition Romney and the RNC insinuate between that which is rhetorical, poetic, or even artsy, and that which is practical and businesslike. I often find myself trying to confront or ignore those commercial interests that seem to obscure the more substantive pleasures of reading, play-going and concert-going, or writing or performing something myself, even a Pub Quiz. We know, for instance, that Romney has said that he will seek to end federal support for the arts if he is elected, saying in a Fortune Magazine interview that he will seek to eliminate “the Amtrak subsidy, the PBS subsidy, the subsidy for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities.” I wonder if the need for such investments in the artistic souls of future entrepreneurs is not more evident than ever.
As an educator, by contrast, I agree with Sir Ken Robinson, who argues the value of imagination and creativity. He says,
Imagination is not the same as creativity. Creativity takes the process of imagination to another level. My definition of creativity is “the process of having original ideas that have value.” Imagination can be entirely internal. You could be imaginative all day long without anyone noticing. But you never say that someone was creative if that person never did anything. To be creative you actually have to do something. It involves putting your imagination to work to make something new, to come up with new solutions to problems, even to think of new problems or questions.
You can think of creativity as applied imagination.
Imagination is necessary, of course, for the playwright, the opera singer, or even the owner of a small business. Thinking about the musicians that matter to her, a colleague of mine recently opined that the Democrats have a “deeper bench,” and I suppose that deep bench of creativity will be on display this week when delegates enjoy performances by Earth, Wind and Fire, The Foo Fighters, and Mary J. Blige. By contrast, I was amused by the long list of evidently Democratic-leaning lyricists who have objected to the Republicans using their songs: Last week Dee Snider of Twisted Sister said “no” to Paul Ryan who wanted to arrive to rallies to “We’re Not Going to Take It,” Survivor earlier said Newt Gingrich could not have their “Eye of the Tiger,” Tom Petty said that Michele Bachmann was not his kind of “American Girl,” and even Bruce Springsteen told President Reagan that he may not use “Born in the USA” at any of his rallies. Do such public refusals and denials by some of our best-known songwriters suggest some central and unrecognized power that creative people have over all of us? All this makes us wonder if, as Percy Shelley once said, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”
Tonight’s Pub Quiz will feature questions about Republicans, creativity, stand-up comedians, birds (x2), iOS, Clint Eastwood, lawyers, food and drink, August disasters, pop songs that didn’t qualify for my “new energy dance mix,” impressive athletes, the Southern Hemisphere, big boys, New Jersey, things that way as much as five tons, California history, trickery, millennials, Atlanta, tattoos, water, classical music, male sinners, movie taglines, Brown hair, Florida, important books of the 1960s, Norse myths, the Irish economy, lists created by The American Film Institute, big impacts, flowers, faraway countries, a Shakespeare question that’s actually about other countries, fatal mishaps, and hay.
Bring a big team or two tonight to compensate for those people with Tuesday night conflicts. See you at 7!
This week’s quiz will be a cake walk compared to last week’s. Here are five questions from last week’s quiz:
10. Great Dutchmen. According to Forbes Magazine, making $25 million a year, Tiësto is the highest paid WHAT in the world?
11. Unusual Words. What five-letter word beginning with the letter L means easily understood; completely intelligible or comprehensible?
12. Books and Authors. What Ayn Rand book most inspired Paul Ryan?
13. Pop Culture – Television. The name of the current anchor of The CBS Evening News is an anagram for PETTY CELLOS. Name him. Hint (for the newsletter): his first name is Scott.
14. Another Music Question. Who had a big hit in 1965 with “The Tracks of My Tears”?
P.S. This coming Thursday night is Poetry Night in the City of Davis, and I hope you can join us. We will be welcoming poets Cynthia Linville and Christopher Yu on Thursday, September 6th at 8:00 PM. They will be performing at the John Natsoulas Gallery at 521 1st Street in Davis. The after-party will begin Thursday night at about 10 at de Vere’s Irish Pub in Davis. People who are up late watching President Obama’s speech may come only to the after-party.
A former pupil of prominent Sacramento poet Dennis Schmitz, Cynthia Linville has taught English at California State University, Sacramento, since 2000 and served as editor of both Poetry Now (2008-2012), and Convergence: an online journal of poetry and art. She is a regular contributor to the Sacramento News and Review, Medusa’s Kitchen and WTF. She has also appeared in The Sacramento Bee, The Rattlesnake Review, and Song of the San Joaquin. She periodically hosts readings for The Crocker Art Museum, The Vox, and The Sacramento Poetry Center, as well as performances with the group Poetica Erotica.
Christopher Yu is a recent graduate of The University of California, Davis, where he earned degrees in both English and Economics. He was among the winners of the 2012 Pamela Maus Prize for Poetry, and hosted the LLAMA Radio Show on KDVS. He studied with poets Joshua Clover and Joe Wenderoth, and his poetry has appeared in the new literary anthology All the Vegetarians in Texas Have Been Shot (2012), from Absurd Publications. Chris Yu has been an occasional Pub Quiz participant, so he deserves your support. I have not asked him what he thinks about Clint Eastwood.