Photo: Yahoo! screencap
Yahoo! News asked several poets to write poetry for the president’s Inauguration Day. Among those commissioned were two Pulitzer Prize winners, authors Brenda Shaughnessy and Kevin Young, and … James Franco.
Yes, the 34-year-old actor was asked to write and perform an inaugural poem for the president because he “has a book of poetry forthcoming from Graywolf Press.“
And, it’s just strange.
The poem comes across as if he couldn’t be bothered to do the thing.
He says several times how little he cares for “political crap” and confesses how strange it seems to have been asked to put together a piece:
“I’m not up there, but Obama is. I was asked to write something For the inauguration of his second term, but what could I write? I was in Asheville, studying writing, but not the political sort; I write confessions and characters, and that sort of thing.”
And, unlike two other poets, Kevin Young and Paul Muldoon, Franco looks like he’s ready for bed, slouching sideways while delivering his poem via what looks like a self-rendered YouTube video in a dim-lit room.
After nine stanzas filibustering with Fitzgerald’s suicide, asking a friend what to write, and a pit stop at a “little burrito place,” Franco recounts a time he and Obama met at the Correspondents’ Dinner in D.C. and how the president recognised him from “Spider-Man.”
In the last three stanzas, the poem becomes less about Obama and more about Franco when he conjectures that if he were to ever play the role of POTUS in a film, he would win the Academy Award hands down.
The entirety sounds more like a stream-of-consciousness exercise rather than a planned out ode to the president’s second term.
Here are two excerpts from the poem entitled “Obama in Asheville“:
Franco’s dilemma of what to write for the president:
“I’m not up there, but Obama is. I was asked to write something
For the inauguration of his second term, but what could I write?
I was in Asheville, studying writing, but not the political sort;
I write confessions and characters, and that sort of thing.
I wrote my friend Frank about what I could do, but he was unresponsive.
I went to class and then the little burrito place where they know me,
And finally at night I got Frank’s email on my phone and pulled over
On the side of Warren Wilson Road, past the school barn with the WWC —
That I couldn’t see in the dark — right before the school entrance;
A little spot where there’s a path that leads to a lake called Snake Lake.
First I called my class at UCLA, and told them to watch Apocalypse Now,
And that it used Heart of Darkness as a model, and that we’d watch
Eleanor Coppola’s Hearts of Darkness, the making-of, the following week.
Then I read Frank’s note. He said he was sleeping 20 hours a day,
With no symptoms except that he desired sleep
And just a little more sleep. He’s in his seventies.
Then he said that my poem was a difficult task.
How to write about a man written about endlessly;
A man whom everyone has some sort of experience of;
How to write so that it’s not just for the converted.”
Where Franco discusses playing Obama in an Academy Award winning movie:
“If I were to act in the film about Obama,
All I would need to get down, aside from the outer stuff—
And I know that’s important—is his essential kindness,
I’d let the writer put in all the political crap,
And the specific things that he was up against,
All that stuff on CNN and the Huffington Post,
And I’d say the lines that were written, just like Obama
Reads his lines, but what would really put the role over
Would be the goodness at its core.
That’s what will be remembered.
Yes, his race, no one will forget. But the soul too.
I’d win the Academy Award if I just captured that.”
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