Presidential Hopeful Rand Paul Celebrates National Poetry Month

Senator Rand Paul has had a rough first foray onto the Presidential campaign trail. He scolded female reporters, dodged questions, and seemed bored by the salt of the earth constituent types he claims to represent. As The Washington Post noted after a mere day of America’s experiencing Candidate Paul: “The rocky media rollout of his presidential effort highlighted a key question facing him now: whether the same tough approach that has made him a favorite among Tea Party activists and libertarians might be limiting in a national campaign,” To put it more simply: is this dude too much of an abrasive jerk to win over the country?

Rand Paul needs to soften his image, no doubt about it. Fortunately, National Poetry Month in April offers us a great opportunity to see the more scholarly and, um emo, side of the guy (as evidenced by the recently unearthed photo above). To that end, Paul sent us some great discussion questions to jumpstart our consideration of six famous poems, excerpted below.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
“Charge for the guns!” he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred….

Rand Paul’s discussion questions: In what ways does this poem recall Benghazi? I think we’d all like to know what exactly this “light brigade” were doing in this foreign war to begin with. Did they have parliamentary authority to engage in a foreign conflict? Were they using taxpayer dollars to correct the fact that “someone had blundered”?

2. The World Is Too Much with Us
William Wordsworth

“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune…

Paul’s discussion questions: Why is this speaker so dissatisfied with getting and spending, which are the cornerstone of a healthy marketplace? Is he some sort of socialist? And about these howling winds: does this poem actually present any actual scientific evidence to imply that global warming is manmade, or even an actual phenomenon? You know what, let’s move on…

 

3. When You Are Old
W. B. Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Paul’s discussion questions: While this poem is touching, why is the speaker not advising the woman in question to use the privatized free market economy to store up love? She has a pilgrim soul, so she must know something about investments. Rather than being advised not to be sad and mope about the passage of time and whatnot, shouldn’t the speaker be urging her to do the work herself, putting some of the speaker’s admiration aside every year in a savings account — not to mention making a little extra love on the stock market — rather expecting a sort of affection-based Social Security to take care of her in her dotage?

4. Sonnet #18

William Shakespeare

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day–?”

Paul’s discussion questions: Now look, I’m going to stop you right there with that question. Before we go through a litany of things that make me different from this ‘summer’s day you speak of’, why don’t you give me a chance to explain how my positions have changed over time first, since I was campaigning for my Dad in the last round? That would sort of be a better way to approach this poem, okay?

5. The New Colossus
Emma Lazarus

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Paul’s discussion questions: Could Ms. Lazarus could have been a bit more artful in calling these people refuse? Yes. That having been said, she’s off-base here, or off-pedestal if you will. Can the U.S. just invite the whole world to come over here and compete in our free economy? Do we want our shores to become the teeming ones, or do we want to keep that American gold on American doors? Close-read that, amigos.

6. poem in praise of menstruation
Lucille Clifton

if there is a river
more beautiful than this
bright as the blood
red edge of the moon       if

there is a river
more faithful than this
returning each month
to the same delta     if there

is a river
braver than this
coming and coming in a surge
of passion, of pain…

Rand Paul’s discussion questions: What is menstruation? I didn’t learn about that at my med school. Does it have something to do with abortion— are you trying to trick me into talking about abortion? I see Debbie Wasserman-Schultz over there. Why don’t you grill her about abortion and leave me alone, eh?