Presidential Poetry

Liberal Art

“If more politicians knew poetry and more poets knew politics,” said John F. Kennedy ’40, “I am convinced that the world would be a better place in which to live.” In fact, poetry and politics have had a longstanding relationship. Recently, the relationship is tense, as in last winter’s flap over a White House poetry symposium cancelled because Laura Bush, upset by antiwar poets, decided she “did not believe poetry should be used for political purposes.” Indeed, the Bushes put an end to the budding tradition of having a poet read at inauguration and seem temperamentally to be at odds with many in the creative world.

So you can imagine my surprise at learning that President Bush had penned his own poem, addressed to his wife on the occasion of her trip to France. Beginning “Roses are red/ Violets are blue/ Oh my lump in the bed/ How I’ve missed you,” it lacks some of the subtlety of other presidents’ playful poems—one is reminded of John Quincy Adams’ (Class of 1787) translations of Horace (“What though he plough the billowy deep/ By lunar light, or solar./ Meet the resistless Simoon’s sweep,/ Or iceberg circumpolar.”)—still, it is good to know that our president has some poetry in him. Making the assumption that, like most of his output, the president’s poetry is overseen by a “team” of dedicated staff, I have applied to work on his poetry team. I’m submitting a sample poem called “Straight Talk.” It’s a little bold, but I think it captures the president’s greatest strengths, like straightforwardness, self-assurance, and the capacity to enrage frustrated and impotent Democrats. The White House hasn’t gotten back to me, but The Crimson, being obliged to publish what I write every two weeks, has agreed to print these lines:

Straight Talk:

You thought I was a Texan; now

I cannot tell a lie,


My tax cuts plainly show that I’m

No ordinary guy;

The Blue Blood’s in me through and through

And not just ’cause of Yale;

It’s Kennebunkport, Harvard—

Andover, now there’s my tale.

You thought I was a centrist, well,

That’s your fault, not my own:

You should have realized it when

I turned up at Bob Jones.