author of The Ecstasy of Michaela and assorted stories and essays
Epigraph/epitaph: "He has been a sick man all his life. He was always a seeker after something in the world that is there in no satisfying measure, or not at all."
At this time, by his poetic and inward temper, he might have fallen a prey to the enervating mysticism, then in wait for ardent souls in many a melodramatic revival of old religion or theosophy.
Vidal asks us rhetorically, “When was the last time a poet made enough noise to be threatened with censorship?” The U.S. government has no reason to censor anyone for expressing widely accepted ideas in a marginalized art form. Our government censors, or puts on a watchlist, only those who express support for a contrary worldview. This was once the case for Communism, back when Communism was felt to be a threatening worldview; today it is the case for jihadi Islam, because that is felt to be a threatening worldview. Basically no poet or writer in our society has a problem with democracy, or women’s rights, or freedom of speech, or freedom of religion; writers do not have to be censored because they aren’t really dissenting. They are simply pushing for better/fairer/kinder versions of capitalism and democracy: More rights, fewer bombs. Our political system is well-equipped to absorb this kind of agitation; any Daring Poetic Utterance is likely to have been more directly and angrily expressed already, on a blog or in a newspaper editorial. Today’s truly daring political poet would write against the prevailing notions of the day regarding equality and peace. That’s the kind of poem that would court media blowback—not some well-meaning, right-thinking free verse screed about police brutality or racial inequality.
The schoolhouse being deserted, soon fell to decay, and was reported to be haunted by the ghost of the unfortunate pedagogue; and the plough boy, loitering homeward of a still summer evening, has often fancied his voice at a distance, chanting a melancholy psalm tune among the tranquil solitudes of Sleepy Hollow.