January 21, 2009

“Hail Barack Obama” in the Post-Gazette

My friend and literary critic Jane Little liked my poem written for Barack Obama’s inauguration. (See “Inauguration Poem.”) She urged me to submit it to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for possible publication. I told her I would have to think about that.

My reluctance seemed justified. I had only finished the poem on Sunday night, and the inauguration was Tuesday. The inclusion of the line “Inauguration’s just hours away” seem to require a Tuesday publication. This didn’t give the newspaper much time to make a decision, and I thought that the poem might seem too partisan.

In the end, I decided Monday morning to send the poem anyway. What did I have to lose? I had heard nothing from the Post-Gazette by Monday evening and concluded that that was that. I was surprised by the arrival of a mid-afternoon e-mail message from an editor on inauguration day. The newspaper was planning to print three poems it had received related to the inauguration.

The editor had two suggestions, with which I readily agreed. He wanted to remove the couplet that put the inauguration “just hours away.” His motivation was clear, but I was already concerned about the poem’s short shelf life, and the lines were not my favorite ones anyway. I thought their removal strengthened the piece. The editor also wanted to place blank lines between the couplets, which, he suggested, would make the poem easier to read. He was probably right about that, too.

I changed the poem on Lionel Deimel’s Farrago Tuesday and eagerly awaited Wednesday’s Post-Gazette. Sure enough, my poem appears on page A-2 with two others, “We the People,” by Michael Uhrin, and “God Shines Forth: The Inauguration Of Hope,” by Romella D. Kitchens. The poetry was collected in an occasional feature labeled “News Muse,” which the Post-Gazette prints every now and then when news events inspire local poets.

You can read the revised poem here.

UPDATE. The Post-Gazette was slow in posting News Muse, but it hit the Web this afternoon. You can read it here.

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