Friday, October 31, 2008



On October 11, 2008 I put a rather long post [Did Bill Ayers Write "Dreams of My Father?"] on this Blog consisting of an article by Jack Cashill, Ph.D., entitled "Who wrote 'Dreams of My Father'". Using literary analysis Dr. Cashill showed sufficient evidence to convince me that Bill Ayers either wrote Barack Hussein Obama's autobiography "Dreams of My Father" or at the very least did a major job of editing the manuscript for publication.

Now, my friend, Ephie Patrickson, Ph.D., has analyzed Dr. Cashill's analysis and offers us this reflection on Barack Hussein Obama, the writer.


“Aping Our Dreams: Obama as Poet”

Although I love his article, I shall quibble with something Dr. Cashill has written on the Obama-Ayres relationship. Jack Cashill quotes from one of Obama’s published poems, indicating that it does not argue well for his literary future. Perhaps not, but it certainly is prophetic of his political future as a US Senator.

Cashill notes: “That trail begins at Occidental College whose literary magazine published two of Obama's poems – ‘Pop’ and ‘Underground’-- in 1981. Obama calls it some ‘very bad poetry’, and he does not sell himself short. From ‘Underground’:

Under water grottos, caverns
Filled with apes
That eat figs.
Stepping on the figs
That the apes
Eat, they crunch.
The apes howl, bare
Their fangs, dance . . .

I realize it is by way of an introductory observation to his larger analysis of the published memoir Dreams From My Father that Cashill cites the poetry. He notes it has slim literary genius. True, it is not Wallace Stevens and it is not Frost either. He should not quit his day job yet. Although I must say the poem actually has some potential as a prophetic work. It certainly sounds like a moving description of your average Democratic National Convention. I have seen things that spiritually resemble the metaphoric descriptions here in the poem when I have watched C-Span. The imagery reminds me so lyrically of DNC speeches: “howl, bare | Their fangs, dance.” From a rousing Hillary or Ted Kennedy speech to Nancy Pelosi grinning away before the balloon drop Obama has nailed the perfect description. Bravo. This is it! Well done.

Comparing them to Apes may be a little cruel on his part, but I do think he has hit something of the spirit of American politics. I certainly felt like I was watching Clinton, Kerry, Gore and Al Sharpton at the old DNC again. This prophetic little poem has brought back memories. If Obama has other poems hiding in notebooks he surely should develop a career as a poet and begin publishing them. He is much better at this whole realm of lyrical poetry about political life than actual speeches. To my ear, I find his speeches to be dreadful and dull. They repulse my spirit. He speaks vaguely of ‘change’ and ‘hope’ without any real purpose, any sense of authentic change and certainly not authentic hope. How can someone who does not respect the life of a baby in his mother’s womb possibly know the first thing about hope and new life?

Obama should write a poem about acorns to add to the canon. Perhaps I could offer to ghost write them myself? I am working on a model to send him (or maybe I should send it to Bill Ayres first? Don’t they do Foundation work together in addition to book deals?). Here goes:

Under ear-marked grottos
And hope-filled caverns
The apes dance on acorns
And dangle their dimpled chads--
‘The dead only vote twice’
As they do in Chicago
Even for small change
The yellow dog howls
And steps on acorns
While apes bare their teeth
Growl. Shine. Bark. Howl.
Dance, baby, dance…

I shall begin working on ghostwriting an ode on Hillary, perhaps a lament about Bill. Biden is tricky. He is not really poetic. What about a limerick about the economy? We really could turn Obama into even more of a master poet with some ghostwriting help. Perhaps Clinton could play the Saxophone on the Audio Book version along with the reading? Perhaps Bill Ayres could make nautical sound effects or dramatic weather sounds?

Humor aside regarding under-examined possibilities for the poetry, I believe Cashill’s article to be excellent on a range of levels. I also hold a doctorate in literature, and have taught for several years in undergraduate classrooms. In my own research I have studied analysis akin to his own on authorship questions and changes in literary voice in the cases of established writers. His methodology is sound, and more work should be done in this area. I do believe he is on to something. For example, he notes Obama being in Indonesia. Was Obama really there then? Surely passport records could be examined, etc. The memoirs should be gone over with great care, for I do feel that Cashill has successfully put ‘a red flag on the play’ in terms of their actual relationship to Obama as either real author or subject.

I noted some of the posted comments on his site, and agreed with the observations underscoring the importance of his work. In the article the sections on nautical themes are particularly interesting to consider. Cashill writes:

“On at least twelve occasions, Obama speaks of ‘despair’, as in the ‘ocean of despair’. Ayers speaks of a ‘deepening despair’, a constant theme for him as well. Obama's ‘knotted, howling assertion of self’ sounds like something from the pages of Jack London's "The Sea Wolf."”

Indeed. The bigger question, though, is what exactly is Obama’s own real “knotted, howling assertion of self”? Perhaps Ayres has been the one tying the knot? It reminds me of the end of a rope tied off in a ‘monkey’s fist’ on a boat. The nautical world of knots has its own poetical language of resonance. If Ayres has been the one tying that knot, just as Obama himself has been the one writing about the apes baring their teeth, then the already puzzling question of exactly who is Barack Hussein Obama becomes just that much more complicated. In terms of weaving a complex web of knots, Ayres and Obama had plausible motive. Follow the money on the educational question, financing of a degree and the movement of money across foundations. What is the real story here? A shady book deal would be just one facet of a much larger picture of deception, self-invention, and grooming.

The larger, very knotty and awkward question, though, is this. We have become so demoralized by politicians in general, at least I have and so has everyone I have spoken with in the last six months on the topic… They lie about ear-marks, taxes, kick-backs and conflicts of interest. They lie about what they are doing today, what they did with the interns yesterday, and how they might raise taxes tomorrow. It is appalling. St. Thomas More, pray for us! Is it any wonder that lawyer politicians— who overrun our government like rats on a sinking Spanish Galleon heavy with too much ballast— will say anything the person with the biggest checkbook contributing to the campaign fund wants to hear and will even go so far as to make up personal memoirs to a high enough bidder? They fabricate the present and future. Why not the past? Why not even their own memoirs? Of course, I am appalled and repulsed, but not surprised.

Personally, I believe Obama should give up on memoirs and speeches that other people are hired to write (or offer to write along with other financial perks and ideological grooming). He should switch back to lyric poetry. He could continue on his own. I know I would be happy to lend a hand and ghostwrite for him for free, if need be. Yet I really feel he has his own spark there. I really think his early work describes Washington so well. Again, “The apes howl, bare | Their fangs, dance . . .” Move over Jane Goodall. You have nothing on Obama. Was he thinking of his fight with Hillary? Maybe he is a type of prophet after all. He could raise some big time change intoning his poems with Bill Clinton accompanying him on the Saxophone…

-Ephie Patrickson

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