An X-Rated Inaugural?


Judgment: Barack Obama has also chosen a poet who will read at his oath of office. Let's just say it won't be Robert Frost musing that "the land was ours." And you may not want your children near the TV.

Do the following lines represent the best that modern American literature offers?

"Her genitalia will float inside a labeled pickling jar . . . "

"Monsieur Cuvier investigates between my legs, poking, prodding . .. . "

"Since my own genitals are public I have made other parts private."

They come from "The Venus Hottentot," the most celebrated poem of Elizabeth Alexander, chosen by the president-elect to compose an original work to read at his inauguration on Jan. 20.

For his inaugural in 1993, Bill Clinton enlisted Maya Angelou, who regaled the assembled throngs and the millions more watching on television with verses about "The dinosaur, who left dry tokens . . . ."

This time around we may not hear about Jurassic waste products, but the poet the incoming chief executive has chosen might just provide a risque surprise or two that raises eyebrows at the Federal Communications Commission.

Alexander, honored as a Pulitzer Prize finalist, teaches English, African-American literature and gender studies at Yale, and her poetry has been taxpayer-subsidized by the National Endowment for the Arts. But if some of her past work is any indication, this year's ceremony on the Capitol steps might just give new meaning to the term "swearing-in."

Even if Alexander doesn't follow up the inaugural address with a "vagina monologue," this is still a choice that will make the left a lot happier than some of Obama's Cabinet picks.

In an essay on the Rodney King beating that made a big splash in radical circles, Alexander contended that "a language of black male bestiality and hypervirility, along with myths of drug abuse and 'superhuman strength,' was deployed" by lawyers for the police officers in King's first trial. But as brutal and inexcusable as King's videotaped pummeling was, attorneys for both sides agreed that King's intoxication that night was no myth.

Maybe the great but much-neglected black poet James Emanuel who declared in one poem, "I'd rather be devoutly me" than please fellow blacks or whites was too individualistic for Barack Obama's taste.

Still, rather than subject Americans to musings about dinosaurs or private parts, poetry at the 2009 inaugural would better be, as Frost would say, a "road not taken."