Huck Gutman, the chief of staff for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, is a man who knows the value of putting your head into a poem once in a while and leaving the chaos behind. And according to the Boston Globe, an increasing number of people are signing up for his poetry listserv.
“The chief of staff for the Senate’s liberal firebrand has created an unlikely patch of common ground. That place lies in the power of the poetry that longtime University of Vermont professor Huck Gutman … distributes by e-mail to 1,700 readers who include all the Senate chiefs of staff, several White House staffers, university presidents, academics, journalists, and former students.” Read more.
Wallace Stegner has written, “No place is a place until it has a poet.” In fact, there are countries where poetry, ancient and modern, is core to national identity. Perhaps surprising to Americans, one such country is Iran.
I have blogged about Mirrors of the Unseen: Journeys in Iran before. It’s taking me a while to finish it because, for a travel book, it is seriously intellectual. (Here is a post in which author Jason Elliot describes the earliest known electric battery. And here is my post called “Horse Agrees Not To Be Extinct.”)
One of the most intriguing aspects of Elliot’s book is how many ordinary people he meets who have interests that would seem quite high brow to the average Westerner. Workmen who know all about ancient architecture. Postal employees who are still angry that the Greeks twisted the facts about Persia hundreds of years ago. And people who love poetry.
In one anecdote, Elliot makes a vague poetic reference to a seatmate on an airplane who encourages him to go on and read from the blind poet Rudaqi. “I read the first couplet in Persian,” writes Elliot, “but before I could reach the second [my seatmate] said, ‘No, no, it’s like this.’ ” He reads the rest with deep feeling, adding, “Poetry … makes us very emotional.”
Similarly, at a private home, Elliot watches a man rapt and gently swaying to a musical recitation of classical poetry. The man turns out to be the Foreign Minister.
And when Elliot goes to see the chief of immigration police in Isfahan on a routine matter, he interrupts him reading a poetry book and observes that “the final syllables as he stood up, with an unmistakably distant look on his face, were still fading visibly from his lips.”