Plato’s utopia was ruled by philosopher kings. We could do worse. In fact, with the current state of politics, it might behoove us to require a philosophy degree for anyone seeking high office. But if NH ever goes for utopia status, I vote that our kings (and queens) all be poets.
We’ve certainly got enough of them including two US Poets Laureate living here. One of those, Charles Simic, wrote an entire book on the topic of poets titled “The Renegade.” In it he described the other, Donald Hall, thusly: “a raconteur, and a charmer able to be both informative and hugely entertaining, whatever his topic happens to be.” That sounds a bit more like a politician than a king, but having had the honor 0f meeting Hall in his Danbury home, I can assure you he has little ambition to be either.
In his book, Simic touches upon a few other poets who have graced our state with their regal presences. Among them Hall’s late wife and frequent muse Jane Kenyon, poet of the Isles of Shoals Celia Thaxter and beatnik-era versifier Roberty Creeley, who was never as famous as Alan Ginsberg or Robert Lowell but was easily as prolific and influential. The list goes on and it’s best to stop there for fear of omitting someone famously deserving.
Like beloved Poet Laureate Maxine Kumin who we lost early this year.
Oh, did I mention Robert Frost?
He lived here too. Some say he wrote some of his best work here while dodging creditors. Others say that if he had been a better farmer we might never have gotten “The Road Less Traveled” and “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” He never aspired to be a king, but he certainly hobnobbed with them.
Poets as rulers. Ridiculous, I suppose, but then one of the most famous kings of all time was something of a wordsmith, penning such immortal lines as “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want …” Reportedly, King David had a fan base that extended into Heaven.
My wife’s family is from here, New Hampshire: Robert Frostland. My parents are both from Louisiana and we’re related on my mother’s side to that state’s long-dead rascal governor Huey Long, known affectionately as The Kingfish. Long was not a poet, exactly, but he once wrote a song (a poem set to music) titled “Every Man a King.” It became a kind of anthem to the good (and sometimes not so good) people of the Bayou State. I think Louisiana and New Hampshire have a lot in common besides just me, but the attitude towards regal rulers here is probably best summed up in this verse from Frost’s lengthily titled “How Hard It Is to Keep From Being King When It’s in You and in the Situation.”
The King said to his son: “Enough of this!
The Kingdom’s yours to finish as you please.
I’m getting out tonight. Here, take the crown.”
April is National Poetry Month so I decree it a good time to read a poem.
Or write one.