It is often that people are concerned with the money diverted to art attached to public works projects sponsored by government. The basis providing art from legislation or policies can mandate one percent of project costs be dedicated to art deemed reflective of various ideals approved by officials.
But one particular project regarding a bridge in the Fremont Neighborhood of Seattle is puzzling as to any long term benefit to be experienced, or of any tangible substance.
The City of Seattle budged ten thousand dollars and placed a call for bids for an artist to write a work of poetry, essay, or oral history of a drawbridge.
I fell in love with the poetry of Li-Young Lee when I read his debut collection Rose. Published in 1986, the book won the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Poetry Award. In the foreword that he wrote for Rose, Gerald Stern said that when he first came across Li-Young Lee’s poetry, he “was amazed by the large vision, the deep seriousness and the almost heroic ideal “reminiscent more of John Keats, Rainer Maria Rilke and perhaps Theodore Roethke than William Carlos Williams on the one hand or T.S. Eliot on the other.” Stern added that what characterizes Lee’s poetry “Is a certain humility, a kind of cunning, a love of plain speech, a search for wisdom and understanding…”
Stern also wrote in his foreword that the “father” in contemporary poetry “tends to be a pathetic soul or bungler or a sweet loser, overwhelmed by the demands of family and culture and workplace.” He said that the father in Lee’s poems isn’t anything like that. He said the “father” in Lee’s poetry is “more godlike”–and that the poet’s job “becomes not to benignly or tenderly forgive him, but to withstand him and comprehend him, and variously fear and love him.”
Yusef Komunyakaa, the author of the poem Facing It, was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana on April 29, 1947. He “served in the United States Army from 1969 to 1970 as a correspondent, and as managing editor of the Southern Cross during the Vietnam war, earning him a Bronze Star.” Komunyakaa began writing poetry in 1973.
Here is a video of Komunyakaa reading his poem Facing It, which is about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.