Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April is No Longer the Cruelest Month

It's April Fools' Day, one of my favorite holidays as a child. The images today are paintings by Susan Bee; they seem to capture the capacious foolhardiness of the day. I love her trees, laden with objects: this one is called "In a Medieval Garden."

I wish I had a good "fool" for all of you here at elenabella, but the best I can do is remind you to keep your ears open when listening to the news today on National Public Radio – they always do a delicious story that veers off into the absurd. I recall the year when the Starbucks CEO talked about an American coffee pipeline (hot Joe from the kitchen tap!) and the year a teenager described her cosmetic surgery procedure for belly button removal. Here is more, from that great aggregator, Wikipedia:

National Public Radio:
Every year National Public Radio in the United States does an extensive news story on April 1st. These usually start off more or less reasonably, and get more and more unusual. A recent example is the story on the "iBod" a portable body control device.[22] In 2008 it reported that the IRS, to assure rebate checks were actually spent, was shipping comsumer products instead of checks. [23] It also runs false sponsor mentions, such as "Support for NPR comes from the Soylent Corporation, manufacturing protein-rich food products in a variety of colors. Soylent Green is People.”[24]

Google also does April Fools' Day hoaxes, so be on your guard.

It's also a good day to take a look at T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland," a poem that was recently modified by the new American poet laureate, to make it less depressing. Under the Obama administration, the poet laureate has been charged with going back and expunging negativity and obscurity from poetry, making it more accessible and transparent. The opening line of this famous poem now reads:

APRIL is the kindest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

I like that, and it does seem pretty clear. The Greek epigraph to the poem has also been removed (because, after all, who reads Greek anymore?!): references to Hades, even when in a dead language, can only signal a disincentive to hope. (It's also really annoying when poets produce footnotes to their work, making you dig deeper to excavate meaning: who has time for that? Try to get it into a tagline, people!)

Let's hope the new Obama poetic language initiatives work, producing an April more kind than cruel.

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