So here’s James Franco reading his poem, “Obama in Asheville,” something that he was asked to write for President Obama’s inauguration (at least according to the poem itself). I don’t know much about poetry, especially the kind that just sounds like arrhythmic prose, but if James Franco put on a nice t-shirt and set down his A&W root beer for the occasion, it must be pretty important. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s probably the most important poem ever written to include the line “he knew me from Spiderman.”
Obama in Asheville
Asheville, North Carolina, is the birthplace of Thomas
Wolfe and the sometime residence of F. Scott Fitzgerald
When he visited Zelda at her institution;
He stayed at the Grove Park Inn, a grand stone edifice.
On the phone once, Cormac McCarthy lamented
The two added wings and the spa, and marveled
At the original structure, They pulled the stones
From the mountains and brought them down on mules.
Soon after his fortieth birthday, Fitzgerald attempted suicide
Here, but couldn’t shoot his own head, drunk, I guess.
Later, after he was actually dead, from alcohol,
Zelda perished in a fire at her institution, one of nine.
Asheville is the place where the Black Mountain College once stood
And helped birth Rauschenberg, Twombly and Johns,
Cage and Cunningham; now I think it’s a Young Men’s Christian Association.
On the wall of the Grove Park, they have pictures of the famous guests;
I’m not up there, but Obama is. I was asked to write something
For the inauguration of his second term, but what could I write?
I was in Asheville, studying writing, but not the political sort;
I write confessions and characters, and that sort of thing.
I wrote my friend Frank about what I could do, but he was unresponsive.
I went to class and then the little burrito place where they know me,
And finally at night I got Frank’s email on my phone and pulled over
On the side of Warren Wilson Road, past the school barn with the WWC —
That I couldn’t see in the dark — right before the school entrance;
A little spot where there’s a path that leads to a lake called Snake Lake.
First I called my class at UCLA, and told them to watch Apocalypse Now,
And that it used Heart of Darkness as a model, and that we’d watch
Eleanor Coppola’s Hearts of Darkness, the making-of, the following week.
Then I read Frank’s note. He said he was sleeping twenty hours a day,
With no symptoms except that he desired sleep
And just a little more sleep. He’s in his seventies.
Then he said that my poem was a difficult task.
How to write about a man written about endlessly;
A man whom everyone has some sort of experience of;
How to write so that it’s not just for the converted.
I met Obama once, in D.C., the Correspondents’ Dinner.
I was the guest of Vanity Fair, guided through D.C. by the wife
Of Christopher Hitchens, when he was alive. We went to Hitch’s place,
He had books from floor to ceiling, and said he had read
To Borges, when he was blind, Old Icelandic Eddas—
Then we waited in a private room with the likes of Tom Cruise,
And Katie Holmes, and Claire Danes. When Obama entered
The crowd converged. Finally, I got to shake his hand,
He knew me from Spider-Man. I asked him for advice,
I was scheduled to give the commencement speech at UCLA
And there were some undergraduate knockers against me;
He had been denied the usual honorary degree by Arizona State
Because he hadn’t accomplished enough, so I wondered
How he dealt with detractors. He smiled his smile and said,
“Humor.” Well he’s damn right, and I wonder how much
That stand-up comedian is laughing in the face
You can read the rest of it here, but I’ve taken the liberty of writing a series of haiku about James Franco’s poem about President Obama. I enjoy Haiku as a form, because it combines two of my favorite things, poetic expression and counting on my fingers.
I asked Obama
How to deal with my haters
“Jokes, my dear Dicknose.”
But what should I say?
I asked the old professor.
F*ck it, burritos.
I called my friend Frank
Francis Ford Coppola as
he’s known to normals.
Dear Class, it’s Franco
Go watch Apocalypse Now
My friend Frank made it
they said, “but we’ve seen this film.”
Was a cool dude. I met him
at Claire Danes’ house once
“I’m from Spiderman,”
I said. “I read to Borges,”
he said. Let’s bro hug.
Do your other profs
Know Chris Hitchens as “Big Chris?”
I doubt it, pay me.
Knockers against me, haha.
Barack loves tit jokes
Wonder if Cromwell
Ever partied with Shakespeare.
Something to ponder.