I am guessing that the majority of you do not own thoroughbred horses. In fact, that is the underlying assumption of this entire post, and to the degree it does not apply to you, I offer humblest apologies (your highness).
But this is the weekend of the Kentucky Derby, which I normally appreciate primarily for the way it causes everyone to momentarily forget everything they ever knew about what constitutes Too Much Hat.
American poetry's recognition of the prosaicness — if not profanity — of our age and culture takes many forms. Poets embrace pop or pursue the workings of the mind with what Robert Bly called associative leaping. They examine rhetoric by mashing up archaisms with the hypernew. They resist poetry's traditional resistance to technology, fashion, advertising or fad — or they follow someone like Ashbery into poetic abstraction.
American literature is rich with books that illuminate our culture from an immigrant's fresh perspective. The most powerful tend to be written by the newcomers themselves, or their offspring, but there are exceptions. Nell Freudenberger's latest novel, The Newlyweds, is about a young Bangladeshi woman determined to find a better life by marrying an American she meets on a dating website. Coming from a native New Yorker, it's an act of sustained, cross-cultural ventriloquism and empathy.
When I went to see The Avengers the very day it was released, I texted a friend in San Francisco. It seems kind of unfair, I said, that because of the 12-hour time difference, I get to see The Avengers before you do.
Turns out I was a week off. The Avengers actually released in 39 countries around the world, including India, a week before it opens in America.
The African-American experience is reflected, right now, on the walls of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. Exuberant dancing in Chicago. Laundry on a line in the nation's capital. A girl smiling out from her father's warm jacket — all captured in photographs, paintings and sculptures from the 1920s through the 1990s.