Lately, one of my guilty pleasures has been reading Rosie O'Donnell's blog, which is essentially daily poetry that she herself writes every day (it might be ghostwritten, but given the quality, I doubt it).
I'll admit the darkness in my heart: I enjoy the blog for the same reason I liked attending my high school reunion, seeing people I never much cared for humiliated. The difference is that although at my reunion I enjoyed the schadenfreude of seeing people broken down by life, I also saw lots of good people whom I wished well and with whom was glad to be reaquainted. Rosie's blog, on the other hand, is nothing but schadenfreude, since every poem I've seen is a disaster.
Besides the nastiness in my own heart, I also have a professional issue here. The nicest thing I can say about Rosie's poetry is that it is not the absolute worst I've ever seen ... but at least she seems to see some value in poetry. It is rather like Oprah's book club, which usually had lightweight choices, but offered those choices to a demographic whose "stories" otherwise were cheesy daytime soaps. In other words, didn't Oprah's book club enrich the culture from the bottom up? And might Rosie's poetry not have the same effect?
Ah, the quandry -- does Rosie take poetry seriously, or does her site encourage others to do the same? My cynical mind suggests not. Consider the evidence:
Pro -- her site contains her own poetry
-- she seems to write on average a poem every day
Con-- her site contains no poetry from other poets
-- her links go to no other poetry pages (unless you count Moby and Melissa Ethridge)
-- her poetry shows no evidence of having read other poetry, lacking rhyme, alliteration, meter, wordplay, interesting enjambments, etc.
-- she seems to think that it is more important to rattle of a poem nearly every day than revising her work.
Am I wrong to think that Rosie is not really interested in poetry at all, but is instead trying to express political messages in non-soundbyte form? If so, it is cleverness akin to Prince changing his name to an unpronouncable symbol in order to get out of a recording contract. After all, could you imagine Bill O'Reilly quoting one of these poems on the air?
If my suspicions are right, they might make Rosie clever, but they wouldn't make her website perform any service to poetry -- so unlike Oprah's book club, it coursens the culture from the bottom up. In that case, I should feel no guilt about wallowing in the badness of it.
On the other hand, maybe Rosie is simply lost. [Warning: armchair psychoanalysis approaching] One biography of her that I saw online claimed that she attended a little college, but dropped out. It is hard to tell from someone's public persona, but she does not seem to have much education of either the formal or informal varieties. On the other hand, she seems to really want to be taken seriously, which I suspect is more the cause of her politicking than any deep-rooted convictions. Maybe she feels self-conscious about her lack of education, and thinks this is a way to make up for it.
If the latter is true, perhaps I should send her one of William Thompson's syllabi, rather than laughing at her. I'd appreciate the input of others on this; please look at Rosie's site and let me know if you think she deserves scorn or credit.