April is National Poetry Month, and hey, that's great. We support poetry here, mainly because we're a bunch of liberal arts pansies. I personally think that if you do one thing with your day today, you should read my favorite Paul Durcan poem.
It it thanks to the Pacifist Viking that I knew Brad Childress, apparently looking to grab onto the Marv Levy's mantle of the Intelligent Football Coach, took part in a Poetry Reading at the new ultra-library in Minneapolis.
I didn't know the poem Childress chose. And that is saying something. I hold a BA in English Literature. I focused on poetry. I know what William Carlos Williams was up to, and what Wallace Stevens was all about. When I saw Nikki Giovanni on the TV last week, my first thought wasn't "Who is that?" but "What the fuck is Nikki Giovanni doing in Blacksburg, VA?"
So I don't feel odd saying that I wasn't familiar with Brad Childress' choice of poem, "The Bridge Builder" by Will Allen Dromgoole*. I had never heard of Dromgoole. But according to Wikipedia (I know, I know)...Will Allen is a Lady!
Her poem "The Bridge Builder" is often reprinted and remains quite popular. It has even graced plaques on real bridges such as the Bellows Falls--Vilas Bridge in Connecticut. It continues to be quoted frequently, usually in a religious context or in writings stressing a moral lesson. It is also a favorite of motivational speakers.
So now it becomes to come clear why a NFL coach would love a specific poem, passed on to him by his coach. It's MOTIVATIONAL! And it teaches a moral lesson. I bet it is quite artistic, though. Just kidding. It's probably crap.
But enough--let's look at the poem, and what it means to Vikings fans.
The Bridge Builder
An old man, going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast, and deep, and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
[OK, so the rhyme scheme is a basic aabb, even if it kills me, rhyme scheme. I already know why I didn't ever study this particular poem. But what is Childress getting from it so far? A man, past his prime, faced with crossing a gulf. No big deal--he's on a highway. Surely there is a bridge?]
The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fears for him;
But he turned, when safe on the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.
[Wait, how did the old man get across if there wasn't any bridge? Was the old man so powerful that he could swim over a chasm with water in it? Wouldn't that require swimming in the air? Again, this poem is crap]
"Old man," said a fellow pilgrim, near,
"You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way;
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide
-Why build you the bridge at the eventide?"
[In Childress' mind, the fellow pilgrim is probably Mike Tomlin. Dammit Tomlin, you don't know that your job when you magically get a job that you don't deserve (like flying over a chasm's 'tide') is to build a bridge for the next person behind you, you stupid ungrateful dick!]
The builder lifted his old gray head:
"Good friend, in the path I have come,"
he said,"There followeth after me today
A youth, whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm, that has been naught to me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him."
Watch out Vikings fans. Brad Childress believes that he is working for the next coach, the "youth, whose feet must pass this way." He sees himself as a bridge-builder, and therefore he can do no wrong. He's working for the future!
As someone who knows poetry, this poem strikes me as the work of an unimaginative dullard. Only hacks write a series of couplets, and only really really big hacks give up that rhyme scheme for only one line. If I were a Vikings fan, I'd be quite worried about the subtext of this poem. Distill these 20 lines, and what you get is, "I'm paving the way for the next guy." Beware of guys building for the future, NFL fans. They are planning on losing today. I'd also be worried that my supposed really super-smart coach picked this poem as his favorite. Bad sign, Viking fans. Your coach ain't very smart.