gershon hepner

Rookie - 10 Points (5 3 38 / leipzig)

Compassionate Misanthrope - Poem by gershon hepner

Compassionate, the misanthrope
pours our her heart complaining that
she finds it very hard to cope
with men the proletariat
produces, and has trouble, too,
with other people not her taste,
including bourgeois people who
appear to be of space a waste.

Yet don’t believe that she’s a bitch,
for she’s prepared to spend her time
with men who’re powerful and rich,
and probably will help her climb
compassionately to the top,
where in the distance her myopic
admirers with compassion drop
objections that are misanthropic.

Mark Leibovich (“In the ’60’s, a Future Candidate Poured Her Heart Out in Letters, ” NYT, July 29,20007) writes about Hillary Clinton’s correspondence while she was an undergraduate at Wellesley with John Peavoy. They were high school friends in Park Ridge, Ill., from which she went to Wellesley while he went to Princeton. He is now living out his life in contented obscurity as an English professor at Scripps College, a small women’s school in Southern California where he has taught since 1977:

They were high school friends from Park Ridge, Ill., both high achievers headed East to college. John Peavoy was a bookish film buff bound for Princeton, Hillary Rodham a driven, civic-minded Republican going off to Wellesley. They were not especially close, but they found each other smart and interesting and said they would try to keep in touch. Which they did, prodigiously, exchanging dozens of letters between the late summer of 1965 and the spring of 1969. Ms. Rodham’s 30 dispatches are by turns angst-ridden and prosaic, glib and brooding, anguished and ebullient — a rare unfiltered look into the head and heart of a future first lady and senator and would-be president. Their private expressiveness stands in sharp contrast to the ever-disciplined political persona she presents to the public now. “Since Xmas vacation, I’ve gone through three and a half metamorphoses and am beginning to feel as though there is a smorgasbord of personalities spread before me, ” Ms. Rodham wrote to Mr. Peavoy in April 1967. “So far, I’ve used alienated academic, involved pseudo-hippie, educational and social reformer and one-half of withdrawn simplicity.” Befitting college students of any era, the letters are also self-absorbed and revelatory, missives from an unformed and vulnerable striver who had, in her own words, “not yet reconciled myself to the fate of not being the star.”…
Ms. Rodham’s letters are written in a tight, flowing script with near-impeccable spelling and punctuation. Ever the pleaser, she frequently begins them with an apology that it had taken her so long to respond. She praises Mr. Peavoy’s missives while disparaging her own (“my usual drivel”) and signs off with a simple “Hillary, ” except for the occasional “H” or “Me.”As one would expect of letters written during college, Ms. Rodham’s letters display an evolution in sophistication, viewpoint and intellectual focus. One existential theme that recurs throughout is that Ms. Rodham views herself as an “actor, ” meaning a student activist committed to a life of civic action, which she contrasts with Mr. Peavoy, who, in her view, is more of an outside critic, or “reactor.” “Are you satisfied with the part you have cast yourself in? ” she asks Mr. Peavoy in April 1966. “It seems that you have decided to become a reactor rather than actor — everything around will determine your life.” She is mildly patronizing if not scornful, as she encourages her friend to “try-out” for life. She quotes from “Doctor Zhivago, ” “Man is born to live, not prepare for life, ” and signs the letter “Me” (“the world’s saddest word, ” she adds parenthetically) . Ms. Rodham becomes expansive and wistful when discussing the nature of leadership and public service, and how the validation of serving others can be a substitute for self-directed wisdom. “If people react to you in the role of answer bestower then quite possibly you are, ” she writes in a letter postmarked Nov.15,1967, and continues in this vein for another page before changing the subject to what Mr. Peavoy plans to do the following weekend. Ms. Rodham’s dispatches indicate a steady separation from Park Ridge, her old friends and her family, notably her strict father. She seethes at her parents’ refusal to let her spend a weekend in New York (“Their reasons — money, fear of the city, they think I’ve been running around too much, etc. — are ridiculous”) and fantasizes about spending the summer between her sophomore and junior years in Africa, only to dismiss the notion, envisioning “the scene with my father.” While home on a break in February of her junior year, Ms. Rodham bemoans “the communication chasm” that has opened within her family. “I feel like I’m losing the top of my head, ” she complains, describing an argument raging in the next room between — “for a change” — her father and one of her brothers. “God, I feel so divorced from Park Ridge, parents, home, the entire unreality of middle class America, ” she says. “This all sounds so predictable, but it’s true.”


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Poem Submitted: Sunday, July 29, 2007

Poem Edited: Friday, March 25, 2011

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