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Poetry Question Stumps McCain

By Juliet Eilperin
NASHVILLE -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) may tout himself as a national security expert, but he's not selling himself as a national poetry expert.

Yesterday's town hall meeting here veered far afield of politics, and instead drifted into pure entertainment as McCain parried with questioners about literature and spiritual inspiration. The singer John Rich, of the country duo Big and Rich, kicked off the event, giving it a fairly casual feel, and the audience echoed that theme with its questions.

At one point, a former Iraq veteran and poet asked McCain "Who is the poet laureate of the state of Arizona, or the U.S. poet laureate, which is a position appointed by the president?"

"I give up," the senator replied, without missing a beat. "You want to tell me?"

"It's Robert Pinsky," the poet replied.

But that's the wrong answer: Pinsky served as the nation's poet laureate between 1997 and 2000. The current (and 15 th ) U.S. poet laureate is Charles Simic, who was born in Belgrade and immigrated to America in 1953, at the age of fifteen.

Furthermore, there's no Arizona poet laureate -- it's one of 12 states that doesn't have a state poet laureate. As of 2006, Arizona's unofficial state poet laureate was Michelle Lawrence.

In another unusual turn, an African American serviceman stood up at the meeting and asked the presumptive GOP nominee to take a picture with him, in part because his relatives are Democrats.

"I'm the only Republican in my whole family," the audience member said, an admission that prompted some laughter and an extended round of applause from the crowd. "I like you. I'm the only one in my whole family who likes you."

McCain said he would be happy to pose for a picture later, adding, "You can tell the members of your family I think you're the smartest one in your family."

By Web Politics Editor  |  June 3, 2008; 9:17 AM ET
Categories:  John McCain  
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