Updated on 3/24 at 11:24 pm PST: The YouTube description now indicates that this is “One of four videos celebrating international poetry during the visit to Iraq of poets from the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop.”
– Domani Spero, DiploPundit
The video [see] was published by U.S. Embassy Baghdad on March 4, 2014 on YouTube. The video includes the English and Arabic text translation of a Russian poem. The speaker is the embassy’s Public Affairs Counselor in Baghdad reciting a poem by Russian poet Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin in Baghdad. The embassy’s AIO also recited a poem last February; can’t say whose work he is recitinghere, can you?
Oh, please don’t get us wrong, we love poetry. We loveMary Oliver’s “Wild Geese“and Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s ”Underwear“and Keats, and Yeats, and Billy Collins, too. But somebody from that building sent us an email asking if this is“really clever use of PD time and money?” So we went and look. The YouTube post is 1:40 min in length, has 256 views, and does not include any context as to why our U.S. diplomat in Baghdad is reciting a Russian poem. What’s the purpose why this video is up, anyways? Was this part of a larger event? Nothing on the embassy’s website indicate [sic] that it is. Was he just feeling it? We can’t say, no explainer with the vid. This could, of course, be part of celebrating poetry month, but the National Poetry Month in the U.S. has been celebrated in April since 1996.
In related news, according toiraqbodycount.org, the March civilian casualties in Iraq is [sic] currently at 749; the year-to-date count is 2,755 deaths.
Well, what do you think – is this “really clever use of PD time and money?”or is this Reality Detachment, a chapter in Peter Van Buren’sfuture novel?
JB NOTE: THE PAO, CONRAD TURNER, SAYS THE FOLLOWING ABOUT PUSHKIN IN THE VIDEO: HE WAS "ALWAYS THROWING BARBS AT THE TSAR AND GETTING HIMSELF INTO TROUBLE." Comment by Tyrus W. Cobb (via LBJ); posted here with Dr. Cobb's kind ok:
Was mesmerized by the "melody" of the poem...could not understand it all. Will listen many times more
Why did he do it? Just speculation, sometimes--as I felt during my two tours in Viet Nam-- sometimes you just needed to get away from all the brutality around you.......and reading Pushkin amidst all the horrors around you might be a badly need escape
Comment by former Public Diplomacy Affairs Officer (Moscow) Philip Brown, posted here with his kind ok:
Just watched the video. I marvel at Conrad Turner's command of the language. Whether one understands is almost incidental; he conveys the beauty of the language.
A Princeton PhD, was a US diplomat for over 20 years, mostly in Eastern Europe, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service in 1997. For the Open World Leadership Center, he speaks with
its delegates from Europe/Eurasia on the topic, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United." Affiliated with Georgetown University for over ten years, he shares ideas with students about public diplomacy.
The papers of his deceased father -- poet and diplomat John L. Brown -- are stored at Georgetown University Special Collections at the Lauinger Library. They are manuscript materials valuable to scholars interested in post-WWII U.S.-European cultural relations.
This blog is dedicated to him, Dr. John L. Brown, a remarkable linguist/humanist who wrote in the Foreign Service Journal (1964) -- years before "soft power" was ever coined -- that "The CAO [Cultural Affairs Officer] soon comes to realize that his job is really a form of love-making and that making love is never really successful unless both partners are participating."