The Mirror

Since When Is Politico’s Dylan Byers A Good Judge Of Poetry?

Betsy Rothstein Gossip blogger
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Politico‘s amateur poet Dylan Byers is not too keen on anyone insulting the works of author Maya Angelou on the day of her death. She passed away this morning.

“Here’s the dumbest thing you’ll read today,” he declared, linking to a story in National Review by Tim Cavanaugh, previously Executive Editor at The Daily Caller. (We crossed paths for a brief time before he departed for the magazine.)

In his story, titled “RIP, Maya Angelou, Proud Gun Owner And User,” Cavanaugh writes about her rise to fame, despite her “unspectacular wisdom of the type that is said to boost childrens’ self-esteem.”

Cavanaugh praises and insults her in the same breath. He’s honest about his ambivalent feelings about her work. In a conservative or a liberal publication would we want anything less? “I will confess that Angelou’s writings did not generally keep me up reading all night, but she had an impressive career and earned celebrity in a business — poetry — that is not known for catapulting its practitioners to megastardom,” he wrote.

Who can blame Byers for being outraged? Especially since his own poetic writings clearly rival those of Angelou. Have you seen “And the wondering” — a dramatic reading of Byers’, ahem, literary blog performed by The Daily Caller‘s Will Rahn? (Sure, he’s one of my editors, but without a trace of ass kissing, I can honestly say that aside from those blooper reels on MSNBC’s Al Sharpton, this is among the funnier things I’ve watched in the past few years.)

Others jumped on Byers’ bandwagon. John Cole, a political cartoonist for the Times-Tribune in Scranton, Pa., wrote, “So how’s that minority outreach going, conservatives?” And self-described “committed liberal” Lee John remarked, “I don’t always agree with you, but in THIS ugly travesty, YES!” John was pretty emotional about the whole thing. “My wife cried today when I told her Maya Angelou had died. Her voice touched a lot of people–and, deeply.” he shared “I hope THAT piece of crap can be ignored–by ALL!”

It’s tough to say what Byers’ precise critique is since he didn’t say (and didn’t respond to an email request about it). Cavanaugh goes on to talk about Angelou’s gun ownership and that time she fired at a stranger through her door, which may, in fact, be what’s causing the angst of Byers and his Twitter cronies.

As college-minded Byers might say, poetically (while high), oh, the wondering.

Update: Cavanagh replied to my request for comment by email, saying, “As I said, Maya Angelou was a celebrated poet and literary celebrity. To point out that she was also an unapologetic gun owner and user, and that she deplored Race To the Top and standardized testing, is to provide even more evidence in her favor. I have not looked into any of her books in many years, and I would bet few of the people who are mad at me today have either. Anybody who thinks admitting that is a vicious attack should take a page from Angelou’s own book. I seem to recall she herself thought the Grier parody was damn funny. Because it was. So take that, haters: I come not to bury Maya Angelou but to praise David Alan Grier.”