Poem of the Week, by Kay Ryan

IMG_0447People look at me with confusion when I tell them I’m deeply wary of charismatic people, with charisma defined in the broad sense as “a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure (such as a political leader).” But wait, isn’t charisma charming, magnetic, powerful? Sometimes. And sometimes it’s a mask for manipulation, a bottomless need for adulation, attention, look at me look at me look at me, take care of me and do as I say because I am more important than you. Charismatic people so often go unchecked, no matter their behavior, because a) people are drawn to them by that magnetic personality and b) charismatic people often snap at anyone who calls them out on their behavior, in a vicious, malevolent and wildly cruel way. 

Which means that the only thing to do is exactly that: call them on their behavior. Not after seventy years of uncontrolled power-grabbing, but the first time it happens. When I began (only a few years ago, sadly) to call people on their awful, manipulative behavior –sometimes only in my own mind and sometimes with a fake-it-till-you-make-it calm in public– the relief was immediate and enormous. We’re all in this world together, friends. Don’t stand for bad behavior. Call it when you see it, and tell your elected employees to call it when they see it. Otherwise we end up exactly where we are in this country, right now, with unchecked petty tyrants trying to take down our democracy. I turn to this poem below, by the strange and wondrous poet Kay Ryan, for strength.


Relief, by Kay Ryan

We know it is close
to something lofty.
Simply getting over being sick
or finding lost property
has in it the leap,
the purse, the quick humility
of witnessing a birth–
how love seeps up
and retakes the earth.
There is a dreamy
wading feeling to your walk
inside the current
of restored riches,
clocks set back,
disasters averted.


​Fo​r more information on Kay Ryan, please click here.

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  1. Maureen Cruise · September 4, 2017

    “If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” — Carl Sagan

    Thanks for the excellent message about “charisma” You have written about part of the textbook version of a “sociopath” personality disorder. First attribute is their Charisma….they are narcissists with no conscience, chronic liars, manipulative and play the pity them card to excuse malevolent behavior. They like power over others and have no genuine human feeling. They tend to be in political office and in charge of institutions and businesses because power. dominance over others and attention are what they live for….. Sadly most people don’t realize this, they really like these folks, until they themselves are damaged.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. alisonmcghee · September 5, 2017

    Maureen, your description sounds exactly right, in my experience. It’s astounding how far people like this get in life, mostly because no one stands up to them. Thank you.


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