Modal Difficulty and Political Speech

The Slate article “The Poetry of Sarah Palin” put me in mind of Donald Rumsfeld’s poetry (compiled by the same Slate writer):

A Confession

Once in a while,
I’m standing here, doing something.
And I think,
“What in the world am I doing here?”
It’s a big surprise.

and Jean Chrétien’s:

A Proof is a Proof

What kind of a proof?
It’s a proof.
A proof is a proof.
And when you have a good proof,
it’s because it’s proven.

(which is a bit unfair as a criticism, since English isn’t his first language). It was online awhile back formatted as a poem, from memory as above (the quote isn’t from memory – it’s all over the damn place). I wish I could find the original link.

I’m not so much interested in the politics of these satirical pieces (which made me laugh despite how humourless I’m about to sound), but about what they say about the public conception of poetry. The underlying assumptions seem to be (a) that anything broken up into lines is poetry and (b) that poets talk funny, and that’s pretty much all there is to it. What the satirists are really saying is that these politicians talk a non-standard version of English from which they (the satirists) suffer a modal difficulty – and if they (the politicians) aren’t speaking in prose, well, what’s left? It must be poetry. There’s no third thing, right?

There’s a possible third thing: nonsense. (Ask me to define the difference between poetry and nonsense and I’ll have to refer to that old saw: I know it when I see it. I doubt I could come up with a definition which includes Wallace Stevens and Wesley Willis but excludes the above. I can only hope you all know what I’m talking about.) But these politicians aren’t speaking nonsense – what they’re saying makes sense if you can just ignore their bizarre sentence structure – so if it isn’t (quite) prose and it isn’t (quite) poetry and it isn’t (quite) nonsense, what is it?