Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Next Poem

    In "Anniversary" we noted the passage of a half century since the last iconic poem.  It is fun to speculate what the next one will look like.  Chances are good that it will start out as a pivotal scene in a television show or feature film or as a funereal or inaugural poem.  Production values may vary from someone hitting a webcam "ON" button up to the professional quality seen in the VidLit Contest entries.  Of two things we can be sure:  it will appear on YouTube sooner or later and it will be well performed.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #35
    It's quite likely that the writing technique won't be very good, especially to purists like myself.  The three best known poems of the 20th Century certainly weren't:  "In Flanders Fields", "High Flight" and the last iconic poem, the aforementioned Nantucket limerick.  If we look at the six best contemporary poems we can infer what would prevent their success in a sound-byte, instant gratification culture steeped in reality melodramas and solipsistic generational narcissism.  That the pieces aren't performed is, itself, a deal breaker.  Some involve events that occurred more than 5 days ago.  Terms like "limn", "ichor", and "fasces" as well as places like Mapocho [River] and Valparaiso may be a little too esoteric for many anglophones these days.  All six poems and their presentations are too subtle for today's impatient viewer.  All might make good second exposures to that poet's work, though.

     Poetry is what the audience sees and hears, not what authors and editors are unable to write, perform or produce well.  Having expended almost a century demonstrating that poetry without performance goes nowhere, it strikes me that many poets don't understand what this arcane skill involves.

     Consider Andy Garcia's excerpt from "La Cogida y la Muerte", the first part of "Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías":

    Do we really need to speak Spanish to appreciate the distinction between the above and this:

    ...or, heaven forfend, the following assault on sensibility and taste?

    Poets are hardly the only offenders, as I saw in a recent thread on Facebook.

    Alison Krauss's rendition of Bob Dylan's "I Believe In You" is pitch perfect singing but there is a world of difference between a song well sung and an experience well imparted.  No other renditions involve better singing, including the orchestrated Sinéad O'Connors version, but some are better performances, even though none comes close to Bob Dylan's original

     It pains this fan to criticize Alison Krauss, especially since I seem to be echoing every teenaged Corazoner who ever screamed "Speak from the heart!" in the forlorn hope that high volume angst might cover up ghastly material.  Frankly, if the singer's voice doesn't crack, as Dylan's did in studio, and if no one else tears up during this song the singer should be ass-kicked off the stage.

    Hey, if you can't do passion, then don't.  Or learn.  Seriously.  Singing may involve nothing more than hitting the right notes but performing is another matter entirely.

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