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

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Show Some Respect!

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #112

cento:  Poetry made up of lines borrowed from a combination of established authors, usually resulting in a change in meaning and a humorous effect.

found poem:  A poem created from prose found in a non-poetic context, such as advertising copy, brochures, newspapers, product labels, etc. The lines are arbitrarily rearranged into a form patterned on the rhythm and appearance of poetry.

    Thus, the found poem derives from sources outside literature.  It follows that the cento tends to be drawn from novels, songs, films or other poems.  In both cases, though, they are presented in a poetic form, which may include open form (i.e. free verse or prose poetry).

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #24
    Think of the last few times the public might have been exposed to the toxic radiation of "poetry".  In 2009 we saw Elizabeth Alexander's crowd-clearing "Praise Song for The Day", which gave birth to Rule #24.  This was followed up four years later with Richard Blanco's "One Today", which seems to have taken a day to deliver.  More recently, people may have been trolled by Frederick Seidel's "The Ballad of Ferguson, Missouri".  Before him, Kenneth Goldsmith was reading baseball commentary and newspaper clippings to the POTUS and First Lady.

    "Why call raw prose poetry?" you ask.  "Doesn't prose sell a thousand times better?"

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #25
     Yes, but not if it is tedious.  Anything as banal as Seidel's braindroppings or Goldsmith's mind-numbingly inartistic random text is too dull for prose;  it can only be sold to pseudo-sophisticates as "poetry".  In fact, substitute "the actual words" for "reading the actual work" and this becomes the very definition of prose:

    "His work is about the ideas (read:  Content Regency) and discussions that it generates (read:  offense or antagonism it provokes), rather than about reading the actual work the actual words.

     Let's not miss the progression here.  I'll grant you that Ms. Alexander and Mr. Blanco are both profoundly lazy, untalented individuals but at least they aren't trolls.  They didn't mean to permanently lower our metabolisms by boring us stiff¹. 

     More disturbing is the defeatist, exploitative attitude toward poetry's moribund condition. 

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #19
    Mr. Goldsmith says:  "One of the great tragedies of poets is that they assume they are being read, and they are not. So why not assume there will be no readership and give great concepts to think about instead?"

    In essence, he has reduced Rule #19 to the absurd.  The implication is that since Nobody Reads Poetry it doesn't matter how bad it is.  We can't argue with that logic and, sadly, we must concede that this is the prevailing [anti-]aesthetic today.  It is a cornerstone of Convenient Poetics.  As for what qualify as "great concepts", we won't bother arguing with someone who seems to think he invented the found poem and that excerpting from sports broadcasts and newspapers constitutes plagiarism.  [It was legal when Lenny Bruce did it in the early 1960s and remains so today.] 

    The flaw in his "thinking" is that it applies general truths (e.g. Rule #19, Nobody Reads Poetry) not just to specific circumstances but to ones known to be exceptional.  Unfortunately, folks did hear those inaugural poems.  Many did read [about] Seidel trivializing the tragedy at Ferguson.  If not the people, their elected representatives in Washington did have to suffer through Goldsmith's silliness.  There was not a single line of poetry in any of the four presentations but the art form was publicly humiliated nonetheless.

    Looking at it now, we wouldn't guess that poetry was once alive and vibrant within our culture.  Still, there is something cowardly and, yes, sacrilegious about kicking its corpse.


¹ - Almost literally so, given the temperature.

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