Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Poetry behind the news

Spengler discusses poetry vs rap.

He discusses how poetry is supposed to be subliime.

Actually, poetry is supposed to be a way to help people remember things, which is why poetry precedes prose.

And poets were honored, because they often expressed things beautifully that we more ordinary folks can't.

It says a lot that few people actually read modern Poetry.. Poet Dana Gioia has an essay on this.

American poetry now belongs to a subculture. No longer part of the mainstream of artistic and intellectual life, it has become the specialized occupation of a relatively small and isolated group. Little of the frenetic activity it generates ever reaches outside that closed group....

a lot of his essay is technical, speaking to the intellectual and educated establishment.

But he overlooks a point: Poetry is about using words to express things. And alas, to my not so subtle brain,  a lot of the modern poetry seems to be merely bad prose printed with irregular lines.

That is why, when I need to use a quote, I often find myself quoting famous lines from movies that express thing, knowing people will laugh.

Quick: Say a line from a modern poet that you remember and say spontaneously.

Well, maybe Robert Frost will come to mind: Something there is that doesn't like a wall, and wants it down.

JFK used that line, well known to most of us who studied the poem in high school, to point out the abomination of the Berlin wall. And indeed, many years later, the people themselves tore down that wall.

Similarly, Shakespeare is still quoted. We Band of Brothers speech for example. was used to name the miniseries on World War II.

And today, the eloquent David Warren posts an essay on war and General Mattis, by using the phrase "Cry Havoc etc" as the title of his essay.

but today, we hoi polloi are stuck with movie lines and theme, Such as "Rommel you SOB I read your book".

or "Your'e gonna need a bigger boat". or "I'm Baaack"...

How many more movie lines can you think of off the top of your head?

so maybe there was a method in the madness of the Noble prize going to a songwriter. instead of a writer that no one outside of academia actually reads.

But was it for his skill in words, or because of his politics, I wonder... Because his songs are, alas, already dated: Anti war is fine, but who sang a song of mourning for the boat people's suffering?

Painful are the memories of those
who perished out at sea,
Desperate for a better fate,
In search of freedom where the sea await,
As darkness hides the tiny boat...
full of people filled with hope.
---Stephen Nguyen... 

Alas, pacifism is nice, but not when the bad guys take over and you have to flee... or even when those same bad guys are caught planning to run over your family at a holiday gathering.

so one remembers this quote:

The women of this country learned long ago, those without swords can still die upon them. 

One pundit quipped that Tolkien was probably the widest read poet of the century, because his books are full of poetry. True, but it is lines from his movie that you probably remember.

So when the Pope's guard-dog compared Bishop Burke to Wormtongue, everyone in the world got the joke, even though as I pointed out, he got the analogy wrong.

The most famous "Tolkien" poem was used in TTT by Peter Jackson: where the king, facing death, quotes a poem :"where is the horse and the rider"... but Tolkien actually borrowed that poem from an Anglo saxon poem, the Wanderer.

Where is the horse now?
Where is the rider?
Where is the gold-giver?
Where is the seat at the gathering?
Where now are the feasts in the halls?
Alas for the gleaming cup!
Alas the mailed warrior! 

The irony is that, like most people who actually fought in war, the best anti war stuff is not propaganda but by veterans who saw war for what it was: A horror.

but who also remembered that there is sometimes a reason to fight.

Or as the ancient poet put it:

There is a time for everything
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born
and a time to die,
 a time to plant
and a time to uproot,
a time to kill
and a time to heal, ..

 a time to love
and a time to hate,
 a time for war
and a time for peace.

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