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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Comments on Echo Chamber

Echo Chamber

of this you can be sure
             no need to ignore
perhaps in time
            when clock does chime
the slime no more on outroads
or sleet inroads                                  out there
all  clean...again         swear

each day an apple in gullet
             doc at bay
                         nuh bills to pay
yea, man
            joke and poke
                        frolic and graze
lambs out there...catnip and tulips  frowns ..... tears... barbwiremusement        wind in trees stiff as a board     airconden..sir  enslaved
Look
             they      dance            prance
no cry...no sigh...life too short for strife

Manup
            put      gun      knife  away
                        yuh  must be some gallowsbait or redneck  chicken
                                    or  some brainless centipede wuh yuh say
Such a handsome man born in may
                                                             ray the name on display
vagrant slapping tar
                        headfull of river tamarinds sprouting
like some backyard spinach patch
            keeping him in a fray...         driftwood on some bay
where is humanity? eyes seem to say to church bell-goers with deaf ears
           
Too many sad nights
            watching orchestrated fights
                        without keeping score           boxer falls to the floor
face full of sweat and gore
                                     the crowd beehive for exitdoor
            not wanting
                                    to be bombed anymore
 yahall should know
 echo is  hello...on rebound...every time
                        the persistence of the chime
            when a sound is dropped
                        after its source has stopped...the distance replies
to  the echo sounds of imagist rebound
of Cummings with the Ezra Pound
of Frost on Justice standing on  Virginia  or     Woolf
they rode high on the individuality express
lyrically bulldozing those fixed blocks of measured thought
blooming in Victorian gardens
full of romantic musings

Readers who are accustomed reading poems written in traditional forms known as Fixed From, Closed Form and Classical Forms would find the poem “Echo Chamber” does not fit the mold of traditional form because of its fragmented style and lacks conciseness. This poem has broken all the rules governing Fixed Form poetry with respect to rhyme scheme pattern, meter, syllable count, syntax, punctuation, spelling, stanzaic arrangements and is devoid of a consistent pattern; this is because it is written Free Verse also referred to as Open Form and Non-Conformist Poetry. However, it must be said of Free Verse that in spite of its rhyming pattern it fosters a rhythmic cadence that relies on natural speech.

Dylan Thomas the modernist poet sought to point out the free spirited nature of Free Verse that thrive on the concept of individuality and not on the slavish dictates of traditional forms of poetry in a poem entitled “A Letter to My Aunt” in Free Verse discussed the correct approach to modernist poetry as shown below:


A Letter to My Aunt
(Dylan Thomas)


To you, my aunt, who would explore
The literary Chankley Bore,
The paths are hard, for you are not
A literary Hottentot
But just a kind and cultured dame
Who knows not Eliot (to her shame).
Fie on you, aunt, that you should see
No genius in David G.,
No elemental form and sound
In T.S.E. and Ezra Pound.
Fie on you, aunt! I'll show you how
To elevate your middle brow,
And how to scale and see the sights
From modernist Parnassian heights.

First buy a hat, no Paris model
But one the Swiss wear when they yodel,
A bowler thing with one or two
Feathers to conceal the view;
And then in sandals walk the street
(All modern painters use their feet
For painting, on their canvas strips,
Their wives or mothers, minus hips).

Perhaps it would be best if you
Created something very new,
A dirty novel done in Erse
Or written backwards in Welsh verse,
Or paintings on the backs of vests,
Or Sanskrit psalms on lepers' chests.
But if this proved imposs-i-ble
Perhaps it would be just as well,
For you could then write what you please,
And modern verse is done with ease.



Do not forget that 'limpet' rhymes
With 'strumpet' in these troubled times,
And commas are the worst of crimes;
Few understand the works of Cummings,
And few James Joyce's mental slummings,
And few young Auden's coded chatter;
But then it is the few that matter.
Never be lucid, never state,
If you would be regarded great,
The simplest thought or sentiment,
(For thought, we know, is decadent);
Never omit such vital words
As belly, genitals and -----,
For these are things that play a part
(And what a part) in all good art.
Remember this: each rose is wormy,
And every lovely woman's germy;
Remember this: that love depends
On how the Gallic letter bends;
Remember, too, that life is hell
And even heaven has a smell
Of putrefying angels who
Make deadly whoopee in the blue.
These things remembered, what can stop
A poet going to the top?

A final word: before you start
The convulsions of your art,
Remove your brains, take out your heart;
Minus these curses, you can be
A genius like David G.

Take courage, aunt, and send your stuff
To Geoffrey Grigson with my luff,
And may I yet live to admire
How well your poems light the fire.


Free Verse illustrates a radical disconnect from classical brands of poetic expression, started by a band of maverick poets who were influenced by the imagist movement of 1912. Their mission statement was couched under the banner of “make it new”. It came across the Atlantic to America as an import from the British modernist poetry genre around the 19th and early 20th centuries. E. E. Cummings, James Joyce Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams T. S. Eliot, and Langston Hughes, just to mention a few, embossed this new poetic art form.

Modernist poetry showed up in 1890 and 1970 in the context of Modernism. Schools within it included imagism and the British Poetry Revival. Ezra Pound played his role in the onslaught on Fixed Form poetry. Here are two poems selected as examples from his stockpile of Open Form poetry:

A Pact

I make a pact with you, Walt Whitman -
I have detested you long enough.
I come to you as a grown child
Who has had a pig-headed father;
I am old enough now to make friends.
It was you that broke the new wood,
Now is a time for carving.
We have one sap and one root -
Let there be commerce between us

(by Ezra Pound )

A Girl

The tree has entered my hands,
The sap has ascended my arms,
The tree has grown in my breast -
Downward,
The branches grow out of me, like arms.

Tree you are,
Moss you are,
You are violets with wind above them.
A child - so high - you are,
And all this is folly to the world. 

(by Ezra Pound)

The nature of Modernism in poetry is such that it broke with the immediate past, and sought to “make it new” by throwing the Classical Form of poetry under the bus. Objectivity and impersonality drove the engines of Modernist poetry with a vengeance. Modernist poets who in addition to abandoning Fixed Form rules in poetry believed it was essential to by-past poetry that elevated the personal toward poetry that projected intellectual expression about the world around mankind, even though at times they reverted to the personal like for example in the case  when T. S. Eliot did so in “Four  Quartets”.  The concern at this moment is not to provide an analysis of the four poems that make-up “Four Quartets” per se but to focus on the element of form as they are written down by the poet. No one can escape the fact that T. S. Eliot favored the Free Verse format when sharing his poetic thoughts. The excerpt from “Burnt Norton” the first poem in the set of four poems in “Four Quartets” provides an example as follows:

Burnt Norton
T. S. Eliot
                 
Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them. The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation,
The crying shadow in the funeral dance,
The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.

Edward Estlin Cummings wrote Free Verse poetry too.  An example of this is shown in his poem “I Will Wade Out” as follows:

I Will Wade Out

i will wade out
                        till my thighs are steeped in burning flowers
I will take the sun in my mouth
and leap into the ripe air
                                       Alive
                                                 with closed eyes
to dash against darkness
                                       in the sleeping curves of my body
Shall enter fingers of smooth mastery
with chasteness of sea-girls
                                            Will i complete the mystery
                                            of my flesh
I will rise
               After a thousand years
lipping
flowers
             And set my teeth in the silver of the moon

Cummings had this to say in defense of Free Verse; “so far as I am concerned, poetry and every other art form was, is, and forever will be strictly and distinctly a question of individuality”. Here, Cummings opined that poets should be left to their own devices when creating poetry without a blueprint that comes in the form of Close Form poetry. He was not alone in this because other Modernist poets were of the same persuasion.

Langston Hughes created his jazzy poems in Free Verse with heaps of symbolism as he stretched his poetic voice to speak of freedom and the struggles of ‘black America’ still relevant in 21st century America as far as people of color is concerned. Here are three examples bearing the titles “Bass Spittoons”, “Bound No’th Blues” “As I Grow Older” from his poetic works written in Free Verse shown below:

Brass Spittoons

Clean the spittoons, boy. 
Detroit, 
Chicago, 
Atlantic City, 
Palm Beach. 
Clean the spittoons. 
The steam in hotel kitchens, 
And the smoke in hotel lobbies, 
And the slime in hotel spittoons: 
Part of my life. 
Hey, boy! 
A nickel, 
A dime, 
A dollar, 
Two dollars a day. 
Hey, boy! 
A nickel, 
A dime, 
A dollar, 
Two dollars 
Buy shoes for the baby. 
House rent to pay. 
Gin on Saturday, 
Church on Sunday. 
My God! 
Babies and gin and church 
And women and Sunday 
All mixed with dimes and 
Dollars and clean spittoons 
And house rent to pay. 
Hey, boy! 
A bright bowl of brass is beautiful to the Lord. 
Bright polished brass like the cymbals 
Of King David’s dancers, 
Like the wine cups of Solomon. 
Hey, boy! 
A clean spittoon on the altar of the Lord. 
A clean bright spittoon all newly polished— 
At least I can offer that. 
Com’mere, boy! 

(Langston Hughes)


 Bound No’th Blues

Goin’ down the road, Lawd,
Goin’ down the road.
Down the road, Lawd,
Way,way down the road.
Got to find somebody
To help me carry this load. 
Road’s in front o’ me,
Nothin’ to do but walk.
Road’s in front of me,
Walk…an’ walk…an’ walk.
I’d like to meet a good friend
To come along an’ talk. 
Hates to be lonely,
Lawd, I hates to be sad.
Says I hates to be lonely,
Hates to be lonely an’ sad,
But ever friend you finds seems
Like they try to do you bad. 
Road, road, road, O!
Road, road…road…road, road!
Road, road, road, O!
On the no’thern road.
These Mississippi towns ain’t
Fit fer a hoppin’ toad

 (Langston Hughes)


As I Grew Older

It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun-
My dream.
And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky-
The wall.
Shadow.
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!

(Langston Hughes)

William Carlos Williams was an American poet and physician born in 1883 and died in 1963. He lived his life in an era when poets rose up against the ideology of conformist poets. He embraced the notion of individuality in his poetic undertakings. No surprise that his poems reflected modernistic and imagistic elements; a stark break from classical poetic forms and Victorian sentimentalism.  The evidence of his non-conformist ideology in English Language poetry is provided in poems he wrote and from which the following examples are provided below: 

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

(William Carlos Williams)


The Shadow

Soft as the bed in the earth
Where a stone has lain—
So soft, so smooth and so cool,
Spring closes me in
With her arms and her hands.

Rich as the smell
Of new earth on a stone,
That has lain, breathing
The damp through its pores—
Spring closes me in
With her blossomy hair;
Brings dark to my eyes.      (William Carlos Williams)

The Spouts

In this world of
as fine a pair of breasts
as ever I saw
the fountain in
Madison Square
spouts up of water
a white tree
that dies and lives
as the rocking water
in the basin
turns from the stonerim
back upon the jet
and rising there
reflectively drops down again

(William Carlos Williams)


"Libertad! Igualdad! Fraternidad!"

You sullen pig of a man
you force me into the mud
with your stinking ash-cart!

Brother!
--if we were rich
we'd stick our chests out
and hold our heads high!

It is dreams that have destroyed us.

There is no more pride
in horses or in rein holding.
We sit hunched together brooding
our fate.

Well--
all things turn bitter in the end
whether you choose the right or
the left way
and--
dreams are not a bad thing.

(William Carlos Williams)

This 20th century poet and novelist James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was one year older than William Carlos Williams having been born on February 2, 1882 in Rathgar, Republic of Ireland. He died in 1941. He was in league with contemporaries of his time in denouncing Conformism in English Language poetic forms. Therefore, no surprise to find his poems reflected the modernist avant-garde flavor. So strong was he in non-conformist belief that it became the driving force that propelled him to break away from Catholicism because he believed poets were the repositories of genuine spiritual life; priests were mere usurpers. His non-conformist leanings are reflected in his poetic works written in different styles he compartmentalized under such headings of Chamber Music 1907, a collection of love poems; Pomes Penyeach in 1927; Collected Poems in 1936. The non-conformist leanings of James Joyce are reflected in his poetic works as seen in the following exemplars below:  

A Flower Given to My Daughter

Frail the white rose and frail are
Her hands that gave
Whose soul is sere and paler
Than time's wan wave.

Rosefrail and fair -- yet frailest
A wonder wild
In gentle eyes thou veilest,
My blueveined child.

(James Joyce)


Ecce Puer

Of the dark past
A child is born;
With joy and grief
My heart is torn.

Calm in his cradle
The living lies.
May love and mercy
Unclose his eyes!

Young life is breathed
On the glass;
The world that was not
Comes to pass.

A child is sleeping:
An old man gone.
O, father forsaken,
Forgive your son!

(James Joyce)

Who Goes Amid the Green Wood

Who goes amid the green wood
With springtide all adorning her?
Who goes amid the merry green wood
To make it merrier?

Who passes in the sunlight
By ways that know the light footfall?
Who passes in the sweet sunlight
With mien so virginal?

The ways of all the woodland
Gleam with a soft and golden fire -- -
For whom does all the sunny woodland
Carry so brave attire?

O, it is for my true love
The woods their rich apparel wear -- -
O, it is for my own true love,
That is so young and fair.

(James Joyce)

Modernist poets do not follow any rules when they are composing their poems. They are of the view that poetic creations must come from focusing on the process of poetry, not from what the words in the poem actually say. Aesthetic thought is not revered by non-conformist poets.  When asked what poetic structure influences my poetic compositions, I responded that my forte is structured poetry but I write in unstructured poems as well.  I believe in a balance diet in every facet of my life.

It seems that the American poetic world is growing tired of process driven poetry (non-compliant forms) and aesthetic thought in poetry is being revisited under the banner of “New Formalism” which sprung up in the late 20th and early 21st century, a movement that champions a return to rhyme and meter in poetry. This has fuel the war of words between Free Verse fans and New Formalism fans.

The bee in the bonnet that is buzzing in the Free Verse camp is that New Formalism is retrogressive because it favors traditional metrical compliance over progressive and experimental modes of Free Verse. This back and forth spattering in the poetic world is unnecessary because both ideologies have legitimate place in poetic literature. However, experimentation in poetry is at its best when structures in formal versification are well mastered and understood before experimentation on avant-garde poetry is undertaken. A poet who only writes free verse but does not know the rudiments of structured poetry or have the ability to write a structured poem how such a poet can carry out experimentation in poetry authoritatively? Is the babbling of the tongue to be construed as poetry of excellence? The audience decides. No poetic structure is free of rules. Free Verse has rules to follow; it is not “free” in the true sense of the word. It is free because it does not adhere to the rules governing Traditional forms of versification; and that’s what free means in the world of poetry.

True freedom in words, thought and deed is driven by individualism that seeks new ways of adapting the original (the time-tested) without the eradication of its blueprint. Every new generation of poets yearn to know their true poetic roots from which they can advance their individuality in intellectual and non-intellectual pursuits; pseudo-poetic roots alone will not cut the mustard. Every generation needs to know what is authentic and what is not...when shifting the pendulum. A true poet is versatile, not a slave to one set of poetic ideology.


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Natural disasters whenever and wherever they occur impact on all of our lives. The Good Book says we are our brothers and sisters keepers lead by the Holy Spirit. Hence, we must do our part when disaster shows its ugly face. Any assistance, great or small, given from generous and loving hearts has equal weight. I'm passing on this information I received that Barbadians can go to First Caribbean Bank to donate to the Disaster Relief Fund for Haiti. The banking information is shown below:

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