Saturday, November 24, 2007

Archives Project: STL #47.4

Title: Test of Poetry
Description: Test of Poetry 2.16-25
Date: 31 March 2005

I had the idea of doing a sort of test of poetry with the Don Allen New American Poetry 1945-1960 which I'm reading right now. I'd invent my own vocabulary, or perhaps adopt it from the corresponding poetics section. It's an interesting and uneven selection. There's great Olson and Duncan (as far as I am right now) but also really subpar work compared to what the pair did in the 1960s. There's also a good number of forgotten poets and dated material from those that are remembered--this is important material for an ongoing poetic education. (Why? To make measurements apart from standards of excellence? To question those very standards?)

I don't have reliable Internet at home, so while I'm writing a few of these measurements everysooften I post much less frequently. In this installment I become distracted from the exhibits toward Z's curatorial practice.

16a. Robt Herrick, “Violets” Uses a varied meter with great deal of grace: Four quatrains abba, the 1st line of each trochee, trochee, ampribrach (I think: .#.), the second and third line single anapests, and the last an iamb and amphibrach. Grade: A

16b. Herrick, “To Keep a True Lent” A number of semantically unimportant stresses, though I do feel informed by the theological explanation. I simply don’t see the “righteous indignation” that Z detects. Grade: B-

17a. Pope’s Dunciad. The first of 5 examples of discourse. I’m not sure what he means, but he does also mention he sees all 5 as satire, this of epic invocation. I’ll read it someday. Grade:B+

17b. George Crabbe. Inebriety. A parody of Pope. Not good and I don’t get the point: C-

17c. Rochester, A Letter. “Your country drinking breath’s enough to kill/ Sour ale corrected with a lemon-peel…” Grade: B

17d. Rochester, Letter. Grade:B

17e. T.S. Eliot, Waste Land. The “What are you thinking of?” bit, not great representation of the whole, which I like more after teaching it twice. Z’s glosses suggest that the keyword “discourse” refers to the deploying of information: satire better when particular the case in point. grade: A

18a. George Crabbe, The Borough. Many of Z’s examples center on Greek hell as portrayed by Homer (which he draws on in “A”-1 as well). This passage riffs on the appearance of the newly dead in Hades, where the denizens beseech the him for news of the world before showing him their world. Crabbe goes at some length to compare this with the poet’s job. Grade: B+

18b. Wordsworth, Laodamia. Is Z the anti-Wordsworth? The beginning of this passage has emotions making direct perception of the world. But as the note tells us, “only objectified emotion endures.” This text might help a reading of “Sincerity and Objectification.” Grade C

19a Robert Burns, A Winter Night. I suppose that the energy at question is the winter storm summoned here-in. Although Burns is one of the real finds of this project for me, this is doesn’t work for me. grade: B-

19b Ibid. Ditto. Actually, this is a bit worse, as he resorts to Everyman kind of personification. Grade: C

19c Burns, For A’ That and A’ That More in line with the Burns I’m coming to like. Limits of power mirroring limits of language. Grade: B+

20a. Shelley, Indian Serenade. Shelley, deep feeler that he is, is critiqued for creating a “lull of sound” with lines like “I arise from dreams of thee/In the first sweet sleep of night.” (The first lines which establish the meter ../ ./ ./, though not afraid of variation) True, some lines are filler, like “And the stars were shining bright” Grade: B+

20b. Hopkins, Moonrise. After reading these exhibits, I still don’t know what duration is. I only have a vague notion of Bergson, but I don’t think that’s it. Z’s argument is that this is semantically denser than Shelley, that “many shades of meaing [are] packed into one word.” Z’s critical eye is local; he makes judgment at the level of the line, though judgments are inevitable instinctive, or at least unsupported. This sounds like his praise of Rez in ‘Sincerity and Objectification”: “The next line is a masterful example of the visual imagination forming a relation of images of facts hitherto unrelated so that the result is a new experience.” Sure, the line he is admiring is nice (“The moon, dwindled and thinned to the fringe of a fingernail held to the candle,”) but it’s only the 2nd line, so how could these “facts” not be “hitherto unrelated.” The “scientific” criticism of Z and Pound leave out a lot of evidence. Grade: A (the music is so much more energetic )

21a. Browning The Ring and the Book. The impact of a part of a long poem might be thought to be dependent on its relation to the whole, but LZ obviously doesn’t think so. I don’t get much from this excerpt, though I’m intrigued by the observation that the “emotional quality of good poetry is founded on exact observation which is often a combination of humor plus sense.” Satire as Sincerity. Grade:C

22b. Landor Epithamalion. "Walter’s Savage Satire" reads the headline. “Pounds, shilling and pence/And shrewd sober sense/Have clapt the straight waistcoat on”is only the set up for “The cord’s fatal jerk/Has done its last work/And the noose is now slipped upon”

22a Browning, Pippa Passes. There was another section of this poem I liked as well. This is getting old, but I’d like to have a frame for this excerpt. Grade: B

22b Swinburne. Chorus from Atalanta. There is in fact no movement, just swirling about. Z points out for similes for a woman in 2 lines, yet the vehicles are not likened to one another. grade: C

23a. Skelton, “To Mistress Margaret Hussey.” The recurrence of a refrain that makes no sense to me (“Gentle as a falcon/Or a hawk of the tower”—birds of prey are gentle?) doesn’t do much for me. grade: C

23b.Hardy “Timing Her” One of the most contemporary things LZ says: “Poetry does not arise and exist in a vacuum. It is one of the arts—sometimes individual, sometimes collective in origin—and reflects economic and social status of the peoples; their language habits arising out of everyday matter of fact” His comments gesture toward a materialist poetics, and he even thinks Hardy’s piece engages physical cues of repetition used by “folk” to mark sincerity. It's a quick enjoyable poem that he pegs right as a jig. Grade B

24a Anon. “I have a gentil cok” I suspect there’s a sharp satire in praising a common rooster in terms of opulence and noble lineage. I’d be inclined to do some philological research of corel, inde and other words to connect them with wealth. Grade A

24b. WCW “So much depends” What to say? “It may take only four words to shift the level at which emotion is held from neatness of surface to comprehension which includes surface and what is under.” Grade: A

25a. H.C. Work ‘The Year of Jubilee” H.C. Work must be the transcriber of this song sung by black Union troops. First of two thoughts on dialect poetry: I’d like to do a study of AfAm from Work to Dunbar to Jordan and Scots from Douglas to Macdiarmid to Tom Scott, examining issues of anonymity, margin and center, and “speaker’s” relation to both. If I’m ever in the position to propose a senior seminar, that’d be a good topic. This poem is chilling and sublime if you don’t let the “dem darkies” vocabulary/transcription distract you. Grade: A

25b. anon Anglo-Irish dialect. Second thought: (it's a question)—what’s LZ’s position on dialect signify? Is it related to his literal translations? Grade: A

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