City Journal Winter 2016

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Winter 2016
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Michael Knox Beran
Rhyme Scheme « Back to Story

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I totally disagree with "poetry as music" idea. The verse-poetry of those eras wasn't competing with stereos. Hence, music was harder to come by and poetry was more musical. Now we can listen to Mozart or Snoop Dogg anytime we want. How can some iambic tetrameter compete with that? Nobody reads poetry for the sheer phonetic music of it unless they are really bored.

We live in an age of prose. Like the 18th century our poetry rhymes and isn't very good. I'm not talking about the stuff in the poetry journals. Our poetry is rap... unfortunately. Poetry that is full of bickering and other junk just like that of most of the Augustan poetry.

That being said, I agree withthe article on its other points. When I went to school they forced slam-poetry down our throats. It was as if they were "trying to be hip" or "trying to relate." Slam poetry then was, for me and my friends, considered "academic" and just plain corny. The only people that practiced it were the geeks/nerds/dweebs... whatever... the "tools." We much preferred the beats or guys like Baraka instead of this def jam garbage.

We always thought of slam-poets as people taking a dump about themselves.
"Much of the poetry chosen for the anthology is, moreover, metrically irregular; whatever the other merits of this verse, it cannot match the intricacy and musical complexity of poetry composed in fidelity to the traditional rubrics of metrical order."

Setting aside Beran might be making a disingenuous point, it should be pointed out that those poems that show the most "fidelity" to received forms are, in fact, irregular. The form breaks as soon as it is established. That's sort of the point. Just one example: Wordsworth and Keatsnever adhered to strict iambic pentameter (ba-DUM ba-DUM ba-DUM ba-DUM ba-DUM) throughout a single poem. Ever.

I have also never met a poet who sets out to write a poem that abides to "traditional rubrics of metrical order." These terms do not exist. Even the most formal of formalists these days doesn't whip out a "non-traditional rubric," let alone a "traditional" one.

This piece is the perfect showcases for a kind of aggressive lack of curiosity and unwarranted self-regard of one's own opinion that I can't go on taking it apart. I've been a NYS judge for a couple years on and off. The POL folks are doing great work, and it's a shame Mr. Beran puts politics didn't even get his poetic terms correct, let alone his sociopolitical ones, before he committed hand to keyboard.
Glynne Sutcliffe is correct that "Verse 'learned by heart' furnishes the mind for a lifetime. Poetry selected for memorisation might better be selected from community recitations of verse that adults want to offer and hear." That is exactly how I feel; the only poetry I really want to teach my students is poetry I know and love and believe in. I don't want the NEA to tell me or suggest to me what I should read and teach. As it is we have too many damn PC 'standards'. Many teachers cannot wait to throw in the towel simply because we are asked to teach so much rubbish.
For Art alone is great:
The bust survives the state,
The crown the potentate.

And the forgotten seal
Turned by the plowman's steel
An emperor may reveal.

Things perish. Gods have passed.
But song sublimely cast
Shall citadels outlast.

Théophile Gautier ; L'art, Émaux et Camées - 1852.
Two thhings: it is also possible to find poets after 1910 who continued to use appropriate rhyming techniques. They should be added to the mix. Point two: maybe we should be encouraging youth and adults to learn to write in the traditional style. It may be interesting to hear traditional style rapping or slamming. It would also be nice to see the poetic license snatched back so that it is used sparingly and not as a language unto itself.
A valuable prompt. It is worth remembering that the Vedas were transmitted for a thousand years plus by taking four year olds and dividing them up into groups, each responsible for learning different segments of text, at word perfect level. Verse 'learned by heart' furnishes the mind for a lifetime. Poetry selected for memorisation might better be selected from community recitations of verse that adults want to offer and hear. Church liturgies and hymns work the same way.
The NEA barbarians can leave nothing unblemished.
In government-run education there's a tendency to not teach subjects as they really are, but to take certain aspects of them that some central authorities find desirable and teach them. They present these aspects as if the essential skills and habits they teach in each subject area empower one to know and work in the whole subject. This is woefully untrue, as I've discovered. Now, this is not unique to the U.S. When compared to other schools internationally, many other systems contain weaknesses of a similar character. Some just do a better job of conveying more of the real subject than others. Private schools or home schooling, as the stats have historically shown, at least in the U.S., seem to give one the best shot at getting a high quality education.
It is comforting to see once again the NEA fall on its face while aspiring to elevate the public's level of aesthetic consciousness. Egalitarianism must ignore some of the best and embrace a modicum of mediocrity. Enshrining the undeserving is a sure way to lower the appeal to those most eager improve their knowledge of any art. Poetry should enlighten, entertain, endear itself in the memory. Committees, alas, are inherently unqualified to accomplish those ends.
My suggestion is to forget English departments. They've worked too hard at destroying their reputations to be deprived of

They long ago opted for modern criticism and polemics over joy of language and learning.
For a wild and crazy time, see the poetry of

Touching the ethereal, the pluralities of God's language, the inscrutableness of eternity, etcetera etcetera.
Not to dis modern poets, but are they not defined in relation to their creaking predecessors ?
With the government wind blowing through this otherwise fine idea maybe they should just get on with it and start each reading with "Dear Leader".