To: (AC Missias)
Date: Tue, 9 Nov 1999 14:16:17 -0500 (EST)
Precedence: bulk


                                WHAT ABOUT AURALITY?

Below is a trail of three comments: Anthony-->Al--->A.C.  The topic is, in
effect, 1930s poets as "old left" poets and 1950s Beats as "new left"
poets. Here "new" means poetically "new" (to some extent) as well as

The last part of A.C.'s nice summary of distinctions between the thirties
poets and the beats makes me think of a related quality of Beat poetry
that certainly is not there in the 1930s poetry we read.

                        That is its quality of aurality.

--by which I mean its conduciveness to song-like or chant-like
performance. Listen (through your handy audio files) at the way Ginsberg
and Ferlinghetti read. Even when he's being funniest (like a comedian,
actually) Ferlinghetti is chanting his "Baseball Canto." And Ginsberg,
especially when he was declaiming from a platform before a large audience
or chanting his teaching at outdoor meetings (see again our schedule.html
page photo of him in the 1960s), was a singer of the songs of his poems.

The writing of Kerouac and Ginsberg, especially Kerouac, can resemble jazz
when it's read aloud. Ginsberg's poems, especially "Kaddish," his
death-epic in honor of his insane-communist mother Naomi, sound like
sung Jewish prayers mixed with Buddist chants.

THAT IS WHY THE BEAT BREAK-THROUGH (especially after the Wilbur-style
"Toad"-poem-style stuff of the early 1950s) meant that poetry had the
possibility, once again, of going very public.


That means it's time for us to glance forward to the very recent past,
just for a moment, at the end of chapter 7, at some poets affiliated with
the "spoken word" movement. Maggie Estep, famous for her dazzling
in-your-face appearance on MTV, will take us as close as we come to
"popular"/"commercial" poetry this semester. Edwin Torres (whom we'll meet
via webcast in December) is a much more "serious" representative of the
spoken-word movement.

Do have a look and listen at some of the spoken-word stuff and write to
the listserv with your reactions?

Some questions to consider:

        * is there really a Beat quality to this stuff?
        * how far have we come from modernism in spoken-word poetry?
        * does anything of Whitman still remain in this stuff?
        * which of the Beats seems most influential in this poetry--if



Anthony (I think) had written first:

| >  The part about the Congressman
| >| is a politicat statement, obviously, and he views the congressman as
" just
| >| another fire hydrant ".

Then Al had asked:

| >How does this form of political radicalism in poetry compare to that of
| >Edwin Rolfe, Ruth Lechlitner and others in chapter 3 (1930s poets)?
(And I
| >mean the word "form" emphatically, of course.)

Then A.C. chimed in:

| well, rather than using the set forms of previous eras to either give a
| high tone (as with the Abortion office poem and McKay's If We Must Die)
| to prove the poet's worth (as with Cullen's sonnet) or to reinforce the
| conventionality of the subject (as Wilbur's tea party or Rich's sewing),
| they go the opposite direction and take a natural, casual tone, as if to
| take on the mantel of Everyman (not of Henry V).  just a hep dog, doing
| thang, free to have his own thoughts (uncrushed and unintimidated by
| McCarthyism, although disappointed by it); worried about everyday things
| like the supermarket and the street, policemen and puddles; challenging
| America, but still putting it's working shoulder to the wheel...
| free in form, language, and spirit.

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