Sunday, August 29, 2004

JACKSON CRAWFORD ON POETRY

So many people dislike poetry nowadays because of the state of poetry. In the nineteenth century, men knew that definition implied exclusion - that is, a chair was a seat with legs, not anything. A book would not be called a chair, because it was not a seat with legs. Similarly, a poem was something which had meter, and, oft, rhyme - a poem was not just some random collection of grunts which any fish recently evolved to walk upon land could split into lines chosen at whim. So sad are the lengths which the "poets" of our day have fallen from the lofty heights of linguistic Olympus that what once would have been known as foul drivel is now revered as "enlightened," "politically correct," "relevant."

Western society once valued objectivity - objectivity, that titan pronunciation that A is A, that glorious armor which walls truth from the depredations of falsehood, that swift and steely sword which defends good from the assaults of evil. In losing objectivity, we have lost poetry.

Nothing is poetry which is not metrical. No amount of whining, discombobulating, or "feeling" can change that or any other definition, the arguments of modern bipeds aside.

As to poetry, this is my idea of a "favorites" list, which focuses more on the poet than on the poem. As I could have kept going, I set myself an artificial limit (7) of poets whom I could mention.

For Style Alone (and not necessarily Content):

-H. P. Lovecraft, e.g. Despair. Amazing master of the modern English tongue, and in particular an overlooked poet, though his content (as in the cited poem) is oft evocative of a malevolent-universe feeling, and many deliberately attempt to evoke horror.

-William Shakespeare, e.g. Sonnet No. 116. The classic master, still unmatched for meter and for empathic (though oft tragic) treatment of human subjects.

-Christopher Marlowe, e.g. The Passionate Shepherd To His Love. A Renaissance poet on par with Shakespeare in style, though not usually content.

For Content (and Style):

-Rudyard Kipling, e.g. If. If was Ayn Rand's favorite poem, and I, too, like it quite a bit, having learnt of it through reading of her liking for it.

-William Ernest Henley, e.g. Invictus. I learnt of Invictus through a page which once was at ARI, which I can no longer find. It has become one of my favorite poems since.

-Matthew Arnold, e.g. Dover Beach. One of my most enduring favorites.

-Robert Frost, e.g. The Road Not Taken. Considered by some to be the last of the great poets, and if indeed the last, he was one of the most masterful.

As an example of my own amateur work, here my most recent poem, Cantvs Corvi Vicesimi Qvarti, which I wrote in memory of Sergeant Maayan Naim, whom I did not know, but whose story touched me deeply.

Another beautiful, bright flower
Consumed by evil b'yond her power.
Her mother, surely, must have asked
In what bright light her daughter basked,
For at her birth, I'm sure she cried,
And swore to stay at her child's side.

But lasses grow, and leave their homes,
And each on her own way then roams
To places where her parents fear
Some man could come and hurt their dear -
The parents think of clubs and bars,
But not of simple motor cars.

O parents of this girl who's dead,
Who never got to see her wed,
Whose tools to keep this child safe
Will now do naught but their souls chafe -
I fight for th'day when no one new
Will die for simply b'ing a Jew.

Am Yisrael Chai.

By Jackson Crawford.

[Editor's recommendation: Poems I Like-And Why by Leonard Peikoff.]