THE POETRY OF PUTREFACTION OR THE PUTREFACTION OF POETRY?
Some young people around me have pointed out that I, part of another older generation, do not understand what is art today. I decided to correct this cultural deficiency of mine having a new look to what I understand better. Because the opinion of some specialists is that he first form of literature was the poetry, verbal one as it is, being easier to be forwarded from a generation to other, I started to look into the very contemporary poetry. The examples which I will refer as a guide, will be at the level of Lyceum existing in most of the countries, especially in Europe, or the level of International Baccalaureate –IB. The existing Canadian curriculum is painfully low and severed from our European tradition and roots. Going back to the title of these pages which refer to poetry, we have to mention that, during the time of Greek tragedies, most of them , as a form, were written in verses. Moreover in the history of literature seems that the poetry was a main form of the literary expression, from Homer to Whitman and after.
I perfectly comprehend that our times will not produce a Homer to leave us a slice of entire history, in verses, as later did Virgil in Aenaid, nor we can talk philosophy reading De rerum natura /On the Nature of Things) by the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius. And who, today, will understand the tragic melancholy of Ovidiu when he wrote Tristia. ? In the last two thousand years (from Horatio ) until modern times it was made an effort to define the poetry and to instruct as how to be created. We have “Ars Poetica “ by Horatio from whom remained the Latin expression ut pictura poesis “as is painting so is poetry,” expanding the idea of art.
We have to resign ourselves to the reality: the history doesn’t repeat the cultural richness during Augustus’s time or before him during the golden century of Pericles. I know that Chaucer or Milton are names which will not have equals in 21st century and never we will have a formal perfection of verses similarly with Dante in his Divina Comedia which shows that Henry Miller was right when he said that “ Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery “- I do not intend to give a definition of poetry, although we can quote the irony of Molière in his Le Bourgeois gentilhomme where the philosophy master defines it as “everything that is not prose is verse, and everything that is not verse is prose” which explanation makes monsieur Jourdain to exclaim: “ for more than forty years I have been speaking prose without knowing anything about it”. But I do not intend to create any humour. We also have another ars poetica of the late Archibald MacLeish of our last century. The last verses are beautiful: “A poem should be equal to:/Not true. For all the history of grief/An empty doorway and a maple leaf. For love/The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—A poem should not mean/But be.” Because it is used the word poem in relation to poetry, we can also mention again Henry Miller who wrote “The poem is the dream made flesh, in two-fold sense: as a work of art, and as life, which is work of art”.
In time some of poetic rules disappeared , are not used anymore and a lot of poets used free verses, without rhyme, preferring a flow of images and ideas as we have in Shakespeare’s dramatic works –not in sonnets- going through Rimbaud, Baudelaire and a lot of English speaking poets, culminating with Whitman. The lack of rigid forms did not stop the flow of beautiful verses with beautiful and unique ideas. Even for those who do not speak Italian, one of the first verses from Dante’s Inferno, sound beautiful: “Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate” (“Abandon all hope, you who enter”) After more than 560 years, Villon’s Ballade Des Dames Du Temps Jadis (“Ballade of the Ladies of Times Past”) have not lost the musicality and the last verse of each stanza – Mais où sont les neiges d’antan ! – (Where are the snows of yester-year? ) inspired Dylan, Brassens, Debussy, Ezra Pound to put that poem on music. Some 400 years after Villon, another poet not anymore read today, Charles Baudelaire, in his The Albatross is painfully right when describes the poet’s appreciation by its contemporaneity: “Le Poète est semblable au prince des nuées/ Qui hante la tempête et se rit de l’archer;/ Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées,/ Ses ailes de géant l’empêchent de marcher.”
(The poet resembles this prince of cloud and sky/Who frequents the tempest and laughs at the bowman;/When exiled on the earth, the butt of hoots and jeers,/His giant wings prevent him from walking. – Trans.— William Aggeler)
Coming to present time I exclaimed : Is this The poetry of putrefaction or putrefaction of poetry ? , after when by accident I watched one of those musical awards and I heard the expression “rap artist”.I didn’t know what “rap” means – proof of my lack of modern culture- therefore I listened first and after that I downloaded what they called “lyrics” , which justified my exclamation. The idea of music is out of question because except some rhythmic bit, nothing can be heard. Carefully searching I discovered that the “quality” of a rapper is measured based on his “net financial worth”. Therefore a Canadian, Kardinal offishall – 5 millions worth only is at the bottom of the “geniality” scale. His “lyrics” are not enough vulgar and obscene to be on top comparing with American counterparts: “Cold blood I meant to do it ruthless/Knew it was murder since Da Grassroots produced it/Now we got some ax murderers upon the track/ Burning murder onto wax” As how his “artistic activity” could make him a little millionaire, is a mystery.
In USA values are much higher.
One, who spent 3 years in the ninth grade, dropped out from school at 17 has a worth of 150 mil. and considered to be one of the best-selling “artists” of all time. It was commented that in his “world, all women are whores and he is eager to rape and murder them”. This “artist” vomited “verses” like the followings: I was born with a dick in my brain, yeah, fucked in the head/My stepfather said that I sucked in the bed/Till one night he snuck in and said/”We’re goin’ out back, I want my dick sucked in the shed”
Or another stanza pretending to have some “culture”:Ok here we go, do-re-mi-fa-so, I’m so la-di-da so/ Lyrical rise flow, give back the tobasco/You motherfuckers mustsanot know the tic tac songs/Time to show you the mo kick ass flow in the cosmos/Picasso with a pick axe a sick asshole/She tac toe frozen six pack with exacto/Knives, strangling wives with pig lasso.
Another one, net worth 700 mil. also dropped out, arrested for assault with a deadly weapon has the “quality” lyrics like these ones: Really, get smacked silly, you get smacked silly/Fucking with these niggas from the, what you gonna do/When you ready, shit I was born ready, /And I was all ready on fish and spaghetti. What do these words mean, it is anyone guess.
For acquiring a worth of 150 mil., after selling drugs from the age of 12 and arrested few times , this famous rapper dumps on young people “verses” like these: Aiyyo the bottom line is I’ma crook with a deal/If my record don’t sell I’ma rob and steal/You better recognize nigga I’m straight from the street/These industry niggaz startin to look like somethin to eat/I’ll snatch Kim and tell Puff, “You wanna see her again?”/Get your ass down to the nearest ATM/I have dreams of fuckin an R&B bitch… Some journalist once made a comment that the rapper “couldn’t recognize a B flat.” But he, the rapper, doesn’t need any musical training. He has many millions.
As a teenager, another famous “artist” with a bank account of 140 mil. frequently ran into trouble with the law. He was a member of a gang in the Eastside of Long Beach and I was happy to notice that at least he finished High School. Shortly after graduating from high school, he was arrested for possession of cocaine, and for the following three years, was frequently in and out of prison. His artistry, very admired in that fake environment of LaLa land sounds like this: Da da da da daa/It’s tha mothafuckin’ D O double G/Da da da da daa/ You know I’m mobbin’ with the D R E/Yeah yeah yeah/ You know who’s back up in this mothafucker
The above epileptic script is from the same family of other – net worth 120 mil. only – which left me totally confuse: Yeah! Word is bond!/ Das EFX in this yaknowhatI’msayin/Straight from the sewer, word is bond!/Yeah! Yah! Ah-yeah! We doin this with my nigga/Where my nigga? Ice Cube in the motherfucker.Click clackin, pistol-packin, Crip raggin folio/Who the only nigga in the club with the toolio/You ain’t know? Yeah you did; there it was, there it is/”Is that Coolio?” Naw bitch, let me in
I presume that because of a very low self esteem, one takes his stage name with an academic flavor, although he could not enroll to an apprenticeship program due to poor grades at school which made him ineligible. With $800 mil. in his account he gives to youth his peculiar form of academic geniality: “Can’t scrap a lick, so I know ya got your gat/Your dick on hard, from fuckin’ your road dogs/ The hood you threw up with, niggaz you grew up with/Don’t even respect your ass”.
Sadly, some end up with a bullet in their head or many years behind bars, due to drug dealing, gang activity, etc. One of them, before was killed presented on the stage the following: “My family tree, consists of drug dealers, thugs and killers/Strugglin, known to hustle screamin fuck they feelings/I got advice from my father, all he told me was this/Niggaz, get off your ass if you plan to be rich”
I can continue ad nauseam with a lot of examples of “rap artistry” but reading them is sickening. I do not condone, but I comprehend that in our social life we have vulgarities, obscenities , non educated persons or plain illiterates , affected by délire de grandeur noticeable at some Hollywood “stars”, dropped outs from high school as well. But to infest new generation with that anti-culture named rap is a cultural crime, a real genocide of a real culture which is slowly eliminated from the education of these new generations.
During the hunting for easy profit this anti-culture became institutionalized, hence a new category at musical awards, namely that oxymoronic “rap artist”.
Before I finished writing this modest opinion, it came to my attention a stupefying declaration of an older politician, herself a grandmother, I guess her name is Hillary Clinton, who said about her “idol ” in December 2015 that she hoped to be “as good a president as Beyoncé is a performer,” according to Billboard.
I did not know who Beyoncé is , except that she is like moast of others, a dropped out , therefore I look to some of her “ poetic creation” and I found out the followings:
“Now my mascara running, red lipstick smudged/Oh he so horny, yea he want to fuck/ He popped all my buttons, he ripped my blouse/ He Monica Lewinsky all on my gown.”
“I plugged my menses with pages of the holy book and still coiled deep inside me was the need to know — are you cheating on me?”
If an American President has such “idols” even God cannot protect America.
Therefore I can give myself an answer: we have both- the putrefaction of poetry and the poetry of putrefaction.
Johannes de Silentio