“By failing to read or listen to poets, society dooms itself to inferior modes of articulation, those of the politician, the salesman, or the charlatan. In other words, it forfeits its own evolutionary potential. For what distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom is precisely the gift of speech. Poetry is not a form of entertainment and in a certain sense not even a form of art, but it is our anthropological, genetic goal. Our evolutionary, linguistic beacon.”
“The argument that we should judge a work by the sins of its creator reeks of puritanical righteousness and moral certitude. No work of art exists that wasn’t created by some complicated creature. When forming our literary, cinematic, and artistic canons, it’s important to remember that if you want a canon of saints, you’ll end up with a canon of zero.” Tyler Malone
Some bad boys of literature pictured above: Pablo Neruda, H. P. Lovecraft, Ezra Pound
The Charlotte Observer hosts a limerick competition every year that runs from Saint Patrick’s Day to April 1st. They call it their “Politics & Public Policy Limericks Contest.” This year the paper encouraged entries lampooning the presidential campaign, but the current campaign is so bizarre and depressing, I just couldn’t imagine making a humorous rhyme about it. So instead, I decided to write limericks about local disasters.
The editors published my limerick on Charlotte’s I-77 toll lanes controversy. The public hates the idea of paying tolls, but there’s the added sting of a Spanish company (?!?) building the lanes and keeping all the profits they generate. Weird, huh? But so ripe for ridicule! From the Charlotte Observer editorial page:
It wasn’t all presidential politics, though. Give Mike Tuggle bonus degree-of-difficulty points for rhyming the word ‘criteria’ and going the foreign language route to finish his piece about the Interstate 77 toll lanes:
I can’t understand the criteria
That mandate toll lanes from Iberia.
The gain from those lanes
Stays mainly in Spain.
It’s Charlotte’s camino mysteria.
Stay tuned for future satirical entries in the coming weeks. Yes, I live in a target-rich environment.
Orchestrating Vangelis’ soaring keyboards and Sean Connery’s powerful reading of Cavafy’s poem creates an inspiring and unforgettable experience. Do yourself a favor and listen to it in its entirety. Your challenges will shrink before your eyes.
For a little refresher on the significance of the journey to Ithaca, check out the About section in this review of Robert Fagles’ translation of The Odyssey.
You may recognize Tom Cochrane for his hits “Lunatic Fringe” and “Life is a Highway.” But “White Hot” is my favorite Cochrane song, and this version, featuring Cochrane’s band Red Rider and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, is electrifying. The song is a tribute to French poet Arthur Rimbaud, who abandoned a promising literary career for a life of reckless adventure. Cochrane’s lyrics evoke the thrills and terrors Rimbaud experienced:
Cast out from the jungle
With no rations or canteen
For selling faulty rifles
To the thieves in Tanzania
Adventures and misfortune
Nothing wagered, nothing gained
I have wandered through the desert
Found the ocean not the rain
Rimbaud influenced a number of important writers, including Ezra Pound and Henry Miller. Miller acknowledged his debt to Rimbaud in The Time of the Assassins, which Cochrane read and admired.
Here’s the passage that inspired Cochrane to write the song:
Rimbaud turned from literature to life; I did the reverse. Rimbaud fled from the chimeras he had created; I embraced them. Sobered by the folly and waste of mere experience of life, I halted and converted my energies to creation. …
Rimbaud restored literature to life; I have endeavored to restore life to literature. … With him I have felt an underlying primitive nature which manifests itself in strange ways. Claudel styled Rimbaud “a mystic in the wild state.” Nothing could describe him better. He did not “belong” – not anywhere. I have always had the same feeling about myself. [emphasis mine]
I think Cochrane’s lyrics and melody perfectly capture Miller’s mood and message. The song’s distant, mystical opening lures the listener close, then sweeps him up with a driving melody that arouses stark awareness of the dangers and adventures Rimbaud chased all over the globe. Ezra Pound believed we can recognize worthy poetry by “the play of image, music, and meaning” within it, and “White Hot” definitely qualifies.
That’s great songwriting. No wonder Tom Cochrane’s career has endured over the decades.