Monday, June 23, 2008

Literary Criticism: "play[ing] tennis with the net down"

Hoar Frost
The muse is a fickle mistress . . .
and criticism an ill-tempered husband.
(Image from Wikipedia)

I recently posted an old 'poem' of mine from my days living an absurd, freewheeling life as a wastrel in romantic Tubingen before I began paying my debt to society after meeting Sun-Ae. Here's that poem again:
Free Verse!
Free it from ironic cages,
Interwoven webs of language,
Patterns binding through the ages,
Meter, accent, feet, and beat. Wedge

A way. Scheme rhyme's end. And break all
Mind-deformed maniacals like
Those who'd have the udder gall
To bilk a bitter tense-peed bike

As though it took of bovine ilk!
So stand a stanza on its head,
Cup a couplet on the ear, milk
All metaphoricals! 'Nuff said.
Obviously nonsensical . . . and hardly 'free' verse despite its freewheeling style. My online friend Malcolm 'Malcontent' Pollack decided to express himself humorously about the poem's putative message:
"Tennis with the net down."
To which I retorted:
That's a frosty remark.
Thereby prompting Malcolm's quick quip:
Ah! Whose words these are, I think you know.
Thus inviting this response from me (the date just happening to be June 21st):
Though one might think it rather queer,
Indeed I do -- the words appear;
with clarity, I see your fake,
this brightest evening of the year.
Inspiring Malcolm to compose a reply in kind:
A lot of fun, this game has been,
Indeed, your latest made me grin.
But perhaps it's worn a little thin,
And so I think I'll pack it in.
But I wasn't quite finished yet:
Oh pack it in, then pack it out.
That's what this game is all about.
Let's call a tie -- there's been no rout.
We've proved we neither one's a lout.
And neither was Malcolm:
And so the ball went to and fro,
As it did 'twixt Borg and McEnroe.
With every serve, we scored an ace,
And we did it with the net in place!
I tried my hand one more time:
Time now to choose at forking path,
Where ways diverge in wood or grove,
Past apple-picking time, one hath
sun's golden apples for the rove.
And closed "[w]ith apologies to Borges, Frost, and Yeats" for that last endeavor.

I've heard nothing since from Malcolm, but perhaps that wandering aengus is off plucking, till time and times are done, some silver apples of the moon for golden apples of the sun.

But feel free to pick up the ball...

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At 6:48 AM, Blogger A.H. said...

Given the alliterative nature, this is rather like Anglo Saxon meets Vers Libre...think Pound's "The Seafarer". The Anglo Saxons rather liked hoar frost too. Incidentally, we had freak weather in the UK not too long ago...snow people said, but it was the softest, purest white, melting into nothing, not white sludge. Turned out that it was hoar frost gone mad...incredibly brought the Anglo Saxon world to this is what they once knew.
Hope all is well.

At 7:20 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hoar frost and ice storms make winter lovely -- like a world of chandeliers.

Good to hear from you again (and your note led me to notice that I had combined "hoar" and "frost" into one, compound word . . . which I've since corrected).

Alliteration is hard to avoid in English, but even harder to do well. If only I had the Beowulf poet's skill.

By the way -- speaking of alliterative poets -- I've published (or will soon) the rewritten, reworked version of my paper on Gawain's 'adultery' if you're interested.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:43 AM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

Tough teachers never grin,
throwing erasers, beating their head,
against copying, such a sin,
I'll never be a teacher, I said!

I'm tired, but I'll work on a better rhyme or reason.

At 7:47 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Jeanie, I see that you're on the ball, but I'll let someone else play this match.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Much can be said for the two line sonnet,
No period to end it, no title upon it

At 6:11 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Good one, Michael. Who's next?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:25 AM, Blogger Malcolm Pollack said...

Sorry, Jeffery, not to have returned your final serve.

Re your title, I don't think that's a very nice thing to call one of our greatest poets...

At 3:36 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

A "literary critic," you mean? I merely obliquely 'called' him that.

Obviously, the role of critic was a momentary lapse on his part...

Jeffery Hodges

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