Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Poetry Slam

April is Poetry Month and except for old Chaucer, I haven't brought in any poets. That changes today! Time for an April poetry smackdown.

In this corner, the opening lines of Robert Browning's "Home Thoughts, from Abroad":

Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard-bough
In England—now!

And in the other corner, the opening of "The Waste Land," by T. S. Eliot:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

Now we'll hear both poems read aloud, first the Browning,
n the Eliot.

Judge 1 (Simon Scowl): Was Browning working for the British
Tourist Bureau?
In England—now! Please. It even makes the
same leaps in logic that an advert does.
Whoever wakes in England
sees the same brushwood sheaf, whatever that is, round the elm-tree
bole, and the same chaffinch? An east-end cockney in London wakes
up and sees it? I don't think so. And he repeats "bough."

Judge 2 (Ellen the Generous): Well, I think it's sweet. It's about April.
It's got that yearning, that urgency, that helter-skelter, everybody and
anybody feeling that April has. It
is an ad, spring is an ad, and I say
what's wrong with that? You take it too literally, you miss the point!
My goodness. As for T. S. Eliot, it sounds like April is wasted on you,
Mr. Gloomy Gus! Go back to bed and try waking up on the right side
next time. My goodness.

Scowl: You don't get it at all, do you? It's about the cruelty of
regeneration after a long winter of war, denial, death, privation, and
dried tubers. It's effing brilliant. Does the word
irony mean anything
to you?

Ellen: (Crosses her eyes and sticks out her tongue.)

We have a tie. Time for a limerick whose merit, or lack thereof,
both judges can agree on:

April is cruel then kind.
She frequently changes her Mind.
This aptness to vary
From sweet to contrary
Makes MUD very easy to find.


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