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When students only have read a few poems, in exclusively academic contexts, they often approach poetry with what the li...

Friday, August 30, 2013

Kitsch

Here is some kitsch for you:


Cante hondo

A todos nos han cantado
en una noche de juerga
coplas que nos han matado...

Corazón, calla tu pena;
a todos nos han cantado
en una noche de juerga.

Malagueñas, soleares
y seguiriyas gitanas...
Historias de mis pesares
y de tus horitas malas.

Malagueñas, soleares
y seguiriyas gitanas...

Es el saber popular,
que encierra todo el saber:
que es saber sufrir, amar,
morirse y aborrecer.

Es el saber popular,
que encierra todo el saber.


We have all had sung to us on a night of partying couplets that have killed us. Heart, quiet your sorrow; we have all been sung to on nights of partying. Malagueñas, soleares, and gypsy seguiriyas ... Tales of my burdens and of your bad times. Malagueñas, soleares, and gypsy seguiriyas. It's popular wisdom, encompassing all wisdom, knowing how to suffer, to love, to die, and to hate. It's popular wisdom, encompassing all wisdom.

What is kitsch about this poem by Antonio Machado's older brother, Manuel? It evokes the flamenco deep song from outside. It is not, itself, an example of any of the three genres it mentions. It is metapoetic, like the song "The birth of the blues" which is about the blues but is not itself an example of the genre.

Oh, they say some people long ago
Were searching for a diffrent tune
One that they could croon
As only they can
They only had the rhythm
So they started swaying to and fro
They didn't know just what to use
That is how the blues really began
They heard the breeze in the trees
Singing weird melodies
And they made that the start of the blues

And from a jail came the wail
Of a down-hearted frail
And they played that
As part of the blues
From a whippoorwill
Out on a hill
They took a new note
Pushed it through a horn
Til it was worn
Into a blue note
And then they nursed it, rehearsed it
And gave out the news
That the southland gave birth to the blues!

Blech! This is offensive on so many levels, though it is a good song as an instrumental.

Both these lyrics exemplify a kind "secondary" quality that Eco has pointed out. Now why is MM kitsch and FGL not?

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