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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Monday, December 1, 2014

Out of the cradle endlessly rocking

Out of steel apothecary jars sealed against the cold;
out of razor blades (I must go to the drugstore to get some);
out of the capacious digestive systems of ants, the remorse of wasps;
out of the tiny hairs of large men; the thick, remorseless stubble;
out of milk;

out of salted wounds, the fireman's carry;
out of candle-wax and walking bass-lines, the brittles of yule; imperious clicks;
never mind Quevedo's itch: out of bad surrealism and the other kind; out of bombast and bile;
out of arks and arches, arms, arrows, and horrors; out of all this;
out of what has not been mentioned: the sparrow's supercilious escape--
comes this new day...
This is part of my series "popular songs." The idea is to come up with generative devices and give examples of what they might look like. Here, obviously, the device is to improvise on the pattern of Walt Whitman's "Out of the cradle endlessly rocking." I was trying to remember it when I was still in bed:

Out of the cradle endlessly rocking, out of the mocking-bird's song, the musical shuttle;
out of the ninth-month moonlight...

That's as far as I got, and even that is probably wrong, so I just continued the poem in my own poetic voice. I got through the phrase "tiny hairs" by the time I was in the shower. I was thinking of the surprisingly small hairs of elephants, but that seemed off so I changed it.

Then I wrote it down just now and added another stanza. What I like about the form (not necessarily my use of it here, though I try) is the ability to improvise rhythmically. You can repeat any rhythmic pattern you want, like "the fireman's carry" has the same pattern as "the musical shuttle." But you don't have to. Lines can be any length. You can use polysyndeton or asyndeton as you like. Whitman's peculiar mixture of bombast and down-to-earthness provides ample material for parodic play.


profacero said...

Initially I did not see the title, only the post, and thought it was a parody of "Como cenizas, como mares poblándose..." which in turn suggests that that poem comes directly from this Whitman. Which is not a momentuous thing to say, but still it throws something into relief.

Jonathan said...

Right. Neruda got a lot out of that weird list-making thing Whitman does. What Amado Alonso called "enumeración caótica."

profacero said...

Leo Spitzer, yo. I really need to read Whitman more. And I wonder if part of Vallejo's weirdness is not reading U.S. literature. (I will have to find out whether that is true.)