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May 22, 2017


Buckets of vowels? Ewww.

"It wasn't a good poem."

How I'd appreciate to see that substantiated. As someone who came very late to poetry I tend, through ignorance, to glance only at well-established work - masterpieces, you might say. I know no better. But a continuous diet of masterpieces is not a true guide to the width and depth of poetry; bad or inferior poetry can retrospectively frame a masterpiece, emphasise its greatness. So long as the defects are pointed out.

Yet it's considered bad form to discuss defective poetry. There seems to be conspiracy, as there is with music - strange how reluctant musicians are to discuss their antipathies. That's why it was so refreshing to hear Ashkenazy reminiscing about being forced by the then USSR to compete in the Tchaikovsky competition (because it was thought an American, Van Cliburn, might win it; ironically I believe they tied for first place). "I didn't care for that showy kind of music," he said, referring to the piano concerto. As it happened I felt the same way about the violin concerto, but got short shrift when I tried to raise the point. No doubt I was wrong but what can I do about my lack of enthusiasm for that piece?

As I see it one may discover defects in poetry but the decent thing is then to remain silent about them. Is The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner a masterpiece? It's well established. But it also contains the lines:

Down dropped the breeze, the sails dropped down,
Twas sad as sad can be.

Untutored, on my own, I remember coming upon that and it was like a softish blow to the solar plexus. How was I supposed to react? Of answer came there none.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.