Expansive Poetics – (Greek Meters and An Angry Question)

AG: Vachel Lindsay’s “The Congo” – it used to be in all the high-school anthologies in the (19)30’s and (19)40’s,  the Louis Untermeyer anthology, and it might actually have been pushed out by Black Power, by the Black Renaissance movement when they objected to it as being a rip-off, basically, of their rhythms, a rip of their rhythms, although the rhythms are Greek rhythms – da-da-da da-da da-da-da are Ionic rhythms, I believe, are called Ionic – four syllable rhythms –  da-da-da da-da da-da-da  – three, or four, syllable rhythms- da-da-da-da – da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da- da-da-da-da is the famous Ionic… Ionic pitch for whatever the Latin is for four (Ionic in the fourth place, where you have this soft syllable)…Ionic? ..I’ve forgot.. no, it’s not quadrameter – no, that means four measures to the line – Ionic primus, Ionic seconds, Ionic tertius, Ionic quartus. – This is the Ionic quartus rhythm – da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da. And da-da da, is the Ionic primus rhythm, the soft syllable in the first place – da da-da-da  – da-da-da  da-da-da , da-da-da da-da-da-da – People can write poems in those meters.

For other classes I’ve passed out a schemata of all these different meters up to four, and even five, there’s even five-meter, five-syllable meters (these are four-syllable meters) and five-syllable meters like – da da da-da da! – da da da-da-da! – da da da-da da! – Lo, Lord. thou ridest/Lord, Lord, Thy swifting heart/ Nought stayeth, nought now bideth/But’s smithereens apart! – that’s that’s in our book under Hart Crane – “Hurricane,  or, in an earlier example, Ben Jonson‘s “Droop herbs and flowers/ Fall grief in showers..” – da da da-da-da – and that was a rhythm  that the Greeks reserved for the climactic moment in the tragedy when the hero recognized that he had killed his father and married his mother, and then, as featured, it would be Da da da-da-da  Da da da-da-da – and he’d rip out his eyes! – in Aeschylus, actually (it’s in Aeschylus more, Sophocles has some). So the dochmiac meter, a five syllable foot, is a classic one, rarely used, I’ve used it in “Howl”. If you search, you’ll fnd it in “Howl”, and in “Plutonian Ode” (which is consciously modeled on.. well, by the time I got to “Plutonian Ode”, I was conscious of the names of the rhythms, but in “Howl”, I was just doing it by the seat of my pants).

Student: What’s the deal.. you realize that (Jack) Kerouac perpetuates distorted legends and illusions?

AG (paraphrasing Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche): He keeps breathing through his nose and sees it with an ordinary mind..and doesn’t have fantasies of…  He…. If he sees something horrible, he doesn’t cling to it, and if he sees something beautiful he doesn’t cling to it.

I’m glad you think that’s the opinion of this scene [Naropa]. (So) what are you doing here?  – Curiosity? You want to see the deliquescent corpse?


[Audio for the above can be heard  here, beginning at approximately sixty-five minutes in and concludes at approximately sixty-seven-and-a-half minutes in]

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