Skeltonics & Rap

AG: So then there’s (John) Skelton, another funny guy – for sound. Where is Skelton here? What page have we got Skelton on?

Student: Seventy-Six

AG: Yeah, right after (William Dunbar). Seventy six-seventy seven. There is a form of poetry called Skeltonics. Does anybody know what they are? Can anybody explain Skeltonics here? – I can’t – I’ll have to explain it next time. I’ll look it up. But I hear it anyway, so.. I wanted to read them aloud and see what they sound like. It’s a short line – two, apparently two accents to the line, generally, sometimes varied, of variable line-lengths (sometimes two, sometimes three). What.. [to Student] do you have any particular understanding of Skeltonics?

Student: Well, on thirteen to sixteen (in our anthology), they have a little (note on it)

AG: Okay, what do they say? What have they got to say? – Oh yes, they have it under…[Allen reads – “loosely rhythmic lines of two or three accents each, rhyming on the same word for as many as six lines together, exemplified by their inventor, John Skelton”. Okay, two accents or three accents, as that first poem in here, many rhymes in a row. It’s kind of like.. it’s nor far from… has anybody heard the new [1980] disco rapping records?

Student: Yeah

AG: It’s not too dissimilar to the new rapping style where you have many repeated rhythms (because you’re making it up as you go along and then you repeat it (and) get to stuck on one line over and over again with short lines). They’re not totally dissimilar, because there’s a basic form – It seems to be an archetypal form – “It’s simple norm/in any dorm/without any harm” – you just go on – “keep making rhymes/any old time, if you’re a student/or if you’re prudent, if you’re a professor/or have lesser intelligence/ you join the dance. You just do it easy/cos ‘it’s very please-y/ and right as the mind/instant rhymes/every time.” So it’s some sort of archetypal thing for the human mind – the Skeltonic form. I mean, it doesn’t require a long thought, it just requires, like, the baby mind to produce babble in rhyme. The loose Skeltonics in modern rapping. You know rapping? What I’m speaking of the “dirty dozens“, or negro form of standing on a street corner putting each other down in the most extravagent and brilliant possible language with rhymes. There are many different forms of that. I think I mentioned it the other day – “dirty dozens” – a number of different forms – the “signifying monkey” is one (“said the monkey to the tiger one sunny day” – or “said the monkey to the elephant one sunny day” – or – “the monkey to the lion” (“said the monkey to the lion one sunny day” – “one sunny day”)

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-three minutes in]

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