Wyatt’s Influence

Portrait of Sir Thomas Wyatt Hans Holbein the Younger (c.1497-1543) Royal Collection, Windsor Castle, England

AG: So that’s pentameter. So I guess the next thing we ought to try is an exercise in iambic pentameter quatrains
Student: Tetrameters?
AG: What is? – Tetrameters, right – like four – iambic tetrameter. So we ought to try writing iambic tetrameter – and what kind of rhyme scheme? – What did (William) Dunbar have?
Student: AABB
AG: AABB – okay, let’s try AABB. So next classroom exercise – iambic tetrameter quatrains – rhyme-scheme AABB,  like “intent/meant/spent” (no, it’s not like that, but “last/waste..” – but these are more complicated, actually. Dunbar was AABB?
Student: I think so
AG: And these are a little funnier – “last/waste/begun/past/done” – AA.. AABAB – AABAB. Well, I’ll try one or the other. For those who have never written iambic tetrameter, try AABB. For those who have and know something about it, try AABAB. If you want to see my efforts in this area, there’s a.. I have a whole book of those rhymed poems called The Gates of Wrath, about half a dozen of which are modeled on “My lute awake! perform the last/about that thou and I shall waste”, modeled on Wyatt, mostly.

Allen reads from “Stanzas Written At Night In Radio City” (“If money made the mind more sane…”..”Down in Arden I will die…”), and so forth. The Gates of Wrath, about half a dozen of which are modeled on “My lute awake!”perform the last/about that thou and I shall waste”, modeled on Wyatt, mostly.

That’s a poem called Stanzas Written At Night In Radio City”, which were basically an imitation of Thomas Wyatt (I think it was AABB AABBA, or something like that, (a) somewhat complicated rhyme-scheme. You might look that up) – “Stanzas Written At Night In Radio City”. If you’re ever in the library, Naropa library, I have a book, Gates of Wrath, and that was my one almost-perfect (except for the last stanza, I think) almost-perfect attempt at imitating all this.

I guess the reason that I’m interested in teaching this is that these particular things that I went through for my own ear, that kind of training (both with my father at home, and in school – high-school and college). And, apparently, we.. of my own..of this…of our own generation have so destroyed education by blasting everything open with “fuck” and “shit” and “piss” amd “free-verse” and “On The Road”, that education has been disrupted – Or maybe (it was) the Atom Bomb, rather than us, or maybe just the general overpopulation, decay of schools, mixed races, international wars, acid.. acid melting the brains, or just general hopelessness, I think, the coming End-of-the-Earth and Armageddon – So people have stopped reading (or maybe just television cut into all that rhythm). People don’t read, they just look at the boob-tube – or play guitar! (but if you play guitar, you’ve got to know these rhythms, that is, if you’re writing music, you’ve got to have that in you – because, I think, Wyatt probably did sing too (I don’t know if Dunbar was sung? – I bet all those early things were – (a) “Lament”.. Scotch.. I don’t see how they would have any function with just writing it down without singing it a little in some form of song. But I don’t know). Wyatt begins “My lute awake! perform the last/Labour that thou and I shall waste”. So, “My lute awake”, it’s like “I sing of the maiden..” – “My lute awake!” – “Come on, guitar!”

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately twenty-nine minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-nine-and-a-half minutes in]

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