The Barbarity Renewed Stanza
Each day upon waking the progressive pisses, snarls, reads her New York Times or watches his CNN, renews fury, and ventures into civilization to destroy it. Or sometimes families tune their collective consciousness to NPR and disappear into fog, never to awaken. Each new day barbarity is renewed in anger and in neglect.
Thirty years ago (in the Year of Our Lord, 1992) I composed a verse in galloping meter, a verse in observation of the barbarians who lustily rape Classive Civilization, a rape that has brought forth monsters who fed upon the innocents of the land. The verse, “Barbarity Renewed”, now seems almost quaint, almost naive, an incisive interruption, a manner of truth alike the child will speak to garrulous adults who flummoxed pause, pat the child’s soft hair, send her to bed, then return to mouthing gaseous absurdities.
Recently, around the Fool’s day of April, The National Civic Art Society published Modern Art: An Exhibition in Criticism, among the projects accomplished in my NCAS year of Fellowship. Justin Shubow (NCAS President) curated the verses, sending some to obscurity, rescuing others, and NCAS Treasurer, David Talbot (a most excellent poet) composed a forward that shall serve as inspiration, encouragement toward excellence.
“Barbarity Renewed”, the longest verse in the collection, resolves itself into six sections, each two-stanza section bracketed by a chorus. To speed narrative, the chorus alternates between the antagonist’s refrain in stasis and the protagonist’s prompt to change. Each of the poem’s six sections dilates upon a discipline of arts: music, plastics (pictuary & statuary), architecture, theatre, education, poetry; the Liberal Arts.
Stanzas of the sections are an invention, a nonce form, a septet that weds limerick with Rhyme Royal, yet a form more difficult than three rhyme, Rhyme Royal, because the stanzas employ only two rhymes (a difficult trick). The limerick too extends itself in complexity by framing a dimeter tercet with initiating and concluding tetrameter couplets. The whole, a syllogism, an AABBBAA rhyme scheme that insists on concluding masculine rhymes to drive, to pound forward its point.
The stasis chorus and the opening, Barbarity Stanza, will illustrate:
Denounce the old, proclaim the new,
Destroy the good, the bad debut,
….Let’s all invent,
….Now Hail the happy accident.
New music our soar ear torments,
It surely is not heaven sent:
….The banging drum,
….The Devil’s hum,
….From Hell it comes
To shake the world to dark descent,
The revolution to foment.
For context, other stanza forms:
The book, Modern Art, is itself a work-of-art, a collage of collogue, of visual and musical verses, inventive within tradition. The book resolves itself into three chapters: 1. “Picture Gallery”, ekphrases; 2. “Concert Hall”, songs; 3. “Lecture Series”, narratives and didactics. Ekphrasis, an uncommon genre, is the dramatic description of a picture or statue, a rhetorical exercise alike the assertions of the sophists and the Sermon on the Mount, an observation ironic in truth. Socrates, in Platon’s Phaedrus, illustrates:
The painter’s picture poses as though alive, yet question it; you’ll find it rests in silence, majestically. The same it is with written words who seem to speak as if intelligent, but ask the words what they might mean and like the magpie they will sing the same thing on forever, and forever, and ever on forever. (I paraphrase to illuminate.)
Lately, I have returned to epic and dramatic plays in verse, to prose screen-novella and am not likely to return to criticism of Progressive absurdities, soon, though tempted because Progressive absurdities hang low and it would be a wicked pleasure to pluck, to toss the rotten fruit against a page, to splatter Pollack-like the thing’s innards, to expose Modern Art for what it is digested.
A companion piece to Modern Art: An Exhibition in Criticism, Modern Art: A Critique in Rhyme can be found, here.
A review of Modern Art: An Exhibition in Criticism by Evan Mantyk can be found at The Society of Classical Poets, linked here.
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