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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

365 Poems: Gettin' wiggly wit it

Day 331

This guys alone can explode your head
much less Puritans and poetry slams.  
My head might explode with all the convergences between the poetry of the Puritans and contemporary poetry, so of course I need to have yours explode too.

Tonight in the edX Puritan poetry course we were studying Michael Wigglesworth, who to some of us sounds a little too much like the concurrently celebrated and annoying children's performance artists The Wiggles; however, it seems Michael was -- in his day -- just as adept at entertaining children (and adults) with his poem 'The Day of Doom' as the Wiggles are with their violently colorful TV and stage shows.

Who can resist this as a bedtime story?
Then answered the judge most dread,
“God doth such doom forbid,
That men should die eternally
For what they never did.
But what you call old Adam’s fall,
And only his trespass,
You call amiss to call it his,
Both his and yours it was.
Not the little Puritans, as pointed out by visiting professor Jonathan L. Walton: Ministers of the day were 'entertainers' as well, indeed the only entertainment in a spare and sullen world. So maybe these Puritans were the first American performance artists?

Yesterday I posted the Tracie Morris video, which we studied in ModPo; the first time I listened, it was like, ACK, what's this!? WTF!? Then I listened to the class discussion, and listened to her performance again, and came around; a light bulb probably went on over my head during that second listen. I got it. I listened again today and loved it.

So it was serendipitous I found this next through Button Poetry. It's performance poetry more in the tradition of Tracie Morris; although the Puritans would ... would ... nah, I think the Puritans would have popped the buttons off their vests after hearing that first f-bomb (fair warning) . Although he's got a moral lesson, too, one that contemporary folks like us need to hear. He's in the tradition of Emily ('Tell the truth and tell it slant') and maybe a little of Wallace Stevens ('13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird').

 I love the way he's taken a catch phrase we toss off -- maybe with a little passive aggressiveness? -- we're kind of joking but kind of not when we tell someone to 'man up.' And he reminds us that even these cliched pop culture references can have a deeper meaning that has an unexpected influence on the recipients of the unthoughtful epitets. And the way he orchestrates the tension -- he gets our attention with that first declarative 'F*ck you,' then backs down and begins building his case to the dramatic ending. Wiggles and Wigglesworthy, for sure.

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