Mike Snider's Formal Blog at the Sonnetarium :
poems, mostly metrical, and rants and raves on poets, poetry, and the po-biz
Updated: 6/26/08; 9:40:32 PM.



AIM: poemando




Click to see the XML version of this web page.

Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


Monday, April 7, 2008

Even in graduate school, in a supposedly rhetoric-centered writing program, we never used or opened Aristotle’s Rhetoric. We never studied the terms of rhetoric, nor did more than very simple analyses of a few of the standard forms of argument. That really shouldn’t be surprising — at the same institution, for seven years, I taught Creative Writing, including poetry, without being able to scan (I thought I could). Years afterward I began to work the rudiments of meter: I only recently began to be interested in formal rhetoric, but at least this time I’m aware of my ignorance.

One part of that ignorance will be on display here tonight and in the next few non-NaPoWriMo posts, since I can’t name the rhetorical strategies employed in this poem of Paul Goodman’s:


These people came up here
only two hundred years ago.
A half a dozen names
of fathers in the graveyard
have brought us to the farmer
who used to be my neighbor.

But now his sons have quit
the beautiful North Country
for Boston where they will not find
a living or even safety.
The boy has joined the Navy
to bomb other farmers
where our Navy ought not to be.

“I set my mind on Ritchie.
I bought all the machinery for him
and the blue-ribbon cattle.
Now it has no point.”
So they have sold and gone
to San Diego
to see the boy on leave.

There will not be another
generation in America,
not as we have known it,
of persons and community
and continuity.
This poetry I write
is like the busy baler
that Sawyer bought for Ritchie,
what is the use of it?

But I am unwilling to be Virgil
resigned and praise what is no good.
Nor has the President invited me.
[p. 49 in my long out-of-print edition of the Collected Poems: Amazon lists a few used copies of a slightly later edition]

Goodman would have known the terms. Here and elsewhere he displays an easy familiarity with Classical antiquity: Virgil’s Bucolics and Georgics preceed his Aenied, and Goodman, in this (post?) bucolic poem, is refusing to be a poet of Empire — especially of an empire that doesn’t think enough of poets to even ask them to serve that empire. The economy with which he manages that comparison and rejection is nothing short of astonishing.

I want to understand that economy, so I'll be looking at this poem as I begin to explore the terminology and structure of rhetoric. It will be slow, at first, since I am slow and this is NaPoWriMo. The poem may turn out to be a bad choice of starting point — but Goodman’s sonnets were also my first introduction to metrical handling of contemporary matter, especially political matters. I trust him.

And I hope some of you will help keep me from going too far astray.

9:18:44 PM    comment: use html tags for formatting []  trackback []

Things (I mean things, not people) weren’t working at work so I got theNaPoWriMo stuff, or most of it, done early: I’ve posted the seventh 2008 NaPoWriMo poem, a taunting double dactyl from Jack, and I’ve podcast it here. I'll replace that crappy audio tonight (the URL won't change).

And that means that when I get home to my books I can finally begin a series of posts on the rhetoric of contemporary and near-contemporary poems, starting with Paul Goodman’s “Sawyer.”

4:32:39 PM    comment: use html tags for formatting []  trackback []

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

2008 Michael Snider.

Click here to visit the Radio UserLand website.

April 2008
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30      
Mar   Jun


Mar 2008
Feb 2008
Jan 2008
Dec 2007
Nov 2007
Oct 2007
Sep 2007
Aug 2007
Jul 2007
Jun 2007 (empty)
May 2007
Apr 2007
Mar 2007
Feb 2007
Jan 2007 (empty)
Dec 2006 (empty)
Nov 2006 (empty)
Oct 2006
Sep 2006 (empty)
Aug 2006
Jul 2006
Jun 2006
May 2006
Apr 2006
Mar 2006
Feb 2006
Jan 2006
Dec 2005
Nov 2005
Oct 2005
Sep 2005
Aug 2005
Jul 2005
Jun 2005
May 2005
Apr 2005
Mar 2005
Feb 2005
Jan 2005
Dec 2004
Nov 2004
Oct 2004
Sep 2004
Aug 2004
Jul 2004
Jun 2004
May 2004
Apr 2004
Mar 2004
Feb 2004
Jan 2004
Dec 2003
Nov 2003
Oct 2003
Sep 2003
Aug 2003
Jul 2003
Jun 2003
May 2003
Apr 2003
Mar 2003
Feb 2003
Jan 2003
Dec 2002
Nov 2002
Oct 2002
Sep 2002