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 Classic Poetry--for our time

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Nov 08, 2001
I have observed that it is very difficult for younger readers to appreciate poetry. I do not think it is because young readers are incapable of understanding the profound ideas and themes behind the art. It is simply because the language is frequently dated and obscure, seeming remote and irrelevant to modern youth.

Therefore, I have begun the laborious, precise process of translation of select great poems into modern vernacular English, with the aim of exposing more young adults to the joy of poetry.

Reproduced below is one of my preliminary efforts. Because information wants to be free, my translation is GPL'd. Do let me know what you think.


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Tribute to Wank5est
Observations: Lord of the Rings
The Cold, Hard Facts of Geekdom
It's time to rise up, stand tall, and confess:
Adequacy is like sex
Rhyme of the Rabid Fanboy
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Brilliant (none / 0) (#1)
by Mendax Veritas on Thu Nov 8th, 2001 at 04:31:41 PM PST
Fantastic. Translating Eliot into 1337-speek has got to rank among the great literary endeavors of our time. You've made it possible for a whole generation of skript-kiddies to appreciate literature.

I think you mean... (5.00 / 1) (#2)
by nathan on Thu Nov 8th, 2001 at 05:49:16 PM PST
7 5 3L107.
Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

I don't get it (none / 0) (#3)
by yellownumber5 on Thu Nov 8th, 2001 at 06:36:03 PM PST
So, I am young. I also can't appreciate poetry. I don't get it at all. What make something a poem, rather than prose? Who decides, anyway? And what's wrong with good, old-fashioned paragraphs?

this is a
I guess

Was that a poem? I'm baffled.

paragraphs (none / 0) (#4)
by nathan on Thu Nov 8th, 2001 at 07:00:54 PM PST
Here, she said,
Is your card, the drowned Phoenecian sailor,
(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)
Here is Belladonna, the lady of the rocks,
The lady of situations.
Here is the man with three staves, and here the wheel,
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this, card, which is blank,
Is something he carries on his back,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.
Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter morning,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many.
I had not thought death had undone so many.

T. S. Eliot gives me, in the great phrase of David Foster Wallace, "an erection of the heart." The last sobbing line I quoted is salvific and redemptive and utterly, utterly, sadly, beautiful.

Do a google on "what the thunder said," and read read read read read.

All the best,

PS, something about paragraphs, who cares now...
Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

4z 9r34+ @$ 7|-|3 \/\/457eL4|\||) 1z... (none / 0) (#6)
by moriveth on Thu Nov 8th, 2001 at 07:48:58 PM PST
...3y3 pR3|=3r 45|-| \/\/e|>N35|)4Y. 7|-|e b3@U+y 0p|-| $1/\/\pL1(i+y.

I used to like The Wasteland, (none / 0) (#7)
by plastik55 on Thu Nov 8th, 2001 at 09:19:49 PM PST
until I read more English literature, and found out that Eliot was simply trying to see how many literary references he could fit on a page. It's enjoyable, as long as you don't mind that nearly every image, idea, or even turn of phrase is alternately clipped out of Shakespeare, Donne, or the Bhagavad-Gita. It bears the same relationship to real poetry that collage does to fine art.

You fucking terror midget. Die a firey fucking death. -- Matthew 30:06

oh, right. (none / 0) (#22)
by nathan on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 01:47:41 PM PST
I forget Eliot was a pretentious undergrad.

Here there is no water, but only rock.
Rock and no water and the sandy road,
The road winding above among the mountains,
Which are mountains of rock without water.
Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit,
Here you can neither stand nor lie nor sit,
There is not even silence in the mountains,
But dry, sterile thunder without rain.
There is not even solitude in the mountains,
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
From doors of mud-cracked houses.

Where is this stolen from? And let's overlook its amazing potency.

It's not theft if it's for a purpose. Your literary insight earns an F from me.

Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

Don't change the subject. (none / 0) (#24)
by plastik55 on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 06:34:49 PM PST
That is not from the Wasteland. I was talking about the Wasteland.

You fucking terror midget. Die a firey fucking death. -- Matthew 30:06

your ignorance is apalling (none / 0) (#25)
by nathan on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 07:07:54 PM PST
It's from part V., 'What the Thunder Said.' I ought to know; I memorized it a couple of days ago.

Your ignorance is more obvious than ever, because this is the part of the poem where Eliot quotes the Brihadaranyaka - Upanishad. So much for your familiarity with Eliot and Indian mysticism.

Look, it's not so hard - just admit that you were trying to be cool by knocking down Eliot. Then we can both forget it, you can do some more reading, and it's all good.

Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

p03mz vs. pr0z3 (none / 0) (#5)
by moriveth on Thu Nov 8th, 2001 at 07:41:20 PM PST
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Poetry... (none / 0) (#8)
by tkatchev on Thu Nov 8th, 2001 at 10:24:14 PM PST
Poetry is when you have an internal structure, usually represented through rhythm or rhyme[1]. (Preferrably both.)

If there is no structure -- then sorry, it just isn't poetry. With all due respoect to Mr. Eliot, but whatever he writes sure isn't poetry.

Remember for the future: poetry == structure. This is a general rule to live your life by, BTW.

[1] Your best bet on finding English-language poetry in this liberalised T.S.Warhol-Campbell world is probably rap lyrics. Though personally I'm not at all a fan, quite the opposite, in fact.

Peace and much love...

C++ code has structure. (5.00 / 1) (#9)
by elenchos on Thu Nov 8th, 2001 at 11:56:40 PM PST
But that doesn't make it poetry. A novel has structure, and that doesn't make it poetry either.

Nazi Germany had structure, as did your Soviet Union. Poetry there? None.

You need to warn everyone ahead of time that you give words your own private meanings with no regard for the accepted usage of the rest of the speakers of the language. Given that, the outer limit of your authority is your own fevered, bitter, and angry mind.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

Liberalist tricks. (none / 0) (#10)
by tkatchev on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 12:13:54 AM PST
There you at it again, using liberalist "logic" to twist words and confuse people.

For example:

I say: "The sky is blue."
You immediately reply: "No, it's not!! This toy Pokemon is blue, are you saying that Pokemon is part of the atmosphere?! Liar!!"

Another example of liberalist "logic":

I say: "Water is wet."
You immediately reply: "No, it's not!! This whiskey in my bottle is wet, are you saying that whiskey is water?! Liar!!"

Again, I say that poetry must have structure. You reply that since other things also have structure, then obviously poetry doesn't need to be structured. Brilliant liberalist logic strikes again!

Peace and much love...

poetry == structure? (none / 0) (#11)
by elenchos on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 12:25:28 AM PST
Remember that? It's a general rule to live by, I'm told.

Anyone who can say "Whatever T.S. Eliot writes isn't poetry" has no business making any serious assertions about anything in the English language. You have no idea what the English word "poetry" means, outside your private definition. No wonder you think it's all about sturcture. You don't know what the words mean.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

Yes. (1.00 / 1) (#12)
by tkatchev on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 12:48:33 AM PST
Yes, I said that "poetry == structure" is a general rule to live by. That means that it's a rule of thumb and a useful way of approaching the subject, not a statement of formal mathematical logic.

Again, I stand by what I said. Anybody who considers the writings of T.S. Eliot "poetry" has no business doing anything. Because that person is flat-out wrong. Read some real poetry, and come back when you have some experience in the real world. I mean no disrespect for Mr. Eliot, or course, but it is not poetry. Invent some new word, if you need, call it "eliotry" or something, but for god's sake, it is not poetry. Calling the writings of T.S. Eliot "poetry" is like calling ballet or architecture "poetry" just because it is aesthetically pleasing.

The art form of "poetry" implies some fairly strict rules, rythm and rhyme being key. If there is no rhythm and no rhyme, then it just isn't poetry, by definition; just like if there is no paint it cannot be a painting, and if there is no sound it cannot be music.

Peace and much love...

Excellent! (5.00 / 1) (#13)
by RobotSlave on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 01:15:21 AM PST
I am so glad you've finally figured out what the word "poetry" means, and taken the time to share your wisdom with the rest of us.

I will now dash off a thesis comparing the sung poetry of Cindy Lauper to the sign poetry of Burma Shave.

Literature is going to be a lot easier now that I don't have to bother with the writers that confuse me.

© 2002, RobotSlave. You may not reproduce this material, in whole or in part, without written permission of the owner.

You wouldn't... (none / 0) (#14)
by tkatchev on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 04:16:48 AM PST
You wouldn't know literature if it bit you on the ass and gave you rabies.

It's pretty sad when your knowledge of "literature" is bounded by T.S.Eliot and Andy Warhol. It's also pretty sad that you are trying to teach me about poetry when your own experience in the field amounts to less than a handful of English-language postmodernist poets.

I know poetry that would make your (meaning "RobotSlave's") head explode if you ever tried comprehending it. You don't have to believe me, but speaking from experience, I can definitely say that T.S.Eliot is not poetry. Come back and argue when you have read more than two poets.

Peace and much love...

My dear, assuming tkatchev: (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by RobotSlave on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 12:50:36 PM PST
I've read Pushkin and Ahkmatova, as well as the usual English language canon from the Green Knight to Dylan Thomas.

And I still think Eliott is a dandy poet, you cur, you cowardly, myopic, sluggardly intellectual runt of a dull-witted litter.

© 2002, RobotSlave. You may not reproduce this material, in whole or in part, without written permission of the owner.

Akhmatova. (none / 0) (#20)
by tkatchev on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 01:37:19 PM PST
Did you read her translated?

Really, the point of it is lost unless you see the games she plays with combining rhytm and concept.

Peace and much love...

mr tkatchev, kiss my ass. (none / 0) (#21)
by nathan on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 01:37:29 PM PST
I don't have very much Russian, so I'm forced to rely on translations; but I read Akhmatova, Svetayeva, and Mandelshtam all the time. (I have also read several works each of Pushkin, Turgeniev, Gogol, Chehov, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy.) I don't pretend to be any kind of expert in Russian literature, but I'm also not completely ignorant. You seem to have a very low opinion of North American readers of, and it seems totally unwarranted to me. Why don't you just admit that not all of us are relativist, Warholian morons?

FYI, I have never read or seen anything by Warhol, so get off it.

Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

Ugh, dictionary good (none / 0) (#17)
by Dexter Descarte on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 01:12:29 PM PST
I hate to break it to you, as it seems to be a very popular string of letters around here, but 'liberalist' is not a word.

Given the choice between the pedantic logic you claim to be the provence of liberals and the anti-logic of the right (ie: turn the other cheek means bomb the shit out of them) I'll suffer under pedantry any old day. The logic you refer to is not, however, as pedantic as you make it out to be. The original poster's reference was to a novel - a string of words -, excepting the Nazi/USSR comparison granted (and the foolish conclusion that neither regime produced poetry), making a damn fine point of logic. How is an epic poem such as The Odyssey different from a novel such as Robinson Curusoe? It's not the simple presence of structure, which both works (hell, all uses of language) obviously have, it's the presence of the homeric metre (perhaps a meta-structure?) in the Odyssey that makes it a poem. This is most certainly not the apple/orange comparison you make it out to be.

"Liberalist" (none / 0) (#19)
by tkatchev on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 01:33:43 PM PST
Well, it is a word now. Feel free to use it.

Face it, the difference between prose and poetry is simply the difference in lexical structure. Poetry tries to make use of primal rhythm / rhyme structures, drawing on music and dance to make a subconscious impression. Prose tries to draw on rational structures, grouping words by concept.

People have been making music and dancing ever since cavemen times, whereas mathematical logic and punctuation marks are fairly recent inventions. Poetry tries to draw on these primal rhythmic structures to make an emotional impression.

This, in reality, is what truly separates poetry from prose. Which is why I'd consider "ganster rap" to be poetry before I'd even think of admitting that Eliot is a poet.

Peace and much love...

Yeah, metre (none / 0) (#23)
by Dexter Descarte on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 01:53:57 PM PST
Well, other than your mangling of the english tongue (yes I know it's polispeak meant to seperate liberal philosophy from other definitions of the word), I basically agree.

a little parochial, mr. tkatchev (none / 0) (#18)
by nathan on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 01:28:27 PM PST
By your definition, haiku is not poetry; neither is most Chinese verse. Your net is too loosely woven to catch things that we recognize and accept as poetry; so your definition fails. Anyway, Eliot's poetry does have rhyme (albeit not usually in a regular scheme,) and rhythm (albeit not the bumpty-bump rhythms of some simpler poetry.) You might as well claim that Stravinsky is not music because the rhythmic and harmonic vocabulary is less structured (conventionalized) than that of Mozart.

Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

Poetry... (none / 0) (#15)
by CaptainZornchugger on Fri Nov 9th, 2001 at 07:48:47 AM PST
In general poetry is a form of writing where there is a specific meter and rhythm -- that is, a particular repeating pattern of accented and unaccented syllables. Of course, as in all art forms, modern creators take increasing liberties to break these rules, almost to the point of abandoning structure completely; but nonetheless, their advancements can be best seen as being part of a movement where rhythym is emphasized and clarity of exposition is largely ignored. Typically, poetry will feature frequent line breaks to emphasize the structure or meter; however, frequent line breaks do not make something a poem, and are, in fact, not required.


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