Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Great Failure of Poetry

The great failure of nineteenth-century English-language poetry was its near-complete avoidance of the pressing subject of Canadian cheese.

On matters of love, loss, honor and Classical mythology did the Great Poets blather. Your Grecian urns, your Childe Harolds, your country churchyards -- great vats of ink were spilled in their minute and painstaking examination. But did the ins and outs of the Canadian cheese industry ever once provide inspiration for a Wordsworth, a Byron, a Longfellow? I put it to you, sir, that they did not. And frankly, that's their -- and the world's -- loss.

I accuse the chalky pederasts podiatrists pedagogues who chivvied me through my Eng. Lit. classes of a grave omission in my poetical education. For all their paeans to the Romantics and the Classicists, for all their elucidation of the nuts and bolts of spondees, trochees and anapests, never once did they bother to mine the rich vein of laudatory verse about Canadian cheese.

Had they not been so blinkered, so lost in the received wisdom so distressingly common in the Humanities, they might have opened my eyes to the Canadian Cheese Problem -- and to the heroic versifier who burst out of the wintry northern darkness to bring the issue to light.

Ladies and gentlemen, with a baleful glare at those unworthy academics who hid his existence from me for all those years, I give you James McIntyre, the Bard of Canadian Cheese!

According to the rather bloodless Wikipedia entry, McIntyre, locally popular for his tireless boosterism for the Canadian cheese industry, "was called on to speak at every kind of social gathering in Ingersoll [Ontario]." I regularly curse the scientific community for their unaccountable failure to invent a time machine, despite the obvious benefits such a device would accrue us*; absolutely the first use to which I would put one would be to transport myself to a public reading of McIntyre's, to bathe myself in the magnificence of verse such as the following:
Ode on the Mammoth Cheese

We have seen thee, Queen of cheese,
Laying quietly at your ease,
Gently fanned by evening breeze --
Thy fair form no flies dare seize.

All gaily dressed soon you'll go
To the great Provincial Show,
To be admired by many a beau
In the city of Toronto.

Cows numerous as a swarm of bees --
Or as the leaves upon the trees --
It did require to make thee please,
And stand unrivalled Queen of Cheese.

May you not receive a scar as
We have heard that Mr. Harris
Intends to send you off as far as
The great World's show at Paris.

Of the youth -- beware of these --
For some of them might rudely squeeze
And bite your cheek; then songs or glees
We could not sing o' Queen of Cheese.

We'rt thou suspended from balloon,
You'd cast a shade, even at noon;
Folks would think it was the moon
About to fall and crush them soon.
Now that, kids, is some poetry. Goddammit, "Toronto" is not an easy rhyme, but look how skilfully it's finessed in the hands of a master!

You too can sample the majesty of McIntyre's prosody. Particularly lissome are Dairy Ode, Prophecy of a Ten Ton Cheese, and Oxford Cheese Ode, but read them all, read them all!

Damn, I'm hungry. Gonna see if I can dig up a chunk of Canuck cheddar...

[Lest we be seen to single out the magnificently awful poetry of our Frozen Neighbor to the North, let's also draw attention to Julia A. Moore, the Sweet Singer of Michigan, whose ineffable skill at bathos very nearly rivals McIntyre's. Enjoy, enjoy! You can thank me later.]

*The benefits this thing accrue us
To see ourselves as others do us!


Mike E said...

They're Canada geese, please

Matt said...

Nice, Neddie.

I like poems on esoteric subjects. In my (almost finished!) dissertation, I have a small section about nineteenth-century geologists who occasionally put their research into verse. Here is a whimsical sample, from a series entitled "Geological Cookery":

To Make Granite.

Of Felspar and Quartz a large quantity take,
Then pepper with Mica, and mix up and bake.
This Granite for common occasions is good;
But, on Saint-days and Sundays, be it understood,
If with bishops and lords in the state room you dine,
Then sprinkle with Topaz, or else Tourmaline.

N.B. The proportion of the ingredients may be varied ad libitum; -- it will keep a long time.


I submit that this was the first and last time that "Tourmaline" was used as an end rhyme, and that it beats even "Toronto" in its poetic ingenuity.

Have faith that the next generation of academics will rescue our nation's youth from their ignorance of Canadian cheese and Felspar!

Sluggo said...

two words - Sarah Binks

Sluggo said...

Re: "The Sweer Songstress of Saskatchewan"

"Despite her massive and early success (barely an issue of the Horsebreeders Gazette was published without at least one poem by Sarah) the poetess never forgot her roots, as illustrated in the deeply moving, if not actually fertilizing work, “The farmer is king!”

The farmer is king of his packer and plough,
Of his harrows and binders and breakers,
He is Lord of the pig, and Czar of the cow
On his hundred and sixty-odd acres.

Professor Hiebert calls upon every last source he can possibly find so that we might better understand and appreciate Sarah’s unique talents. His sources include Dr. Taj Mahal, who studied railway timetables and temperature charts to gain valuable insight into Sarah’s talents, as well as Professor Marrowfat and even Mr. Justice Linseed, who wrote his own “lost classic,” Eighty Years on the Bench.

As we all now know, Sarah’s big break came because of the happy and natural co-joining of poetry and farm animals, as has happened so often in the past. The great literary contest sponsored by the McCohen and Meyers Stock Conditioner Company has become legend at the Quagmire Agricultural Society Fair. The announcement, read by the 13 Schwartzenhacker sisters in Swine and Kine magazine, gave the simple 12 rules, including that the contest was free and all Sarah must do is send as many poems as she liked, accompanied by labels from the stock conditioner.

And so Sarah convinced her father to double the horse’s rations of conditioner, and even ordered Ole to take some in his porridge, such was her determination to win. As always, Sarah’s genius would make itself clear. Not only did she win, but a number of the Bink’s livestock also came away with ribbons. In fact, the ribbon of Dairy Queen is among the most prized in the Binksian Collection.

Sadly, Sarah’s life came to an untimely end.

It makes me scratch myself and ask,
When shall my powers fade?
It puts me severely to the task,
To face this fact undismayed.

Happily for Sarah, but unfortunately for lovers of remarkable poetry, she never really had to face the fact. Her powers remained undiminished to the end, when her combined love of Scotch mints and a slight fever conspired to snuff out the muse, and the actual woman. Bearing down on the mint as she was taking her own temperature, she cracked the thermometer and swallowed all the mercury. Sadly, again, had Sarah not been using a horse thermometer she might still be with us today. But she was, and she isn’t."

Louise Penny

roxtar said...

Was it the proud full udder of Susie's great purse,
Bouncing and swaying it's full way to me,
Who cringes and shudders fearing a burst,
That has taken my heart away from for me?
Was it her chewing consuming the too quiet night?
Gum smacking noise stopping me dead?
No, neither she, nor her sisters by night,
Could conjure these pictures of cheese in my head.
For the cheese set before me is more than they are:
This creation of bovine udder secreations,
This gift of my lovely cow that you are,
Rising my taste buds to udder elation.
But when your great udder filled up my sight,
It was then that I met the love of my life.

Bobby Lightfoot said...

Actually, there is a "Tourmaline" rhyme in Doctor Dre's '96 smash "Smoke First Shoot Later":

"Maxin' in my Ford Capri
On down Crenshaw, up Dupree
Fat ass ho's all get in line
What I gots as hard as Tourmaline"


blue girl said...

Everyone is being so poetic and stuff in this comment thread.


I just wanted to say -- you're such a cool writer, Jeddie!


Had they not been so blinkered...

I can't stand blinkered people.

They're so blinky.

It gets old.

Sluggo said...

I'm sorry, I can't resist, having dipped into the vast well of Binksiana from whence Neddie has conjured the siren call...

Here now is Sarah's translation of

The Laurel's Egg (Die Lorelei)

I know not what shall it betoken
that I so sorrowful seem.
A marklet from out of old, spoken,
that comes me not out of the bean.

The loft is cool and it darkles,
and ruefully floweth the Clean.
The top of the mountain top sparkles
with evening sunshine sheen.

The fairest young woman sitteth
there wonderful up on top.
Her golden-like outfit glitteth,
she combeth her golden mop.

She combs it with golden comb-ful
and sings a song thereto,
that has one wonderful, wonderful,
and powerful toodle-didoo.

The shipper in very small shiplet
begrabs it with very wild cry.
He looks not the rock and the riplet,
he looks but up top on the high.

I believe that the whales will devour
the end of the shipper and ship.
And that in her singing bower
the Laurel's egg done it.

Annapolitan said...

I think that I shall never sees
A poem as lovely as a cheese

The Dairy Maid said...

First the farts,
Now the cheese.
What kind of arts
Are these?