Monday, July 31, 2006

Reader's comments on July issue

I like the editorial, "Wit and Witticisms," and as usual, it proves to be extremely erudite. For the most part, I agree with your recommendations on how poetry should use wit. I must admit, however, that I am not entirely convinced of your analysis of McCaffrey's poem. You are right, in my opinion, to suggest that the poem is culturally specific, and that its full meaning is accessible only to bilingual readers; but I don't think that this makes the poem opaque. I feel that your reading of this poem is very cosmopolitan -- in the sense that you demand a universal means of apprehension -- yet, ironically, parochial in that you call for an English puritanism. My understanding of your analysis here may be wrong, but I find it difficult to agree that the poet needs to reach the "general reader" -- that's what I found was the problem with Baraka's poem. I think the beauty of the poem lies in its extreme brevity that is able to layer meaning, and, as you mention, "probe the limits of language," whether or not the general reader is aware of this phenomenon. In fact, this exclusivity may actually be part of the poem, since it reflects the political debate re official languages in Canada.

As always, I learned something new from reading your editorial; fascinating explanation of the Augustan epigram! Looking forward to reading the rest of the mag. I agree that it is frustrating reading a text in another language; but sometimes, I'll admit that the second or third language in a work, such as Regine Robin's _The Wanderer_ which moves between English, French and Yiddish, has a whole other meaning, one that is not linguistic. In Robin's case, for example, the point is to recreate the alienation felt by an immigrant in a multicultural city. It does become problematic, however, when we consider that Robin's text was translated from French into English, from English into French, etc. Is there a dominant language, then, in a text, or does it depend on the reader's own language? I don't have an answer to this question, but I think this illustrates that the complexity of a poem or text, the beauty therin involves more than just its linguistic meaning, as I think it does in your own poems and your play, as you mention, that incorporate both English and German.

As for the plunderverse, I'm a little confused as to what it is exactly. You explain it very well, I believe, as a genre "that purports to save the 'waste' of language by creating poems from other already finished poems." i went to Betts' site to read some more on this avant-garde style, hoping to see some excellent specimens of poetry to dissect. Well, I found specimens there, but they were more like tadpoles than fully grown amphibians. The way you explained it, I thought to myself, it could be an interesting form if done well. If the poet were well acquainted with the primary text and reformulated it in a way that responded or reacted to its original meaning; I guess my hopes were too high. I should have heeded your warning that the plunderverse "is not parody" and that "it simply plunders." If Betts' work exemplifies the characteristics of plunderverse, than I agree that it's merely a pilfering, and one that leaves the thief in a state of bankruptcy at that!

Michele Rackham
Canada
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I did read your editorial, and thought it was really interesting. I'm not sure I share your critique of language poetry, and actually thought that the "Catching Frogs" poem was very compelling, but I thought you did a good job of deploying those eighteenth-century heavyweights to your advantage!

Julie Murray
Canada

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One can hopefully now offer a deserved congratulations to Nnorom and Amatoritsero for offering us another month's interesting mix of magazine interview, poems, essays, images and related information. I usually look out for what may be regarded as the surprise gift of the month. In some months there is none. But this July edition offers an interesting essay by the inimitable Ikhide Ikheola. 'Night Light' is his 'common' reader's attempt at locating the 'poetry public' at the centre of the poetry enterprise:

"If I were to be a poet, the questions for me would be the following: Why do I wish to express myself? Who is my intended audience? How do I connect with my intended audience? Have I been successful at connecting with my audience? It seems to me that form, structures, and rules are useful only to the extent that they help the poet to effectively deliver a messager... The good critic should be able to say the poem is great and it achieves greatness because it uses certain tools. It ought not to acheive greatness because it has (a), (b) (c) and (d) rules, structures, etc..."

This idea of a poetry criticism concerned primarily with content, with message, rather than form will find few suitors among practising poets and their critics. Poetry is recognisable as form before it is interpreted as message. This is a governing idea in aesthetic formalism and there are good reasons for it. The form of poetry is sometimes its only message, as in some postmodern poetry, and, because poetry is open to interpretation, a poem will allow into its world (and its work) even the unintended interpretations. Sometimes a supposedly political poem, even one intended as such, my take on a life of its own, make many acquaintances and then yield itself to a thousand ambiguities or subjectivities, meaning differently to its different readers from age to age, place to place, doing a work for some love-lorn Literature sophomore in an Australia college quite different from that for which it had been faithfully recited by the race-challenged youth of civil rights America. An example of such a larger-than-one-message, greater-than-one-people poem would be Dream Deferred, the Langston Hughes classic:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raison in the sun?
Or fester like a sore-
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over-
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?


The eloquence of poetry, its power to arouse, is also a reason why the poetic language, indeed poetry, has, in political history, been attractive to both the Machiavellian demagogue and the heroic revolutionary, serving both saint and vilain. It is the case then that though we have a fair degree of control over the form of poetry, the message is more unruly because it is open to much (mis)interpretation and misuse. The art is what lives after the message is dead or has been discredited. This is the case today with aspects of our oral poetry - those in which the ancients were not so nice, or, were expressing worldview that we no longer hold, as found in some of the maledictions, proverbs and incantations. We retain these sayings for their anthropological and aesthetic value though we no longer believe in what they say. So, form, structure, aesthetic considerations in poetry will always matter to us, and remain central in our determination of poetic value.

Beyond this necessary defence of form I am in general agreement with Ikhide that 'poetic truth' as has been the focus of Amatoritsero's Sentinel editorials cannot repeatedly fail to communicate with the common reader, or fail in its preoccupation with form to be concerned with the 'common life' and yet seek to assert the universality of its truth. When is poetry most true? When it achieves perfection in form as determined by, and recognisable only to, a master class of aesthetes and subject experts, or when that celebrated aesthetic excellence has jettisoned its elitist exclusivities to also enthrall and variously affect Ikhide and many interested others not claiming particular expertise in the subject? Is it possible that the experience of poetry, the form of poetry, its capacity for self-actualisation, can become enlarged, perhaps even improved, by this engagement with others outside the closeted community of experts? Is poetry then not only as good, as true, as valuable, even only as representative a measure of form and excellence as the experience it has allowed itself? These are some of the concerns suggested in the views of common reader Ikhide – and these are not concerns to be dismissed lightly.

They are issues which are well worked in contemporary poetry criticism and theory. The pursuit of an audience for poetry, the conflicting definitions of 'the common reader', the devolution, nationalization or democratization of judgement on aesthetic value, the need to uphold the truth of art, its enduring qualities and integrity against artless populism, mediocrity and artifice in representation - these are all familiar material thrown up by the discourse positions taken by Amatoritsero and Ikhide. Beyond the seemingly facile preoccupation with form, these deeper concerns with the integrity of art are what inform the following comment from Amatoritsero's editorial, 'Wit and Witticism':

"True wit should deploy syntactical brevity, measured cadence, memorable expressions, even the pun, but all within an ambience of truthful utterance developed through demonstrable logic and not empty binarisms, antithesis or the maxim; it should not provide wayward moral injunctions in its subtext."

Amatoritsero has indeed grown into his editorial, or grown with it, becoming more deliberate and aware in his polemical choices, more sensitive to opposing perspectives, than was evident at the onset of this investigation of integrity and aesthetic value in poetic representation. He has said he would like to rework and publish these editorial essays some day and one can see how this might be possible from closer study of their unifying subject. There are of course no easy answers to these issues which provide material for the poetics of the essays in the current Sentinel Online magazine. Some kind of guiding thought is, however, articulated by poet and critic Sean O'Brien in his book, The Deregulated Muse (Bloodaxe Books, 1998). Seeking to distinguish the enduring qualities of art from its possible value in popular entertainment, he says:

'This seems to me a decisive argument... It is that art has something to offer the audience - enlightenment, a sense of wonder, a clarification of feeling, an extention to the map of experience - of which the audience is not already in complete posseession. The distinction between art and entertainment is to be sought in this area..."

In seeking to provide poetry and poetry criticism which are both aware of the high aesthetic considerations of poetry specialist Amatoritsero and common consumer Ikhide, it seems to me that we are well advised by the words of O'Brien above.

In the current Sentinel magzine, apart from the essays, there is poetry from Victoria Kankara (Guest Poet), Janet Sommerville, Molara Wood, Angela Nwosu, Janine Wright, Tolu Ogunlesi, Niyi Juliad and Obododinma Oha. There are visuals from Nicole Beaumont too. I am hesitant about the choice of Victoria Kankara as Guest Poet for the current magazine. I am especially uncertain about the poems which represent her there.

For those interested, one famous poet's perspective on some of the issues in poetic truth and the integrity of the word, especially on the subject of verisimilitude, can be found in an interview with John Ashbery here:

http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88v/asbery-interview.html

Afam Akeh

UK


Click here to return to sentinel poetry (online) - August 2006

Monday, July 03, 2006

Editorial: Wit and Witticisms

The Sentinel Poetry Online Editorial, July 2006

This is a self-generated response to the June editorial “Tax and Syntax”: the bread that is “Tax and Syn/tax” misses the leaven of ‘instrumentality and function’ in matters of poetic expression as distinct from the prosaic or rabid experimentation in contemporary poetics. There is a need to delineate the sense in which ‘wit’ is ‘not’ to be understood here, and we do have recourse to English literary history in this process of elimination.

English poetics of the Augustan period, that is, from the 17th through the 18th century, was ambivalent about the deployment of wit- that is, ‘false wit’- in its poetry particularly and prose generally. In Roger D. Lund’s “The Ghosts of Epigram, False Wit, and the Augustan Mode” he refers to George Williamson (1961), who quotes Robert South thus: “[b]revity and succinctness of speech is that, which in philosophy or speculation, we call maxim, and first principle; in the counsels and resolves of practical wisdom, and the deep mysteries of religion, oracle; and lastly, in matters of wit, and the finenesses of imagination, epigram.”

Generally an epigram is a short witty saying; but in the Augustan sense it could be an epigrammatic couplet standing as a stanza or a longer short poem in couplets, as a legitimate form within a hierarchy including the epic, the dramatic, the lyric, the elegaic, the epoenetic and the bucolic. Lund notes that the epigram was the most problematic in rhetorical legitimacy for the critics of the day, like John Dryden, Joseph Addison or even Alexander Pope, who nevertheless wrote several epigrams himself or who, according to J. Paul Hunter “brought the couplet – already the dominant form of English poetry for more than a century – [and one of the chief characteristics of the epigram] to its most finished state of formal perfection and at the same time popularized its accessible conversational ease.” Before we proceed, here is an example from Pope’s “Essay on Criticism”:


A little Learning is a dang'rous Thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:
There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.


Although those lines are excerpted from a much longer poem, and were not composed in the usual short forms epigrams come in – especially in the epigrammatic epitaph – it can nevertheless stand alone as an epigram. It is complete as an epigram, with rhyming couplet (or the heroic couplet), equivocation in the first line, pun in ‘draughts as juxtaposed against ‘drinking’ and closure and surprise in the last line where the drunken becomes magically sober from more drinking. The ring of the first line sounds like a maxim, or a truth although it is built on the fiction and sloganeering and the myth of the Pierian spring; its truth is closer to fiction than to that of logic, philosophy or science. Now let us take another example from the same ‘Wit’ – for these poets with such quick turns of sharp utterances where also referred to as wits:

See how the World its Veterans rewards!
A Youth of frolicks, an old Age of Cards,
Fair to no purpose, artful to no end,
Young without Lovers, old without a Friend,
A Fop their Passion, but their Prize a Sot,
Alive, ridiculous, and dead, forgot!
(ll. 242-48)

The above is quoted by Lund, who notes the emphasis on antithesis – common in Pope, for example in the long poem, “Essay on Man”, and in the Augustan epigram generally – which we can equate with the equivocation in the first example due to the similarity in rhetorical move.

Such was the hold of the epigram on the 18th century that in spite of its “equat[ion] with the exploitation of puns and conceits that everyone conceded to be forms of false wit” , it was nevertheless difficult to exorcise the poetic imagination of the day of what, in the first place, made it ‘witty’. One reason for the paradox can be deduced from Hunter’s assertion that there was a grey area between writing and talking in the 18th century and that active conversation was an art that was cultivated and diligently pursued in coffee houses – especially in the city. As such the close approximation of the Augustan epigram to everyday speech, embellished with couplets and equivocations, antithesis, ‘the point’ or closure and surprise and humour, had popular appeal; besides these epigrams where the main content of ‘miscellanies’, which were ‘textbooks’ on cultivated speech and ‘universal truths’ and a part of the education of young men of class. This popularity made it easy to simply anchor formal metric features unto popular speech, insinuating a sophistication of wit – for all it is worth, with the results passing for elevated literary speech while managing to maintaining the distinction between prose proper and poetry.

There was also the allure that the epigram was easy to remember, especially where knowledge of aphoristic universals were concerned. Again it should be noted that such ‘truths’ were, nevertheless based on false logic. If we juxtapose the scientific deduction, ‘twelve inches make one foot’ to Pope’s “A little learning is a dangerous thing”, the first term would be much more accurate mathematically (and can be proven logically) than the second. Perhaps it is one reason why Plato wanted to kick the poet out of his republic, although poetry does, of course, has as its function - the cultivation of the mind and humanising of the man.

Augustan ‘false’ wit, with its “anagrams, acrostics, jests, riddles, rebuses, conundrums, epigrams, and cheap witticisms” , is not the kind of wit one intends to dwell upon in this essay. But before we depart this course of investigation we ought to have one more example from a modernist, namely T.S. Eliot; a paraphrase will do: ‘Your husband is coming to dinner tonight/may it be the last that he shall eat!’ This is from one of Eliot’s minor poems and he was wise in not pursuing such epigrammatic fancies in his major poems or in the larger body of his oeuvre. Finally the simplest way for the contemporary mind to grasp the worst of Augustan wit is to compare it to what we would call the limerick today. In short the epigram was too unserious a form to be totally integrated into the major forms, except perhaps, the burlesque, the ribald or the comic.

To grasp the kind of wit in contemplation we should begin with the ‘true wit’ of the Greeks as distinct from that Latinate impostor introduced by Martial Ausonius – dealing in antithesis, equivocation, closure or ‘point’ and surprise – which is the direct progenitor of Augustan false wit. Greek wit was, mostly, a set of fine thoughts; it neither dealt in mirth nor surprise but was capable of giving aesthetic pleasure to fragile sensibilities. What was required of the Greek epigram was a simple brevity and unity of thought. Such brevity and unity of thought, which can be achieved with a lean syntax, imagistic and precise diction and poignancy, is the kind of wit under consideration.

Those qualities will then be instrumental toward the function of organic unity within the poem. The contemporary poet should then always pose himself questions about the purpose of a word or an expression within the poem. A superfluity of wording or expression should be shunned since it could lead to prosaicness at best, mixed metaphors at worst or a complete breakdown of intended verbal and thematic effects. Here there is a need to comment on the over-elaborately brief. There is such a thing as false economy in traditional grammar just as in the syntax of poetry. While writing about the new-fangled ‘plunderverse’, a commentator made the example of a two-word poem and proceeded to confidently refract its import through his own cultural prism. The poem in question is Peter McCaffrey’s “Catching Frogs”: “jar din”. That is the whole poem; yes, “Jar din”! Gregory Betts then proceeds to justify it thus:

His brilliant "Catching Frogs," for instance, unravels an entire narrative with just two words: "jar din." From the bilingual play of the two words, the activity (catching frogs) gains a locus (the garden) and a conclusion (the frog is now in the jar). Best of all, the title plays on the pun of frogs as Frenchmen, and the game of finding French words in English.

Ellipsis or omission is a normal trope in poetry – and a useful one too, that helps in stream-lining syntax and scintillating the cerebrum of the reader, nevertheless there is usually some hint or a clue for the reader, some sort of scaffolding, narrow as it might be, for him to walk upon towards apprehension. None is apparent here, except perhaps in the title. Even then there are cultural and linguistic barriers set up here for a speaker who knows only English. The intended pun on ‘frogs as Frenchmen’ - obvious as it might seem to North American readers – and ‘the game of finding French words in English’, are too culturally specific to be transparent to speakers of English elsewhere. It would have served the poet’s purpose better to construct the line such that the brevity is retained but not at the expense of the general reader. There is also the possibility of misapprehension- even for the North American reader of English. “Jar din” could be read as an anagram of ‘garden’ merely, without the reader making any conclusive semantic deductions – except, perhaps, with the weak prop of the titling, which might suggest to him that someone is catching physical frogs in the garden and that there is a ‘din’ (noise) in the ‘jar’ where the frogs are dropped. The punning insinuated in the bilingualism would be lost due to a cultural opacity. It is indeed a brilliant ploy but one that leaves too much room for ambiguity, unless the poet intended to append footnotes! This is brevity at its most unnecessarily extreme. But of course Bretts is discussing avant-garde experimental or language poetry, which probes the limits of a language that we are ‘forced into’.

That language is arbitrary and difficult to master does not mean that there are no agreed units, rules and modes of signification. Once we learn the signs in a particular language, such a language’s arbitrariness is then delimited by rules of communication. This structuralist fallacy of eternal arbitrariness would then be unmasked. We do use words to mean, irrespective of whether they are arbitrary or not; words, that is, in syntactical relationships within the sentence or a line of verse. Contractions, in the form of syntactical brevity or ellipses, should expand the field of signification through its omissions not raise cultural semantic blocks, semantic ambiguity or doubts. Otherwise such construction would fall under what one might call ‘witticisms’, perhaps not quite the ‘false wit’ of the Augustan epigram since the tropes involved and effects intended or achieved might be different.
For our purposes witticisms are forms, which – through the instrument of figures and syntactical constructions other than that of Augustan poetics; or a mixture of the latter’s features and different or similar contemporary tropes – begin to bend towards the false wit of Augustan poetics. In this model the above example of an over-contraction of a poem would be a witticism; so would be the lippogram, because it relies on a preponderance of phonic punning and, like the Augustan epigram and its conceits, resemble what Sir William Temple, according to Lund, in complaining about the influence of Martial on the Augustan period, describes as
“an Ingredient that gave Taste to Compositions which had little of themselves; 'twas a Sauce that gave Point to Meat that was Flat, and some Life to Colours that were Fading. . . . However it were, this Vein first over-flowed our modern [read contemporary] Poetry, and with so little Distinction or Judgment that we would have Conceit as well as Rhyme in every Two Lines, and run through all our long Scribbles as well as the short, and the whole Body of the Poem, whatever it is.”

Temple’s observation would apply to most areas of the contemporary avant-garde. For example Augustan Poetry- as insinuated by Hunter- emphasised “special representations on the page like symmetrical rectangles […] or other repeated shapes” . He contends that modern poetry, meaning poetry as it is today, shuns the overt rhyme and does not call attention to its shape and patterns of repetition. We must assume that Hunter has not read much of the contemporary avant-garde! Certainly he has not read a lippogram.

The avant-garde over-reaches itself in the phenomenon of the plunderverse, which purports to save the ‘waste’ of language by creating poems from other already finished text by other poets. It is not a parody, no; nor is plunderverse satisfied with intertextuality or the literary allusion but it must tear down other texts completely to make its perverse points; it simply plunders! These language games do not represent true innovation or experiments nor do they show much originality. There are also issues of ethics and copyright to be considered. This kind of literary narcissism is not much different from what the Augustan period practiced to an extreme, and which made several critics of the day cry out, ‘foul’!

Experiments in language are necessary and useful but not in the form of witticisms. What it does is to introduce a cultural decadence similar to what ‘the age of Martial’ initiated into 18th century thought. One way in which witticisms in poetry introduce cultural decadence is that it impacts the language in which it is written in a negative way; more on that shortly. According to Bretts, and as it is common knowledge, Shakespeare influenced the English language by introducing new words into it through his poetic utterances – one thousand and seven hundred new words exactly, one of which is ‘excellence’ or ‘majestic’. In the same way contemporary poets, depending on their originality – and ‘wit’ in the proper sense or witticisms, as the case might be – may influence any language by introducing not only new words but turns of expressions, which then flow into the general current of a living language. Since language is the medium for expressing cultural thought, subjective reality can be influenced by writers in general and poets particularly. Politics is one area of culture where the accretions from writers and poets, especially poets, may be used or abused by power to shape subjective reality for ill or even for good; but most times for ill.

We can now begin to closely look at the specific ways in which the contemporary avant-garde (with its perverse witticisms) or the poetaster and the lazy poet, may, like Martial in previous centuries, initiate cultural decay, shape and mis-shape subjectivities. The linguistic gestures of the poet in any language, once they flow into the mainstream, are likely to find unconscious replication in the users of that language. This is an age of war, religious belligerence and bigotism; these two areas of cultural life are then very sensitive to such influences from poets or writers generally. The war in Iraq was initiated through the agency of language, first, that is the language of propaganda or perverse rhetoric. When a powerful leader of the world uses the expression, “the axis of evil” – whether borrowed from a speech writer or not – he is following one of the rhetorical strategies (metonymy in this case) of the poet.

The expression is witty in a negative 18th century epigrammatic fashion. It takes hold of the naïve subject with the force of the slogan, though based on untruth; it is short, witty and therefore memorable. The metonymy, ‘axis of evil’, neatly cuts the world into two different opposed parts with the certitude of a samurai sword. There are several binaries at work there, good and evil being just one of them. The listener can then go on, depending on their political sway, and imaginatively multiply such binaries: Muslim=bad and Christian =good and so on. Binaries are dangerous because it leaves the mind in a stupor and closes all doors to mediating discourses. In this way the war was first fought (and won for propaganda) on the level of language before its physical manifestation. And when a bellicose leader taunts the other and promised him ‘the mother of all battles’, again the rhetorical gesture consolidated by countless poets in ages past is put into a negative use.
Of course it is easy to argue that the metonymy and the prepositional construction exemplified are a standard in any language, are parts of our linguistic unconscious already and available to anyone who would abuse it. Very true, and this is precisely why the poet should not further deploy expressions – heavy on false wit or witticisms, illogic and untruth – which may become mainstream in the future of any language; rather have truth and reason at the writing elbow, such that there would be no rhetorical precedence for misappropriation; or that if false wit should occur in utterance, the very structure and character of a language would make it obvious at once.

Contemporary avant-garde’s witticisms – and here one should include not only the verbal but also ‘representational witticisms’ such as drawings, irrational textual form or mixed media – as they are deployed lead to cultural decay by impoverishing what could otherwise be examples of great poetry for tradition and by pushing language inexorably into a dead-end; even if the avant-garde thinks it is doing the exact opposite. Due to false wit there is plenty room for a political misappropriation of rhetoric. Let us take the example of plunderverse’ rhetorical manifesto according to Bretts:

Plunderverse limits its own expression to the source text, but attempts a genuine, divergent expression through the selection, deletion or contortion of it. Plunderverse makes poetry through other people’s words. The constraint is not random, but merely an accelerated variation of the basic fact of language: we already speak in each other’s words. Plunderverse exaggerates the constraints through which we realize and discover our own voice, re-enacting the struggle against influences and cultural histories. It does not try to obscure, bury or overcome influence, but, in fact, celebrates the process by which influences vary into and inform our own voices. It foregrounds the process of language acquisition, reveals the debt of influence and exploits the waste of language.

Underlying the above manifesto is another kind of witticism, non-verbal but equally dangerous, namely that of legitimising theft and destruction– this time literary destruction and theft as distinct from borrowing, allusion or intertextuality and by extension, any kind of theft and destruction. There is a moral hole at the centre of this ‘plundering’ that is appalling. It seeks to deface an already finished work under the fallacy that we speak in each other words, anyway. Bretts occludes the fact that even if we utter each other’s words, they come out with differing tonal ranges and combinations that do not make any two sentences the exact same thing. It is indeed wastage if someone where to take my poetry and, through cancellation and selection, pretend to have ‘written’ a new ‘original’ poem. Plunderverse exemplifies the laziness that powers the avant-garde, as it is now constituted, by promoting or seeking to atrophy personal imagination and true creative impulse. It celebrates war and despoliation, literally, war on words and, metaphorically, war as a ‘phenomenon’ in itself; and as a means of balance in wasteful and over-producing economies. Listen to him:

As Bataille wrote, economies that depend upon wastefulness must obscure the waste or risk the insurgence of destabilization. The Vikings, in their indelicate raids, pillaged the excesses of communities without destroying the waste-producing structures (allowing them to return and plunder again in the future).
Should one walk into a gallery and begin to take bits and pieces of a painting to create a collage of another painting. The new work would amount to a destruction and theft of the old. Surely one would be flogged out of the gallery as Jesus Christ flogged religious whores out of the synagogues of his youth.
True wit should deploy syntactical brevity, measured cadence, memorable expression, even the pun, but all within an ambience of truthful utterance developed through demonstrable logic and not empty binarisms, antithesis or the maxim; it should not provide wayward moral injunctions in its subtext.

Notes
1. Eighteenth-Century Life - Volume 27, Number 2, Spring 2003, pp. 67-95.
2. Hunter Paul, J. “Couplets and Conversation” in The Cambridge Companion to Eighteenth Century Poetry ed. John Sitter (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001) 13.
3. Roger D. Lund Eighteenth-Century Life - Volume 27, Number 2, Spring 2003, 79.
4. Ibid. 1
5. Ibid. 80
6. See “Plunderverse: A cartographic Manifesto” at http://www.poetics.ca/poetics05/05betts.html
7. Ibid.80
8. Hunter 20

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