"Poetics" Updated With A Bow To
What tragedy's about:
the snot in every snout,
in life's sweet fruit the weevil
the "problem," dears, "of evil."
Comedy won't abet it,
blithely implies, "Forget it.
Dance to its push and pull.
Americans don't choose
to listen to such news.
For instance, there's my momma.
She loves Japanese drama,
adores "that there Kabuki.
O yeah, it's really spooky."
Song Of The Urban
Let's have a cheer
Yeah, let's start rootin'
No more a balmy,
will for our good,
Russia's a mess,
but he'll express
her heart's desire,
No fool, no dunce,
he'll bring her once
Nah. Today's pace is
those empty holes,
"Song Of The
Urban Peasantry," An Annotation
The "urban peasantry" in Russian cities and
towns is something new in the history of the world. A
Great Culture in Oswald Spengler's terminology arises
from a peasant countryside as yet innocent of urban
life and money, which develop later in the first
towns. But premature urbanization has been forced on
the Russian peasantry along with Western styles,
technology, and political organization. Its dogged
underlying nature keeps asserting itself, however, as
in the epic, totally surprising defeat of Nazi
Germany in World War II. Nowadays in outlying cites
of Russia, the Western-style economy has broken down;
no one gets paid, and the old peasant system of
barter has reasserted itself in a spontaneous system
of payments in kind and subsistence farming on garden
plots. It is the heavy, deeply cynical and spiritual
mentality of this class of people that the poem seeks
to imagine and portray.
The poem's stanza form, two couplets with the fourth
dimeter shortened by half, puts great emphasis on
that final one-beat phrase. The mocking tone is
established immediately with the echo of
Western-style sports events and conviviality,
culminating with the new President's last,
distinguishing name in the climax position.
Thereafter, the final line of each stanza becomes
extremely ironic. Is Putin a "nice gent"?
Perhaps the speaker himself hardly knows. In the next
stanza the irony of "the jerk" cuts at
least two ways. In the newly-instituted capitalist
society, based on greed and selfishness, Putin is a
"jerk" to devote himself to the public
good. On the other hand, the public, including the
speaker, is not very fortunate because it only has a
"jerk" looking after its interests. After
all, he is not working for the actual public good,
but only that good "as understood,"
presumably by himself, and he can't be expected to
understand much because he's a "jerk."
In this situation, it is not surprising that
"Russia's a mess." The "heart's
desire" of the unawakened Russian masses is
completely unknown, so that the glib statement that
Putin is going to express it registers as very heavy
irony indeed, driven home in the climax line: of
course, anyone who would pretend to such an
impossibility has to be a "liar."
But as the poem goes on to say, Putin is "No
fool, no dunce." He is still dangerous. What
will he do with his power? Russia's "heroic
doin's" refers, of course, to her momentous
defeat of Germany, mentioned aboveand maybe
other things as well: the novels of Dostoyevsky,
perhaps, or the music of Shostakovitch. Will Putin
and his capitalism bring all that to nothing? The
irony in the final stanza is, once again, extremely
complex. The snide dismissal, "Nah,"
implies that the destruction of such a grand past
would itself have a certain grandeur about it and so
would be beyond the power of this little man and the
trivial inconsequential age over which he presides.
The final two lines give the poem its deadliest twist
of all. Our present capitalist Russia, says the
speaker, is an unheroic age of
"commonplaces," and this spiritual
emptiness includes the speaker himself and his fellow
urban peasants; but at the same time, recognizing
this fact is an act of spiritual courage. To see that
one's soul is empty is to realize that one has a soul
and to enter upon the path of spiritual renewal. But
this is not a path that can begin in the fatuous hope
of such renewal. To be genuine, it must begin in
complete despair. Hence the poem's bitter ending.