Sunday, February 15, 2009


And what, you ask in all innocence, is a "prosody"? Is it some minor technique, like flower arranging? Need one wear an apron, perhaps a bit of makeup . . . ? No, Grasshopper! It is the anatomy of poetry, the body politic of epiphany and theophany [but, you ask, aren't those the same?], the arms and legs and fingers and phallus of poetry! If you ask what is poetry . . . "Oh, do not ask, 'What is it?'/Let us go and make our visit." [Eliot.] It is the body of technique that makes verse into poems. It encompasses meter and rhythm, line and stanza, figures of speech and sound coloration, types and forms. If you think that poetry is made by breaking up prose into indiscriminate line lengths and random stanzas, then read no further. If you think poetry is an irritation that ought to be smacked with a flyswatter, then go back to reading your refrigeration manual or the latest Clive Cussler (though Clive is a hell of a storyteller--he just seems to be poorly translated from German) from the bestseller list.

There is an esthetic conundrum that needs to be dealt with at this point. I will use painting (visual art) as an example (my wife is a painter and sculptor). Traditionalists (and I am one) think that one ought to be able to master the basic tools of a medium, before experimenting. A painter must be able to represent what he sees in a way that someone else can recognize it. He must know how to use the tools and methods of his trade: brush, paper, canvas, easel, pigment, color, line, perspective, composition, and so forth. Only by knowing and reacting against what has gone before can he create something new and fresh. As Uncle Ezra said, "Make it new!" In the case of "modern art", much of what I have seen strikes me as the equivalent of what Woody Allen (in Love and Death) called "practicing in my room". I am no painter, as my wife often reminds me, but when I don't understand what I'm looking at, even when the artist explains it, I am suspicious and have an impulse to ask the artist if he can paint a portrait of his cat. The poet e. e. cummings produced what looked like word salad sometimes, but he knew exactly what he was doing (I think). You have only to read "Epithalamion" or one of his other early poems to see his complete control. Gerard M. Hopkins, who was way ahead (or outside) of his time, did things to English poetry that we're still trying to figure out--but he had mastered available technique (in English and Latin!). One of my favorite influences, W. S. Merwin, has strained syntax, punished punctuation, and done extraordinary things with line and stanza, but his early work is more traditional and magnificently controled.

I was fortunate to have several good poet-teachers in my formative years. The first, Robert Watson, made us buy Prosody Handbook, by Shapiro and Beaume. We hated the book! We felt our teacher was conspiring with Masters S. & B. to torment us and prevent us from expressing ourselves freely. But, by S&B, we knew what a villanelle and both sonnet forms were--and could write acceptable examples of them. Later, Dan Langton, Mark Linenthal, and Stan Rice (late husband of Anne Rice) put the polish on my poetic education. If you don't know your past, you may be condemned to repeat it.

I am not going to go into the mechanics of prosody. There are, as noted above, a number of good books available. Instead, I will offer a small poem, a little reminiscence:

What Has Been Planted

I started reading the unabridged
dictionary when I was twelve
it was the best novel I had seen
I took the words
singly and in groups
and planted them in the yard
not knowing what meanings
what shapes what colors
would sprout
and a different crop
would come up every year
casting their connotations to the wind
and flowering with new sounds
before the syllables went to seed
What has been sown
will be reaped long after I have
gone to rest

Daniel Moore

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Well, here I go again, stirring up the natives! I may have to violate my rule of no-guns-in-the-house (instituted for the safety of the kids long ago; my father kept the family arsenal) soon, if they start coming down the street. I was always a pretty good shot, especially at closer range with the twenty-gauge.

There is no such thing as race in human beings. I repeat, for the farsighted, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS RACE IN HUMAN BEINGS. As a Christian, I base this on the first book of the Bible, "Genesis". As I have said before, rejection or adulteration of any of the Bible, but particularly the first and last books, makes the whole of it moot. Either God created the universe (not the "multiverse"--though it's a neat concept for stories) and us, or we might as well give up and join the Dawkins Dunderheads with their "millions and billions of years". Ken Ham, of "Answers in Genesis", first electrified me a few years ago with a short radio sermon on race and Genesis. The argument is simple: God created us in His "image". I put the latter word in quotes because we do not look like God physically; that is impossible. God is a spirit being and has no physical form; or, conversely, He can take any form He likes (remember Moses . . .). What this means is that we are created with an immortal spirit, intelligence, and free will. We are locked into one form (though one wonders about "shapechangers"--the subject for another essay) at this level of reality.

Now for the next sticking point. . . . Humans display mild variation just like housecats. This is natural and is called micro-evolution. Given the fact that we have only been around for, perhaps, twenty-thousand years (though the strict creationists will dispute this), some differences in size, pigmentation, hairiness, and so forth are to be expected. Genesis speaks of God creating "kinds": human kind, dog kind, etc. Biblical taxonomy is simple and to the point. We seem to have varied less than other kinds; perhaps this is due to our tripartite nature and possession of an immortal spirit. In any event, it puts paid to the concept of "races" of humans. Genetically, we can all be traced back to one set of parents. Thus, there is no need to classify people by race; we are all from the same stock. While I'm at it, let us dispense with the nonsense of other or earlier forms of humans, as contained in that odious term "hominids". We are the only hominids; there have been no others! Current research has shown that "Neanderthals" were genetically so close to the average living person that there is no differentiation--no speciation. The existence of "Bigfoot" and other bipedal apes, or "cryptids", might explain the "fossils" touted as missing links between humans and apes. Some of the cryptids are pigmy forms.

The division of humans into races, such as caucasoid, negorid, mongoloid, etc., is inherently artificial and is always done with the intent of creating division and paranoia. Indeed, the adoption by different groups of cultural identities based on race can be divisive and can limit the work of God in establishing the Kingdom of Heaven. I am not talking about groups speaking different languages or coming together from very different cultures. Multiculturalism should be a natural process of blending, a respectful exchange of flavors. It cannot be forced. This country was founded on the blending of cultures, languages, and creeds. It has produced something greater than the sum of its parts: the United States of America. Vive le difference!