Betting on the Races: Dark Horse

White folks: pack your bags and go.
Our nut-brown world is quite offended.
Make your shame-faced exit NOW,
and leave your mansions unattended.
Wait—before you pass the doors,
it’s time to settle ethnic scores.

No more ragtime Minstrel show.
Our Moorish science took it down.
Black lives matter. White, less so—
now move your paleface out of town . . .
but first, shell out for racial shame
Caucasian losers of the game.

Cultural pride is ours alone:
kings and Egyptian queens we were.
The glories of our race, well-known
bedazzle in a darkened blur
(clear to Africa’s descendants—
puzzling to you white dependents).

Blackness lent your world its light,
taught the Dutch to tend those flowers.
Scandinavia grew bright
under our beneficent powers.
Negroes gave your blondes their beauty;
helped those Norsemen shake their booty.

The Seven Wonders of the world:
we built them all. No vain conjecture
dims our banner, black, unfurled,
above eternal architecture.
Arts and knowledge gained from us
are what we threaten to discuss.

We invented math and science
which you robbed from Timbuktu.
Swarthy wisdom’s brave defiance
caused Old Europe to renew.
All our treasure that you plundered
testifies: your days are numbered.

Classics of our Greeks you stole:
Philosophy was never yours.
Shame upon your racist soul;
for Bach and Mozart both were Moors.
Misappropriated treasures
call for ruthless hard-line measures.

Latino fate falls next—  but, where ?
Jews, Turks, and Arabs: are you. . . white ?
Orientals everywhere:
choose your side and join the fight.
Blackness rising! Late the hour;
heed your call to fight the power.

Crackers need to check your race
stop rooting for that vulgar clown…
Rednecks all up in our face;
racist throwbacks got us down.
But as your statues bite the dust
your light goes dark (you know it must).

So move on out, oppressor, thief.
Long have you held our nation back.
In some white galaxy seek relief—
but here the light itself is black.
Stars are racist. So is the sun.
Now let God’s great black will be done.

 

 

 

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Major Modern Poetry Killer

 

And now here comes the major modern poetry killer, John Ashbery, hailed, worshiped and emulated the world over. I knew him, reader, back at Harvard, if only slightly. The closest I came was years later, when I ran into a common friend of ours who was off to visit John in the hospital and persuaded me to tag along. I forget what Ashbery was ailing from that had bedded him, as well as what may have been said in that threesome.

More perpendicularly, he proved amiable but distant the rare times we may have crossed paths, as amiable, I imagine, as when he smilingly murdered poetry.

John Simon: Who Killed Poetry?

 

And NOW for the PUNCHLINE:

The extraordinary free-verse meditation “A Wave” (1983) is the last essai in John Ashbery’s Selected Poems of 1987. The evocative title can be read as a cannily ambiguous try-on: it immediately suggests oceanic rhythmicality, but there are also implicit intimations of the “wave-theory” of modem physics (key principle and metaphor for the “electric age”) and, at least, an implication of gestural nonchalance which Stevie Smith had contrasted to “drowning” and John Berryman acted out as farewell salute to an uncomprehending world (see above, Chapter 5). In contrast to the existential intensity of Smith’s polarisation and Berryman’s casual desperation, Ashbery’s “Wave” represents a zone of apparently relaxed, postmodern hyper-reality where experience is a constant renegotiation between a hypostasised “we” of communality and the environmental simulacra which surround and help define the contemporary human project. “A Wave” inscribes a cool, street-wise Heraclitianism where insubstantiality is almost sacralised as material being and the pragmatic present (“the ground on which a man and his wife could / Look at each other and laugh, remembering how love is to them”, 331) is all that can be constituted. Ashbery’s style represents postmodernity through a kind of linguistic mimesis of flux in its verbal fluidity, calculated vaguery and eclectic artificiality: in this it can fittingly be termed “postmodernist”.

ABSTRACT: John Ashbery’s Wave