A Short History of Poetry

10 Nov

It feels good to stand and say I’m a poet
A tradition from times past
It’s part of us, and sure to last
See, in the days of knights and kings
The boss kept a guy, his exploits to sing
Now, before Mr. Gutenberg’s press
Passing on these lines needed to be addressed
And wanting his bosses lives to live through time
The early bard would write his words to rhyme

Without fail
He wrote a good tale
Beowulf’s the oldest we got
About some Vikings and the monster they fought
Hung-over warriors fighting the Grendel
Straight up battling without tricks or swindles

For centuries folks were regaled
By this and other, similarly heroic tales
But then came the Catholic Church
Brought art and such to a terrible lurch
The Pope gave poets a doctrine
To write your own way could be a sin

Some smart cats would twist the Pope’s story
Some medieval works have some mad allegory
You know that one called the “Faerie Queen?”
That one is all about words behind the scenes
And Milton’s “Paradise Lost”
Actually talks about when Cromwell was boss
Dante showed Mr. Pope the hell that he had created
But the church couldn’t argue with logic so poetically stated
Then there were the romantics
Buncha scrawny white boys playing with semantics

For hundreds of years poets followed a set of rules
If you couldn’t conform you were labeled a fool
Browning, Coleridge, Burns, and Keats
These fools filled some worthy sheets
So did many others
Too many to list, I won’t bother

Forward some
Our lesson comes
To a fat boy named Walt
Said all these rhymes, they gotta halt
See Whitman felt poems need not be confined
To a pattern of preset rhythms and rhymes
And let’s not forget Emerson walking in God’s temple
Saying language is sacred so let’s keep it simple

Time passed, kids got the hint
Tried new stuff, learned to experiment
1950s come; some cool cats take the heat
It was Jack Kerouac, Ginsberg, and the Beats
After poets like Dylan and Lennon and Morrison went pop
There were some collusions and fusions, and then came the hip-hop

The ‘80s opened with a mighty, mighty bang
With some folks by name of the Sugar Hill Gang
And the mighty, mighty Grand Master Flash
First him then NWA printed some mad cash
Three white-boys tried out this new hip-hop toy
Took the shit to MTV called it Da Beastie Boyz

Let’s take a moment
So as I can be the proponent
Of Mr. Chuck D and The Public Enemy
Telling us how it was, it is, and it shall be
And the Northwest’s Balladeer of angst and hurt
An enlightenment junkie who went by the name of Kurt
Kids adored Mr. Kobain
As he splattered their walls with his brain

Then Dre at last
Having shed his old cast
With a new Dogg to trick, ole Dre went supersonic
They worked up a schtick, then showed up with The Chronic

Then we started to hear bootlegs of one of the great bluesmen of our age
Another junked-up white boy, this one using Long Beach as his stage
But just before his shit blew up big
Brother was called for the heavenly gig
When said right his name Sublimely rolls
The brother, the man, Bradley Knowles
Then, finally, in a case of East meets West
With Biggie and Tupac we lost a couple of the best

Today we mostly get posers
Guys who think we’re all punk-ass hosers
Kids who sound like Eminem
Fiddy Cent or a thousand more like them
I try to model my shit on olde time bards
I never knew I picked the path that’s hard
But, I’m lucky because I can look back and see
Old poets and their works through history
So, no matter how rough this life gets
I know I haven’t written my last lines yet

Baby’s Book, by Stephen Handlin copyright, printed with permission.


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