Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cradle Hymns - I: On Content

During my final Bennington workshop, an argument started over my poem "Arkansas Cradle Hymn." The issue was what one should or should not (or would or would not) say to an infant. "Arkansas Cradle Hymn" takes a dour tone, something like you were born under a bad sign. One of the teachers and a student disagreed (rather personally) about whether or not my poem was viable. The other teacher chimed in, relating a cradle song from his youth in the German-speaking farmlands of Wisconsin that translates something like:

            Fly june-bug, fly!
            Daddy's gone to Pomerania;
            Pomerania is burning to the ground.
            Fly june-bug, fly!

So not all cradle hymns are hush my babe, lie still and slumber. I like this very much. It bucks against the trends of niceties for children that pervade American culture. The Barney refrain of I love you, you love me fails to compass of the world. Protecting the young from the harsh realities of life makes them all the less ready to face the inevitable hardship of life. And art should never be subservient to pleasance. If you have any disturbing cradle hymns, dear reader, do send them along. I'll be posting more on this subject soon.

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