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Philately and a suicidal poet come together in the USA

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Poetry is often a  self indulgent art form, and while some of it clearly shows  skill with words and language in my opinion the it is those who can put their words to music that actaully have a chance to reach a mass audience, and in our age of the sound-bite it is the lines of those songs that resonate in a way that those who expect their pearls of wisdom  to be read from the pages of a book can never achieve. In the course of getting my degree I had to read some rather dreary and pretentious  poetry fortunately I managed to avoid Sylvia Plath. Recently I had cause to read some of her poetry and  what I found was certainly  the dreary and pessimistic ranting of a depressive who eventually topped herself.

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You have to wonder why it is that so many extreme lefties love the poetry of such tragic fucked up people, and who might be tempted to use this sad failure of a woman as their name sake? That is however really an aside because what I want to suggest here today is that what will become of stamp collectors and philately as a pastime once the email becomes ubiquitous enough to slay snail mail entirely? How long will it take before those who collect postage stamps are as obscure as those who used to collect other ephemera like cigarette cards or the numbers of steam engines?

Cheers Comrades

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7 Comments

  1. Ray Dixon says:

    I think you left the link out, Iain. Was the article written by The Age’s Jo Chandler by any chance? She seems to be a fan of Plath. And Gread (there you go, I said it – so sue me Jo).

  2. Angel says:

    Nichoas, the son, topped himself too.

  3. Iain Hall says:

    The piece comes from the UK’s Guardian Ray so I don’t think That Jo Chandler had any thing to do with writing it. Actually the piece strikes me as being a typical puff piece based upon a US Mail press release intended to shore up philately based sales of special edition stamps. I didn’t realise that Chandler was a Fan of Plath and her poetry, but fame “on both sides of the Atlantic” for writing poetry probably does not amount to much more than some acclimation from the dusty halls of academia. Where as the writers of popular songs have more impact because rather than dreary introspection they tap into the universal themes and ideas that resonate with the ordinary people.

  4. GD says:

    Poetry and song lyrics are very different genres. Unfettered by musical accompaniment, poetry is able to soar to the heights of human imagination or the depths of human depair. Unfortunately, Sylvia Plath’s poetry does neither. Instead her efforts read as a confused rambling in which the words bash up against each other, and the phrases jar the senses. Her outpourings are almost an antithesis of poetry, except for the fact that she starts out well, only to drop the ball with the next line, or phrase, completely destroying the poetry, but maintaining the confusion.

    On the other hand, Australia’s Poet Laureate, Les Murray, effortlessy switches from cerebral to everyman. He is a poet whose words never clash, and would never be reduced to the banality of a song lyric.

    to wit, from his free sample website:

    The Harleys

    Blats booted to blatant
    dubbing the avenue dire
    with rubbings of Sveinn Forkbeard
    leading a black squall of Harleys
    with Moe Snow-Whitebeard and

    Possum Brushbeard and their ladies
    and, sphincter-lipped, gunning,
    massed in leather muscle on a run,
    on a roll, Santas from Hell
    like a whole shoal leaning

    wide wristed, their tautness stable
    in fluency, fast streetscape dwindling,
    all riding astride, on the outside
    of sleek grunt vehicles, woman-clung,
    forty years on from Marlon.

    from Conscious and Verbal, 1999

    However, song lyrics can also be an art form, although these days they’re few and far between.

    A while ago Cole Porter wrote:

    In olden days a glimpse of stocking
    was looked on as something shocking,
    but now, heaven knows,
    anything goes

    good authors too, who once knew better words,
    now only use four letter words
    writing prose, anything goes

    the world has gone mad today
    and good’s bad today,
    and black’s white today,
    and day’s night today,
    when most guys today
    that women prize today
    are just silly gigolos…

    // not bad for 1934 //

  5. Iain Hall says:

    Actaully GD I believe that they are very much alike insofar as they seek to get the maximum meaning in the fewest words and to be memorable to those who read or hear them

  6. JM says:

    > You have to wonder why it is that so many extreme lefties love the poetry of such tragic fucked up people,

    Bob Dylan? Woody Guthrie? Count Basie? Any of the classic mid-20th century American form songwriters?

    Can you actually name a lyricist with “extreme right wing views” accompanied by major success and/or regard? I think art is fundamentally at odds with the fear and loathing required to hold right wing views. And also with the insecurity required to hold extreme views – left or right. (But it’s not quite a binary thing, extremism requires insecurity, whereas right wing usually makes do only with fear.)

    Which is the retort to GD – great lyrics from Cole Porter, but rabid supremacist? Don’t think so.

  7. Iain Hall says:

    JM

    Bob Dylan? Woody Guthrie? Count Basie? Any of the classic mid-20th century American form songwriters?

    Can you actually name a lyricist with “extreme right wing views” accompanied by major success and/or regard? I think art is fundamentally at odds with the fear and loathing required to hold right wing views. And also with the insecurity required to hold extreme views – left or right. (But it’s not quite a binary thing, extremism requires insecurity, whereas right wing usually makes do only with fear.)

    This post is not about the politics of either song writers or poets. Rather it is about the propensity of the far left to lionise those “poets” who they see as some sort of “tragic victim” and therefore worthy of great admiration.

    Plath’s poetry is dreary and self indulgent and I defy you to cite any of her verse that does not meet that description.

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