Thursday, 26 July 2012

Play On

07:30:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device , , , , , , , 3 comments

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight...


You can stand under my umbrella
(Ella ella eh eh eh)
Under my umbrella
(Ella ella eh eh eh)
Under my umbrella
(Ella ella eh eh eh)
Under my umbrella
(Ella ella eh eh eh eh eh eh)

It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I tell myself too many times
Why don't you ever learn to keep your big mouth shut
That's why it hurts so bad to hear the words
That keep on falling from your mouth
Falling from your mouth
Falling from your mouth
Tell me...

We simple creatures love our catchy, repetitive hooks.  Ask the big religions (Glooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooria!).  Ask the advertising posse (I'm loving Compare...Terry's Carpets, Terry's Carpets).  Ask the football fans (You're -insert insult - and you know you are).  

Oral language is the home of this repetition, of sound.  Literate, written, language scoffs at such simplicity.  Repetition is acceptable if used in moderation but ideally you should avoid using the same word, the identical lexeme, the matching term, too often.  I believe that this is the result of literacy being the new kid on the conceptual block.  It's still struggling to assert its independence against a background of sound which is as old as the landslide.  The simple and obvious is deemed puerile while the cynical and ironic is oh so grown-up and worthy. 

There's a lot to be said for a complex line of poetry which can be pored over - multiple meanings being drawn from the crafty juxtaposition of ideas.  Yes, sometimes I want a poem to come to me brimming with philosophy.  I'll bring my own perspectives, the light and shade which dresses it to my pleasing on that day, at that time.  There's a balance between poet and reader.  If the poem has a clear agenda, for example Kipling's If, then the ratio is 75% poet to 25% reader.  You have your own perspective but the general sense is clear cut.  In more chewy poems, such as Jean Sprackland's Ice on the Beach, I feel the ratio is closer to 50-50.  The reader can make of the poem what they wish - there is no explicit philosophical stance.  And then there are the umbrella-ella-ellas.  The memes, the expressions, the refrains which are so familiar that the reader/listener can bring whatever meaning they wish.  The poet/writer is, effectively, dead or irrelevant.  The words can be re-contextualised, re-quoted, re-blogged, re-tumbled.

The meaning might have become muddy.  The metaphor might have popped its meta-metaphorical clogs.  Think 'Roses are red, violets are blue'.  Think 'If music be the food of love'.  Think 'I wandered lonely as a cloud'.  These phrases have become common.  They have been ingested into orality.  Once they were hard won with pen (quill), paper (parchment), and midnight oil (tallow).  Literacy has its moment to shine.  Complex chains of thought can be pieced together in a way which orality alone struggles to allow.  But once those words are freed, once they are read and shared, performed and reiterated.  Then they belong to us all.  The words are ours to use whenever and however we please.  Sure, they lack something of their early pizazz.  The shine of the newborn gradually becomes the charm of the ancient.  An entire play is whittled down into a single phrase: 'My kingdom for a horse'. 

This desire we have to break things down into manageable chunks, like so many leaf-cutter ants, is why we can enjoy a single word (or sound) chorus repeated day after day.  Whhhhhyyyyyyyyyy?  Asks Anne Lennox.  Disregard the verses of that song and you've got a chorus which can apply to anyone on any day of the week.  A plebeian tourist walks into the road in front of your car...'Whhhhhhhyyyyyyyy?'  A thunderbolt strikes the roof, of a church, which had just been replaced after 15 years of fundraising... 'Whhhhhyyyyyy?'  The snails consume every last marigold you planted in one night...'Whhhhhhyyyyyy?' 

Entropy.  Universality.  Globalisation.  Call it what you will.  It's me driving the car, with the window down, singing Aaaaooooooooooooooaaaaaoooooaaaaooooaaaaabumbawehhhhhhh, and remembering a moment.  That's why I'm smiling.



Nikki Magennis said...

A pleasure to read, Vicky.

Ashley R Lister said...

I agree with Nikki. A pleasure to read, as always.

I love the idea of a percentage ratio between author and reader. That's an intriguing concept I haven't encountered before but it makes a lot of sense.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this.I now have Gloria in my head- it was there for two days last time.

A thoughtful read this morning... well, once I've stopped Leonard and Jeff.

Good stuff, S.