Thursday, January 27, 2005

Steps For Advanced Dancers

I was thinking about the inauguration speech, and I realized finally what was bothering me. It was one oversized sestina, testosterone-bloated and pasteurized beyond recognition. Graduate students in literature remember the time they studied sestinas as "the semester I took up drinking." From the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, Enlarged Edition:

Sestina. The most complicated of the verse forms initiated by the troubadours. It is composed of 6 stanzas of 6 lines each, followed by an envoy of 3 lines, all of which are usually unrhymed. The function of the rhyme in the s[estina] is taken over by the recurrent pattern of end-words; the same 6 end-words occur in each stanza, but in a constantly shifting order which follows a fixed pattern.

If we let the letters A through F stand for the 6 end-words of a s[estina], we may schematize the recurrence patterns as follows:
envoy: ECA or ACE

Most commonly, the envoy or tornada, is further complicated by the fact that the remaining 3 end-words, BDF, must occur in the course of the lines, so that the 3-line envoy will contain all 6 recurrent words.


The definition goes on to explain who devised this form of torture so you know which of the troubadours it was you want to dig up, slap around and re-bury.

You can go look up a transcript of the inaugural speech or find it here:

...but before you do, imagine you're an overeducated and overstuffed fool with a jingoist bent, and you've had all the fun you think you can get away with reusing the same words into oblivion. You can't even hear yourself think for the way you've bent 'oppression' to mean 'freedom' and 'plutocracy' to mean 'democracy.' You're bored, bored, bored. What can you do to add a little spice to your life? I got it. Take six words, plunk them down on a piece of paper and doodle in between. How about these six words:


Now, you know that if you stick strictly to the sestina format, William Safire will be frowning at you before the second paragraph, so you add a few dull allusions and historically dumb patter. Maybe Safire'll be distracted by Jenna's inevitable and determined lipgloss application. Anyway, the thing's already written, he's retired and what's he gonna do about it, hmm? He's still sore about screwing up the inscription on the moon, anyhow. Let's move on.

You're a speechwriter determined to whack the pinata of Presidential speeches with the biggest stick you can find but you can't stop giggling. Shoot, nobody in your demographic's going to figure it out and those freaks in the Northeast are already slapping their foreheads everytime the Commander In Chief opens his mouth. Smoke 'em if you got 'em, boy...


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