Monday, December 04, 2006

Comparative Misanthropology

Sometime early in 2005, I think, I found myself composing verse for an epic rip-off of Lewis Carroll's poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter" which I called "Fernando Po, U.S.A." The extensive poem (in many episodes) deals with the Boobies, a primitive people living on the backward, isolated island of Fernando Po off the coast of Africa, who could only communicate by making noises at each other accompanied by physical posturing that required a nearby fire to illuminate.

By the end of the twentieth century, though, ethnologists began to discover other, post-linguistic Boobies living on the North American continent who had once possessed an understandable written language but who had somehow become unable to decipher any communications that did not come accompanied by animated physical posturing transmitted and/or illuminated by a nearby glowing cathode ray tube.

Needless to say, scientifically comparing and contrasting the two widely separated tribes of Boobies led anthropologists and poets to startling conclusions about the thin veneer of progressive culture -- made possible by the written language and an awareness of its different functions -- that only occasionally separates civilization from barbarism.

Anyway, during one typical interlude of Boobie "civilized barbarism" that began in 1991 and continued into 2005 (and which shows no sign of ending even now in 2007) I took note of certain events and certain Boobie personages along with some historic and metaphorical references for context. I thought specifically of that time when the British Army surrendered to the American colonists at Yorktown while a British band played the famous song: "The World Turned Upside Down." At the same time there occurred to me a Chinese metaphor about such unusual times which the Chinese call to mind by saying "The Hen Crows in the Morning." Finally, I had some additional thoughts about that funny little tale called "The Mouse That Roared," which involved a poor, tiny country declaring war on a major world power hoping to receive lavish foreign aid to rebuild and modernize after it lost. Unexpectedly, though, the little country won and ...

Putting all these influences together and mixing them for poetic effect, I came up with something that looks even more germane and appropriate two years later: "The Hens Roared Upside Down." I can only hope that this little two-year-old vignette-in-verse -- along with the most recent of its kind to date, "Boobie Exit Strategies" -- will contribute its fair share to the once neglected but now rediscovered science of Comparative Misanthropology -- about which, more later …


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