Author: Elizabeth Ferons (c-67-164-130-14.client.comcast.net)
Date: 12-12-04 18:07
I would like help writing a 20 line poem over the McCarthyism Era
Author: IanB (mail.mutualtrust.com.au)
Date: 12-12-04 23:06
Elizabeth, what do you want to say about it, and how far have you got already?
Author: Hugh Clary (233.denver-02rh15-16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: 12-13-04 10:56
McCarthyism is much railed against nowadays. I would take the opposite tack, for a poem. Discover whether Joe really DID find any communists in the State Department (or even in Hollywood), and paint him a hero instead of a goat. I dunno if that is true, but it is certainly a better poem than merely going with the mainstream opinion.
Sure, you might compare McCarthyism to a witch hunt (see The Crucible by Arthur Miller), but that would be too easy.
Author: Just Jack (bgp01044311bgs.southg01.mi.comcast.net)
Date: 12-13-04 11:31
It's all about manipulation.
A guy in a tux shoves his arm up your backside and tells you what to say.
Charlie, not Joe.
Well, at least this guy's not afraid to give his opinion:
Populist Manifesto No. 1
Poets, come out of your closets,
Open your windows, open your doors,
You have been holed-up too long
in your closed worlds.
Come down, come down
from your Russian Hills and Telegraph Hills,
your Beacon Hills and your Chapel Hills,
your Mount Analogues and Montparnasses,
down from your foothills and mountains,
out of your teepees and domes.
The trees are still falling
and we’ll to the woods no more.
No time now for sitting in them
As man burns down his own house
to roast his pig
No more chanting Hare Krishna
while Rome burns.
San Francisco’s burning,
Mayakovsky’s Moscow’s burning
the fossil-fuels of life.
Night & the Horse approaches
eating light, heat & power,
and the clouds have trousers.
No time now for the artist to hide
above, beyond, behind the scenes,
indifferent, paring his fingernails,
refining himself out of existence.
No time now for our little literary games,
no time now for our paranoias & hypochondrias,
no time now for fear & loathing,
time now only for light & love.
We have seen the best minds of our generation
destroyed by boredom at poetry readings.
Poetry isn’t a secret society,
It isn’t a temple either.
Secret words & chants won’t do any longer.
The hour of oming is over,
the time of keening come,
a time for keening & rejoicing
over the coming end
of industrial civilization
which is bad for earth & Man.
Time now to face outward
in the full lotus position
with eyes wide open,
Time now to open your mouths
with a new open speech,
time now to communicate with all sentient beings,
All you ‘Poets of the Cities’
hung in museums including myself,
All you poet’s poets writing poetry
All you poetry workshop poets
in the boondock heart of America,
All you housebroken Ezra Pounds,
All you far-out freaked-out cut-up poets,
All you pre-stressed Concrete poets,
All you cunnilingual poets,
All you pay-toilet poets groaning with graffiti,
All you A-train swingers who never swing on birches,
All you masters of the sawmill haiku in the Siberias of America,
All you eyeless unrealists,
All you self-occulting supersurrealists,
All you bedroom visionaries and closet agitpropagators,
All you Groucho Marxist poets
and leisure-class Comrades
who lie around all day and talk about the workingclass proletariat,
All you Catholic anarchists of poetry,
All you Black Mountaineers of poetry,
All you Boston Brahims and Bolinas bucolics,
All you den mothers of poetry,
All you zen brothers of poetry,
All you suicide lovers of poetry,
All you hairy professors of poesie,
All you poetry reviewers
drinking the blood of the poet,
All you Poetry Police -
Where are Whitman’s wild children,
where the great voices speaking out
with a sense of sweetness and sublimity,
where the great’new vision,
the great world-view,
the high prophetic song
of the immense earth
and all that sings in it
And our relations to it -
to the street of the world once more
And open your minds & eyes
with the old visual delight,
Clear your throat and speak up,
Poetry is dead, long live poetry
with terrible eyes and buffalo strength.
Don’t wait for the Revolution
or it’ll happen without you,
Stop mumbling and speak out
with a new wide-open poetry
with a new commonsensual ‘public surface’
with other subjective levels
or other subversive levels,
a tuning fork in the inner ear
to strike below the surface.
Of your own sweet Self still sing
yet utter ‘the word en-masse -
Poetry the common carrier
for the transportation of the public
to higher places
than other wheels can carry it.
Poetry still falls from the skies
into our streets still open.
They haven’t put up the barricades, yet,
the streets still alive with faces,
lovely men & women still walking there,
still lovely creatures everywhere,
in the eyes of all the secret of all
still buried there,
Whitman’s wild children still sleeping there,
Awake and walk in the open air.
Joe McCarthy was certainly a hero in his own mind. He was a hero to young Richard Nixon and young Roy Cohn. So I think it's interesting to try writing a poem about him that praises him. You might use a folksong as your model, something like JOE HILL or JOHN HENRY. You might try writing in the voice of Nixon or Cohn.
Historically-wise, McCarthy never did prove there were any "card-carrying Communists" in the State Dept. There were plenty in Hollywood, but as I recall he never sent any of them to jail for being Communists -- only for refusing to answer questions from the HUAC.
Anyway, how to write the poem. There are two very different tacks you can take -- or try both and see what happens.
1. Write down the names of people involved and then write lists of words that rhyme with them. (Hammet, damnit!) I'm not kidding. Sometimes just getting your rhyme list in writing can inspire a rhythm, a first or last couplet, etc.
2. Think out loud as if you were McCarthy -- on his deathbed, or in the greatest speech he never made -- speaking urgently about what matters to him most. Jot down good phrases that come out, and think about how those would fit in a poem. Try thinking out loud, as McCarthy, about the terrible things that (he believes) would have happened without him.