To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Outsider Poems, a Mini-Anthology in Progress: first installment

The following poems represent some first thoughts toward a global gathering of works outside the usual literary nexus. I’ll be developing the project – as far as I can take it – with a sense that the term “outsider poetry” can cover a wide range of sources & possibilities, from art brut & mystical/religious poems & offerings to folk & working class poetry, sermons & rants, glossolalia & glossographia, dialect & “nation language” (K. Brathwaite), & so on – works in short both written & oral. Glimmerings of this sort have already appeared in both Technicians of the Sacred & the three volumes (so far) of Poems for the Millennium. For which see also the entry on this blog for August 16, 2008. [J.R.]

recalled by Susan Gray Young (née Barnett), born in Bolton, England, on 1st Feb 1914

As I wur goin down Threakle Street,
To gerra pound o' treacle.
Who does think I met?
Why, none other than me owd pal Mickey Thump.
He sed, "Is tha goin' t' wakes t'neet?
"Well, I thout a bit,
An' I thout a bit,
An' I sed, "I d'n' mind.
"So I went.

Eee, an' it wur a grand wakes,
It wur a grand wakes!
Well, six a clock cum,
And seven a clock cum,
And eight a clock cum.
But no Mickey Thump cum.
So I went whom.

Well, I'd' n' sooner getten me neet shirt on
Wen there wur a reet bangin' at frunt dwur
It wur Mickey's sister, an' she sed
Mickey wur ill, an' wud I cum t' see im.
Well, I thout a bit,
An' I thout a bit,
An' I sed, "I d'n' mind."
So I went.

Eee an' he wur ill,
Eee he wur reet ill.
He looked at me an' sed,
"If I dee, will tha cum t' me funeral?"
Well, I thout a bit,
An' I thout a bit,
An' I sed, "I d'n' mind."
So I went.

An' it wur a funeral,
It wur a grand funeral,
Thur wur sum what laff'd o'er his grave
And sum wot danced o'er his grave,
But I scriked me eyes out o'er grave
Of me owd pal Mickey Thump.

English versions by Anselm Hollo

it’s you puts the green sprig in my hatband
if you should ever leave me
my hat would be a dirty old thing
my heart empty, eyes full of tears
i’d look for green leaves in the woods
but they are the wilting kind
they wouldn’t stay green on my hat
where could i find as good a woman
a wife, as beautiful
i’d burn my caravan, cut off my hair
& trot off to the darkest part of the woods
to sleep there in my black sorrow
weep & sleep, until the white dos comes
to take me back to you

my little stalk of alfalfa
i used to like to laugh a lot
with everyone i met
laugh & play with them
take them by the hand &
pull their little earlobes
then go to the tavern with them
run up some ridiculous tab
until i got bored with the booze
& felt the farts & hiccups coming on

moon shines on the valley
grass sleeps by river
now why don’t you come
sit down with me
& love me a little
as i love you


i’ll rig up a little hammock in the plumtree
for you to swing in, little boy
rain will fall, to wash you
leaves will fall, & cover you
wind will rock you to sleep
goat will come, give you suck
sleep, my boy, my little duck
listen to mama, don’t cry


sleep, baby, your mother’s out reading palms
come night, she’ll be back &
you’ll drink her milk
sleep, little child, sleep
i am your mother’s old mother
& as you now love her friendly nipples
she once loved mine

Versions by Anselm Hollo based on translations made from the original Romany by Katerina Taikon (Sweden) and Leo Tiainen (Finland). With minor revisions by AH, Sept, 1999.



I don't care if you're married, I'll still get you,
I'll get you yet.

I don't care if you're married sixteen times,
I'll get you yet.

When the dance is over, sweetheart,
I will take you home in my one-eyed Ford.


If you really love me honey, hey-yah.
If you really love me honey, hey-yah.
Come back, come back if you really love me honey.

I'm from Oklahoma, far away from my home,
Down here looking for you.
If you'll be my honey, I will be your sugarpie.

I'm from Carnegie, so far away from my home,
Down here looking for you.
If you'll be my snag, I'll be your snag-a-roo.


You know that I love you, sweetheart,
But every time I come around
You always say you got another one.
You know damn good and well that I love you.

To heck with your ole man.
Come up and see me sometime.


She said she don't love me anymore because I drink whiskey,
I don't care, I got a better one.

A popular form of contemporary Indian lyric, "49" songs show up throughout the States "at powwows and other social gatherings, usually late in the evening after other types of dances and songs are completed." The origin of the name has been various explained, in Alan R. Velie's version, as derived from a burlesque show of the 1920s that toured Kiowa country with a California gold rush theme & the repeated refrain, "See the girls of '49, see the '49 girls." Applied to Kiowa women who were singing semitraditional "war-journey songs" with transformed lyrics, the name (so they say) stuck & passed into the pan-Indian culture. "In singing '49' songs" – writes Velie – "the singers chant a nonverbal refrain to an accompanying drum beat. After an extended period of chanting, they sing the short lyric once, either in Kiowa or in English." The words of the present versions are the original English – a good example of how a feeling for the "luminous detail" & for the ironies of language & behavior can be brought into an altered context.

[Kiowa Songs and commentary as published in JR’s Shaking the Pumpkin. Source for the texts: Alan R. Velie, American Indian Literature: An Anthology, University of Oklahoma Press, 1979.]

1 comment:

Poetry Scores said...

Jerry - Consider this from a Missouri death row inmate, which I transcribed as a poem.

The condemned are the ultimate outsiders.