sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

February 2, 2006


blog readers’ poetry slam
posted by soe 12:18 am

Drawing on the previous post, I think that blog poetry readers need to get more involved. So, I’m also offering a read-aloud poem for you. Don’t read it silently. This is one that begs to be read out loud — to have your tongue twist around the words, sensually caressing each syllable. It makes a difference; trust me, your officemate or your cat (or both) would love to hear your rendition.

Ode to American English
~ Barbara Hamby

I was missing English one day, American, really,
   with its pill-popping Hungarian goulash of everything
from Anglo-Saxon to Zulu, because British English
   is not the same, if the paperback dictionary
I bought at Brentano’s on the Avenue de l’OpĂ©ra
   is any indication, too cultured by half. Oh, the English
know their dahlias, but what about doowop, donuts,
   Dick Tracy, Tricky Dick? With their elegant Oxfordian
accents, how could they understand my yearning for the hotrod,
   hotdog, hot flash vocabulary of the U. S. of A.,
the fragmented fandango of Dagwood’s everyday flattening
   of Mr. Beasley on the sidewalk, fetuses floating
on billboards, drive-by monster hip-hop stereos shaking
   the windows of my dining room like a 7.5 earthquake,
Ebonics, Spanglish, “you know” used as comma and period,
   the inability of 90% of the population to get the present perfect:
I have went, I have saw, I have tooken Jesus into my heart,
   the battle cry of the Bible Belt, but no one uses
the King James anymore, only plain-speak versions,
   in which Jesus, raising Lazarus from the dead, says,
“Dude, wake up,” and the L-man bolts up like a B-movie
   mummy. “Whoa, I was toasted.” Yes, ma’am,
I miss the mongrel plentitude of American English, its fall-guy,
   rat-terrier, dog-pound neologisms, the bomb of it all,
the rushing River Jordan backwoods mutability of it, the low-rider,
   boom-box cruise of it, from New Joisey to Ha-wah-ya
with its sly dog, malasada-scarfing beach blanket lingo
   to the ubiquitous Valley Girl’s like-like stuttering,
shopaholic rant. I miss its quotidian beauty, its querulous
   back-biting righteous indignation, its preening rotgut
flag-waving cowardice. Suffering Succotash, sputters
   Sylvester the Cat; sine die, say the pork-bellied legislators
of the swamps and plains. I miss all those guys, their Tweety-bird
   resilience, their Doris Day optimism, the candid unguent
of utter unhappiness on every channel, the midnight televangelist
   euphoric stew, the junk mail, voice mail vernacular.
On every boulevard and rue I miss the Tarzan cry of Johnny
   Weismueller, Johnny Cash, Johnny B. Goode,
and all the smart-talking, gum-snapping hard-girl dialogue,
   finger-popping x-rated street talk, sports babble,
Cheetoes, Cheerios, chili dog diatribes. Yeah, I miss them all,
   sitting here on my sidewalk throne sipping champagne
verses lined up like hearses, metaphors juking, nouns zipping
   in my head like Corvettes on Dexadrine, French verbs
slitting my throat, yearning for James Dean to jump my curb.

Category: arts. There is/are 2 Comments.



Barbara Hamby really knows how to alliterate doesn’t she? I think that’s why it works so well aloud. And the sibilance that keeps popping up in this poem really makes me grin…but Suffering Succotash? LOL. I’d not appreciated how poetic that famous Sylvester statement was until now.

Comment by Walker 02.04.06 @ 8:42 am

Yeah. This is the first poem of hers I’ve come across, and it definitely makes me want to check out more.

I made it about halfway through the poem the first time before it demanded I read it aloud. The sibilance just demanded to be let loose into the air!

Comment by soe 02.04.06 @ 3:19 pm