This is a guest post fromÂ Lady Vowell Smith, a writer, editor, and former English teacher who now enjoys discussing literature on her blog, The Snail on the Wall, rather than in front of a classroom. While working on a master’s in Anglo-Irish literature at Trinity College, Dublin, in the early 1990s, she also received a …
Can you tell the difference between poetry and rap? We took 20 quotes — half from poets in the Norton Anthology of Poetry, the other half from RIAA-certified rap recordings — and now it’s your turn to see if you can tell which are poetry lines and which are rap lyrics.
Of course, “poetry” and “rap” aren’t mutually exclusive, but we thought it would be fun to see if you could spot which ones are Norton Anthology material and which ones you’ve shaken your booty to on the radio. Bonus points if you can name the source of each quote: claim them at your next dinner party, and then try to stump your friends.
POETRY or RAP? “Remember we were so young / When I would hold you / Before the blood on the leaves”
POETRY or RAP? “Gonna buy me a knife with / a blade ten inches long. / Shall I carve ma self or / that man that done me wrong?”
POETRY or RAP? “Freedom a drug that’s bought and sold / Giving to steal and cruel kind, / a heart to fear, to doubt a mind”
POETRY or RAP? “It’s a treachery hidden up the sleeves of men / Magic will only work for those who do believe in them”
POETRY or RAP? “Hell is empty / And all the devils are here”
POETRY or RAP? “Flame on, I know the light is bright but keep on watching me”
POETRY or RAP? “May God forgive us though we dwell inside a paradox”
POETRY or RAP? “That Holy Water that you soak in has been poisoned / When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless”
POETRY or RAP? “I was twenty years behind the times / so you found an audience ready. / I do not disown you, / Do not disown your progeny”
POETRY or RAP? “The Shot that killed him yes I heard / as I heard the Thousand shots before”
POETRY or RAP? “For you, I would peel open the clouds like new fruit / And give you lightning and thunder as a dowry / […] And I would clasp the constellations across your waist”
POETRY or RAP? “I was saying it to stop / the sensation of falling off / the round, turning world / into cold, blue-black space”
POETRY or RAP? “The versatile, honey-sticking wild golden child / Dwelling in the Rotten Apple, you get tackled / Or caught by the devil’s lasso”
POETRY or RAP? “I was ten when they buried you. / At twenty I tried to die / and get back, back, back to you”
POETRY or RAP? “It is deadly, terrifying / It is the Inquisition, the / Revolution / It is beauty itself”
POETRY or RAP? “Take my hand and we’ll pick my plantation / Of Daisies for a bouquet of Soul / Life will begin at the cut of a rim / Take it as filled to the rim as in brim”
POETRY or RAP? “But at my back in a cold blast I hear / The rattle of the bones”
POETRY or RAP? “I wonder if they miss me, as long as I make history / Now my soul is feeling empty, tell the reaper come and get me”
POETRY or RAP? “The soul’s escaping through this hole that is gaping / This world is mine for the taking / Make me king”
POETRY or RAP? “America when will we end the human war? / Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb”
Now check your answers!
It’s only a poem or two a day. And it makes the day just a fraction better. And that fraction is felt, it counts, I don’t want that fraction to go away.
It’s the last day of Poetry Month! Which poem should you read?
When it comes to poetry, timelessness is a red herring, or a white elephant, or some other distractingly burdensome creature. When I read poems, I’m not looking for verse that stands for the ages, whatever that might mean. I want unsettling rhythms, alien sounds, a sharp (and hopefully damned-weird) eye on the now.
So I’ve found Alien vs. Predator, a recent book of poetry by Michael Robbins, entirely thrilling.Robbins writes poems that draw on a rich literary past, sure. (“John Milton jumps out of my birthday cake;” “I’m not with you in Rockland, a fortiori.”) But also and even more, his poetry is fantastically, ecstatically of the present, our present of shiny brands and celebrity gossip. Like Jell-O molds studded with carrot and cabbage, Robbins’ poems are speckled with words and names and sounds both intensely familiar and pleasurably alien. Words that surround us all the time (on billboards, in magazines, on screens, in whispers) but pull you up short, a bit smilingly stunned, in the context of a poem.
Words like these, all of which you can find in the disorienting, orgiastic, just-plain-peculiar Alien vs. Predator:
- Best Buy
- Camel Light
- Britney Spears
- Fruit Stripe gum
- Ghostface Killah
- Pizza Hut (“tell me, Ghostface, if you know, / why Bagdhad wears a black hood / and the Green Zone’s Pizza Hut has power.”)
- erectile dysfuction
- Paxil (“The nation’s pets are high on Paxil.”)
- Meerkat Manor (“I get my news from Meerkat Manor“)
- Al Jazeera
- American Apparel
- Auto-Tune (“I wake to Auto-Tune, and take my waking / out into a orchard, where I traipse.”)
- ATM (“I make love to an ATM. I enrich uranium.”)
- Mr. Peanut
- Wu-Tang Clan
- Shark Week (“I turn on Shark Week, plan a killing spree.”)
- Doritos (“Your tribe’s Doritos are infested with a stegosaur.”)
- Forever 21
- Red Lobster
- Snapple (“O brave new world / that has such Snapple in it!”)
- AMBER Alerts
- Xbox (“Let’s put Christ back in Xbox.”)
- Care Bears
- Whole Foods
- Red Bull
- CSI: Miami
- Ramada (“at the Ramada, where it’s always Ramadan”)
- Sharper Image
- Tootsie Pop (“by that wise old Zen master, the Tootsie Pop owl,”)
- Fruit of the Loom (“by the horrible man-grapes of Fruit of the Loom”)
Thebook, in other words, is like an obstacle course riddled with the wreckage of American capitalism. (Or maybe like reading Howl while watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians.) And if that doesn’t scare you, then Alien v. Predator is definitely for you.
My favorite poetry anthology is The Oxford Book of American Poetry. It has a diverse and representative selection of poets that includes familiar names and fresh voices. The poetry itself is of course the star of the show, but an added pleasure are the snappy, succinct biographies for each poet. And, boy, can American poets find ways to off themselves.
Below are the deaths and names of 10 minor American poets, pulled from the bios in The Oxford Book. Your task…..match them up.
A. Hit by a dune buggy.
B. Heart attack in friend’s swimming pool.
C. Hit by car while walking to hospital to receive treatment for injuries suffered during a suicide
D. Psoriosis (Last words: “My vocabulary did this to me.”)
E. Drank whiskey poisoned by bartender
G. Died in a snowstorm while walking home from a tavern.
H. Jumped off the Washington Avenue Bridge between St. Paul and Minneapolis.
I. Walked off with rifle. Never seen again.
J. Tuberculosis of the brain lining
1. Theodore Roethke
2. Robert Johnson
3. Philip Freneau
4. Weldon Kees
5. Randall Jarrell
6. Adelaide Crapsey
7. Lew Welch
8. Frank O’Hara
9. Jack Spicer
10. John Berryman
Get the answers at Book Riot