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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Reader's Diary #145- Tom Lowenstein (translator): Eskimo Poems from Canada and Greenland (up to "Agdliartortoq and Migssuarnianga")

While not the strongest poems in the collection, there's an interesting section of poems entitled, "Songs of Derision". These are just as the title would suggest; put-downs. However, the compelling part comes from them being told by two people, a sort of call and answer approach. It sort of reminds me of the rap battles as were shown in 8 Mile. However, unlike the raps, these poems aren't met to be skill competitions. Instead, they are ways of airing grievances with one another. In one poem, two Inuit named Kilime and Eqerqo throw insults at each other, over a woman they both claim to love. From a sociological stand point they make a lot of sense. In such tightly woven communities, in which getting along was almost a matter of survival, getting issues out in the open was a great idea, especially when you realize that these songs were most often performed at community feasts, so the entire populace could help mend the relationships. From a poetic stand-point, they are weaker. Often they, like the rap battles, were on the spot songs. People had no idea what was going to be said about them and so they didn't have the time to choose the best words.

Recently there's been a lot of press about hip-hop being a salvation to Iqaluit's youth. There's a lot of kids into the music here, and looking at the "songs of derision" there are definite precedents. It would be interesting to see rap battles as songs of derision take off here. I think both would improve; the derision songs would have better rhyming and poetic qualities and the rap would serve more of a purpose than the "look I skilled I am" aim.

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