Monday, September 04, 2006

Reader's Diary #151- Hugh Shea: The Poetry of Newfoundland's Hugh Shea (FINISHED!)

In my last post about this book, I used it as proof that politicians could not be poets. I'd like to amend that assessment slightly.

Politicians cannot be poets simultaneously. They can become poets, but in doing so, lose their political inclinations.

Towards the end of the book, I gained a little more respect for Shea. He was obviously trying to make the transformation. The proof is in his attention to form.

At the end of the book, Shea takes a shot at writing quatrains with a very specific rhyming scheme:

"In all, the Master plants the seed
That each, according to his need,
Can, like the oak, the Heavens embrace,
Or stultify and go to weed."

-from "Quatrains"

Shea notes that he "stole" the type of verse from Khayyam and with them, seeked to attain a higher "reality". While I'm not crazy on the metaphysical mumbo-jumbo (or the awkward rhythm, or the cliched "Master" and "seed" bit), I acknowledge the research and attention to a rhyme scheme (AABA) known as a Rubaiyat. As a student of poetry myself, I appreciate his efforts.

Even more impressive was his attempts at a poem with a rhyming scheme that went a little beyond the rubaiyat. Instead of simply having the third line unrhymed with the others, he added a rhyme within:

"Phone bill and love notes seeping tears
Of exile anguish, through two years
Seived like some rain to guard in vain
The treasures of our loves and cares."

- from "The Return" (italics mine)

No, it is not perfect. The near rhyme of "cares" and "years" may be a product of Shea's accent as this mistake occurs often throughout the book (ex. stairs-fears). But the rhyming pattern is interesting and shows that Shea was at least, trying to challenge himself.

Though I question how it was intended. Shea had recorded these poems before his death in 93, and editors Kenneth Mercer, Bob Rumsey, and Gerard Rumsey transcribed them after he had passed away. It is possible that the particular stanza above had been intended to appear this way:

"Phone bill and love notes seeping tears
Of exile anguish, through two years
Seived like rain
To guard in vain
The treasures of our loves and cares."

In which case, the rhyming scheme becomes AABBA like the common limerick. In my opinion, the editors made the right call. The version above takes the edge of the words, making "anguish" and "seeping tears" for example, seem a little too trivial. If nothing else, it proves the power of a good editor.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

That could very well be - good eye! A limerick rhyming scheme would have been tragically comedic.

If it doesn't rhyme with Nantucket, best not put it in a limerick.

John Mutford said...

I've often wondered how the good people of Nantucket feel about their reputation