Modern Poetry Edition #35, (Human Condition) Guest Editor: Marquis


Congratulations to Sledge for such a fine edition of MP, and even bigger congratulations to the King for his (perhaps) posthumous MPulitzer for In The Ghetto. E.A.P. was a late mover, going much of the 3 week voting period with no votes at all. That's why CBS and NBC refused to name a winner till all precincts had reported. I have the final vote as 6 for Elvis, 4 for U2, 3 each for Marvin and Peter Tosh, and 2 for Peter G / Biko.  Thanks for all the votes and fine comments and critiques.

That's it for now. Next up, look for some special modern poetry from the vinyl era, and then around Labor Day a special edition commemorating the start of the football season for one of the (kind of) local teams.

Thank you, Lubbock!

Modern Poetry #35 {The Human Condition} Guest Editor: Marquis
[8/3/05]
Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) by Marvin Gaye
Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2
Biko by Peter Gabriel
Equal Rights by Peter Tosh
**In The Ghetto by Elvis Presley

**Winner of MPulitzer

Elvis refuses to leave the building! He has staged a large comeback and is now in the lead with 4 votes. U2 and and Marvin are sitting just back with 3 votes a piece. If you have voted, we at the MPHQ thank you. The voting has been open almost a full three weeks, as befits such a selection of quality prose as we have here. But it ain't gonn be open much longer.

If you have not voted, did you know that registered voters who do not vote in MP editions are more likely to get called for jury duty, more likely to get parking tickets, and more likely to contract several treatable, but painful social diseases? You didn't? It's true.

Send me your votes for one of the contenders in the run-off.  --Sean

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How about this ~research-bolstered~ vote from Dan!:

Sorry for the late vote. Marquis, nice selection! I have to say that, once again, I'm made aware of how little I actually hear when listening to a song. And even though I don't recall ever hearing Biko or Equal Rights, both make for good poetry. I will have to seek them out for a listen.

It was tough to pare these down to a single best poem. Each has a reasonable claim. I took a different view than Sean, though. Since these poems are about the Human Condition, I decided that my vote would go to the one who most inspired me to action (or would have in my idealistic youth). So here goes the review:

Leave it to Marvin Gaye to turn a poem about the the environment into a "couples only dance" song. While the song does inspire action (the kind that should be taken in the privacy of the bedroom), the poem is more a passive commentary on the state of the environment. Also, unlike Sean, I don't need to score any points with the tree-hugger chicks.

While I was inspired by the story of Steve Biko (I had to look it up on Wikipedia), and loved the verse "You can blow out a candle, but you can't blow out a fire. Once the flames begin to catch, the wind will blow it higher", the poem seems more like a tribute in memoriam to a historic figure, and not so much a call to action.

Equal Rights is certainly a call to action. It challenges the belief that peace on earth is the ultimate goal, by basically saying that "peace" can exist even in an environment of injustice and inequality. My reservation about this poem, however, is that it's almost a call to vigilantism. I mean, to be honest, I think I'd be crapping my pants if a big angry dude said " And what belong to I and I, You better, you better give it up to I".

That brings it down to the final two poems. Sunday, Bloody Sunday ... just a great song/poem. It's a call to counter the call-to-arms following the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1972 (looked that one up on Wikipedia as well), highlighting the hopelessness of the eye-for-an-eye violent protest mentality.

While I really do like this poem, I think that the home town hero is going to get the edge on my vote. The reason is the timelessness and proximity of this poem. This same song could have been written and is still relevant today, nearly 30 years after it was originally recorded. Also, the venue is not some far off land, but applies to our very own city (although the song specifically places it in Chicago). The reason that it still applies today is that the plight is cyclic. Those born into poverty have so much going against them and so few resources available to significantly better their situation. This poem serves to both call attention to this issue, but also to inspire action to break this cycle (" People, don't you understand? The child needs a helping hand, or he'll grow to be an angry young man some day. Take a look at you and me. Are we too blind to see? Do we simply turn our heads and look the other way?").

So, that's it. My vote is for the King. And to Marquis, for bringing this fine selection to the MP ballot, I say "Thank you, thank you very much".

Dan

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These are just my personal comments and my personal vote, not the official results.  Voting will close in an as-yet undetermined number of days.
 
First, Sledge, well done.  Mehopes the faithful MP readership will not get in the habit of expecting this kind of quality-thinking to go into every edition.
 
OK, so the way I see it is simple.  All the great ancient poets are dead.  Therefore all the greatest modern poets must be dead.  P. Gabriel, still living.  Pete, you're out.  U2, you still-breathing Irishmen, sorry.  Four of you and not one of you dead yet?  Get the drummer a bottle of vodka or brandy already.
 
That leaves three strong offerings from Peter Tosh (deceased), Elvis (rumored to be no longer with us), and Marvin (shot dead by his own daddy, ouch).
 
Peter, I love you man, but I can't have you get two yet, and you have better poems to come.  Elvis may be living in Miami right now.  I don't want to risk it.  Marvin gets the vote on a more dramatic death and also, the vote for the enviro-anthem will score me some points with the tree-hugger chicks.  See how easy this is?

--Sean

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And now, with no further delay, MP #35 comin' at you live from Marquis Sledge, the second in a new series of guest edited spots.  Newbies, here's the deal:  read 'em, learn 'em, love 'em.  And Vote for your favoritos by way of email.  Enjoy.  You can always get your MP here:  http://www.macdart.com/mp/default.htm.  Take it away, Marquis...

 

THE HUMAN CONDITION.  A few months ago, I started asking myself why the news was all about the runaway bride, the Michael Jackson trial and if Paul Abdul had an affair with a contestant on American Idol. I wondered if we were going to have to whip out the protest songs to get the war back to front page news.

So I first started thinking of war protest songs. And as my mind will, it rambled towards a remembrance of the cold war songs (Russians – Sting, 99 Luftballoons – Nena) and the racial discrimination songs (Gimme Hope JoAnna – Eddie Grant, Beds Are Burning – Midnight Oil) of my teenage years.

Ultimately, I realized protest songs are not just about war, but the human condition. So I decided against the war protest songs. Perhaps, that can be done very soon when American service personnel are once again out of harms way.

I hope the following submission covers the rest of the plight that we face in working together to understand each other and treat each other better. Perhaps the timing of this is poignant with the recent new news from the Emerald Isle as well.

With the exception of Peter Tosh, who won back in MP#25 in Poems 'bout your Mama for Mama Africa, I think all would be first time winners. I also think that it may be the first nomination for Marvin and the boys from Belfast. It is only the second nomination for Elvis (All Shook Up in MP#16) and for Peter Gabriel (who was nominated by me for Solsbury Hill in MP#12 Peoples Choice Part. II).  

--Marquis


Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) by Marvin Gaye
====================================================
Woo ah, mercy mercy me
Ah things ain't what they used to be, no no
Where did all the blue skies go?
Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and east
Woo mercy, mercy me, mercy father
Ah things ain't what they used to be, no no
Oil wasted on the ocean and upon our seas, fish full of mercury
Ah oh mercy, mercy me
Ah things ain't what they used to be, no no
Radiation under ground and in the sky
Animals and birds who live nearby are dying
Oh mercy, mercy me
Ah things ain't what they used to be
What about this overcrowded land
How much more abuse from man can she stand?
Oh, na na...
My sweet Lord... No
My Lord... My sweet Lord

Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2
====================================================
Yes... I can't believe the news today
Oh, I can't close my eyes, And make it go away
How long... How long must we sing this song?
How long? How long...
'cause tonight...we can be as one
Tonight...

Broken bottles under children's feet
Bodies strewn across the dead end street
But I won't heed the battle call
It puts my back up
Puts my back up against the wall
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Sunday, Bloody Sunday

And the battle's just begun
There's many lost, but tell me who has won
The trench is dug within our hearts
And mothers, children, brothers, sisters
Torn apart
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
How long... How long must we sing this song?
How long? How long...
'cause tonight...we can be as one
Tonight...tonight...
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Wipe the tears from your eyes
Wipe your tears away
Oh, wipe your tears away
Oh, wipe your tears away
(Sunday, Bloody Sunday)
Oh, wipe your blood shot eyes
(Sunday, Bloody Sunday)
Sunday, Bloody Sunday (Sunday, Bloody Sunday)
Sunday, Bloody Sunday (Sunday, Bloody Sunday)

And it's true we are immune
When fact is fiction and TV reality
And today the millions cry
We eat and drink while tomorrow they die
(Sunday, Bloody Sunday)
The real battle just begun
To claim the victory Jesus won
On... Sunday Bloody Sunday... Sunday Bloody Sunday...

Biko by Peter Gabriel
====================================================
September '77
Port Elizabeth weather fine
It was business as usual
In police room 619

Oh Biko, Biko, because Biko
Oh Biko, Biko, because Biko
Yihla Moja, Yihla Moja
The man is dead, the man is dead

When I try to sleep at night
I can only dream in red
The outside world is black and white
With only one color dead

Oh Biko, Biko, because Biko
Oh Biko, Biko, because Biko
Yihla Moja, Yihla Moja
The man is dead, the man is dead

You can blow out a candle
But you can't blow out a fire
Once the flames begin to catch
The wind will blow it higher

Oh Biko, Biko, because Biko
Oh Biko, Biko, because Biko
Yihla Moja, Yihla Moja
The man is dead, the man is dead

And the eyes of the world are
Watching now, Watching now

Oh oh oh - Oh oh oh - Oh oh oh, na na na na na
Oh oh oh, na na na na na
So Biko, Biko - Oh Biko, Biko


Equal Rights by Peter Tosh
====================================================
Everyone is crying out for peace yes
None is crying out for justice
None is crying out for justice

I don't want no peace
I need equal rights and justice. I need equal rights and justice.
Got to get it. Equal rights and justice

Everybody want to go to heaven
But nobody want to die
Everybody want to go to up to heaven
But none of them, But note of them want to die

Just give me my share

What is due to Caesar
You better give it on to Caesar
And what belong to I and I
You better, you better give it up to I

Everyone heading for the top
But tell me how far is it from the bottom
Nobody knows but
Everybody fighting to reach the top
How far is it from the bottom

Everyone is talking about crime
Tell me who are the criminals
I said everybody's talking about crime, crime
Tell me who, who are the criminals
I really don't see them

There be no crime, Equal rights and justice
There be no criminals, Equal rights and justice
Everyone is fighting for, Equal rights and justice
Palestine is fighting for, Equal rights and justice
Down in Angola, Equal rights and justice
Down in Botswana, Equal rights and justice
Down in Zimbabwe, Equal rights and justice
Down in Rhodesia, Equal rights and justice
Right here in Jamaica, Equal rights and justice

The Ghetto by Elvis Presley
====================================================
As the snow flies
On a cold and gray chicago mornin’
A poor little baby child is born
In the ghetto
And his mama cries
’cause if there’s one thing that she don’t need
It’s another hungry mouth to feed
In the ghetto

People, don’t you understand
The child needs a helping hand
Or he’ll grow to be an angry young man some day
Take a look at you and me,
Are we too blind to see,
Do we simply turn our heads
And look the other way

Well the world turns
And a hungry little boy with a runny nose
Plays in the street as the cold wind blows
In the ghetto

And his hunger burns
So he starts to roam the streets at night
And he learns how to steal
And he learns how to fight
In the ghetto

Then one night in desperation
A young man breaks away
He buys a gun, steals a car,
Tries to run, but he don’t get far
And his mama cries

As a crowd gathers ’round an angry young man
Face down on the street with a gun in his hand
In the ghetto

As her young man dies,
On a cold and gray chicago mornin’,
Another little baby child is born
In the ghetto