The War of the Alabaman Christ

1365 Words6 Pages
Poetry is economical, not sentimental; fluid with the times, connecting them, never rigid or fixed, but perspicuous, meticulous—never merely the menial byproduct of frustration; indeed, never a byproduct at all. To further paraphrase William Carlos William’s introduction to his own collection of poetry, The Wedge, poetry is frustration’s focus, its guide that hones the response that arises from the latter. And as Williams states, whatever war art such as poetry is engendered in response to, it is not “a diversion from that for relief, a turning away. It is the war or part of it, merely a different sector of the field. Though written from a defensive stance, and though some of his description applies to pre-modern poetry, Williams’ introductory essay, in elucidating what the nature of poetry is, is actually elucidating what poetry has become—how it is ‘made new.’ The manifestation of Williams’ blueprint can be seen in the work of many of his contemporaries, but this paper will examine its essence in the work of Langston Hughes. Utilizing The Wedge’s introduction as a template, this paper will examine the presence of ‘new’ poetry’s aspects in Hughes’ “Christ in Alabama”. “Christ in Alabama” meets all of William’s requisites to qualify as machinery: there are no redundancies present; the individual parts are irrelevant, only what they produce matter; they are a response to, not an escape from, a war; and finally, they contrast prose and vernacular as perspicuity contrasts palimpsest. All of these prose- and vernacular-transcending qualities collectively create a vehicle for Hughes’ revelatory perception to be seen by his audience, further allowing individual revelations on their part. These revelations granted through Hughes... ... middle of paper ... ...different war. Williams describes poetry as having to fight for its relevance despite the fact that it transcends all other means of written expression. This second war then, the war of art, of poetry, is one in which poetry must clear the palimpsest of convoluted sentiments and ideas through its transcendence of vernacular and even prose (via both its pulchritude and lucidity) while trying to evade being mistaken as simple byproducts of frustration and the like; such mistakes are arrived at and propagated through prose and vernacular. The war, therefore, may also be described as the pedestrian (if the insult to both prose and the spoken word may be pardoned for the sake of both the comparison and the point) pursuing the pulchritudinous, the dilutant pursuing the concentrate. Hughes’ “Christ in Alabama” exemplifies such transcendence, it exemplifies the ‘new’.

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