January 24: SATIRIC POETRY: Countee Cullen: For a Lady I Know and JS Hopkins: A Fight with the Elements

I’ve decided to only post twice a week as there are many events pressing on me that take precedence over blogging.

Today, I’m still talking about voice in poetry, specifically Satire. Satire is easy it is making fun of someone or something. Sometimes satire is used to mock or degrade someone with implied or actual authority, sometimes it’s used to show the audience what not to be or shine a light on the hypocrisy of someone who has taken it upon him or herself to make all of the decisions for the audience of the time. With Robert Burns’s “The Toad-eater” the aristocrat dines with earls but crawls like an insect.

Some satire can be more subtle like in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” when the title character asks if he should measure his days with coffee spoons or wear his trousers rolled. These are references to a miserly character (coffee spoons during his time were quite small) and petty man who is out of touch (rolled trousers were what young men wore and he was no longer young).

In Countee Cullen’s “For a Lady I Know” the sarcasm is obvious. She lives a life that is so easy that the afterlife is no different. Her life is soft and heavenly, but she’s under the impression that others will be made to submit to her will, because they will be happy to be drudging their way through heaven. There is a definite disconnect between how she understands the world and how others experience it. I call this poem a two-liner – broken into two halves, one for the halves and one for the have-nots.

For a Lady I Know
by Countee Cullen

She even things that up in heaven
Her class lies late and snores,
While poor black cherubs rise at seven
To do celestial chores.

I put my hand to poetry just to see if I could do it. It isn’t all that great, but I was just trying to be satiric. It has been extremely cold as of late and I’ve noticed my inability to protect myself against the elements mostly because of my lack of income (can’t afford to keep my home heated or buy clothes to replace the threadbare ones).

There are those who talk down to me and tell me that I’m just not working hard enough while they complain that the government isn’t cutting enough spending (social programs don’t help their class), they complain that they are paying too much in taxes. For this my answer is: if all you have to complain about is paying taxes, then you have it good.

Notice that I call his silhouette sleek despite the fact that it is “packed” meaning that there is bulk underneath that coat (or more than one layer). I picked ermine as a coat of choice not because it is a current fashion choice, but because it’s the over-layer choice of kings. The fact that he gets choices between two expensive types of jackets and mine are between coats that offer no protection, and the fact that he points out that I’m not sacrificing enough (despite the fact that he isn’t sacrificing anything) is my subtle form of sarcasm, my showcase of his hypocrisy.

A Fight with the Elements

It is always with difficulty that I select my fashion
For my morning encounter
For one coat has a large hole in the back,
Another has lost all its buttons,
The third is thread thin,
And the other was lost to thieves.
A quick decision is all I have left
before I must hurry out
Pushed along by the bite of the chill wind.

And Grandfather Overlord stands by
As I shiver –
He is so well coiffured
His manicured hands shine,
Even his hair is silver.
He coughs to tighten his purse-strings
And offers his sage advice
About how I am to fight the elements,
“Just give up five more pounds of your flesh,
As I gave up mine.”
I take in his sleek silhouette packed
in by all the years.
It must be nice to be able to select
between leather and ermine.

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About penneloppe

I like to write horror, dark fantasy and crime fiction. Sometimes, I'll write science fiction, but usually I like to write science fact. I also write screenplays and stage plays. My day job is office work. I live in Seattle and I have a cat.
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