Monday, August 18, 2008

Corny Verse?

Given my recent focus on the Fireside Poets Longfellow and Holmes—and given the time of year here in Iowa, when the corn is rolling in and the huskers are hard at work (at the farmers markets and the ethanol plants)—how could I not post this little gem? It's a stereoview card with an excerpt from fellow Fireside Poet John Greenleaf Whittier's "Song of the Huskers" printed on back, beginning with:

Heap high the farmer's wintry hoard!
Heap high the golden corn!
No richer gift has Autumn poured
From out her lavish horn!

Note the torn paper on the back of the card: no doubt an indication that someone pasted it inside a scrapbook somewhere along the way. Read in connection with the magic lantern slide with Holmes's "Lord of all being, throned afar" on it (see "Projected Verse" below), the Whittier stereoview card is further evidence of a 19th century multi-media poetry that anticipates the radio and digital poetries of the 20th century. Thoughts on this early 3-D poetry?

1 comment:

J Swenson said...

When I think of corny verse, I think of Sandberg's "Laughing Corn" from _Cornhuskers_.

A sample:

Some of the ears are bursting.
A white juice works inside.
Cornsilk creeps in the end and dangles in the wind.
Always--I never knew it any other way--
The wind and the corn talk things over together.
And the rain and the corn and the sun and the corn
Talk things over together.

Over the road is a farmhouse.
The siding is white and a green blind is slung loose.
It will not be fixed till the corn is husked.
The farmer and his wife talk things over together.

Sandberg isn't shy of celebrating the corn, but he's also less bucolic about the "song" of the harvest than Whittier. The urbanized populous who gazed upon this stereoscopic harvest scene out of the "RURAL SERIES" were likely more likely to enjoy it because they didn't have a field of corn to husk. Iowa or Ohio farmers were more likely to look at stereoscope images of--as Ruth Suckow notes in her short story, "A Rural Community"--"Westminster Abbey, Mont Blanc, Unter den Linden, the Paris Opera House, the Arnold Arboretum, Forest Hills, Massachusetts, with the azaleas tinted a hideous pink and the leaves a ghastly green."

Waxing nostalgic on a pile of corn to husk indicates your class status, in that you have been able to leave that all husking behind you, be it in stereovision or no.