Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Let's All Write A Chant!

As I may have mentioned before, I have creative written my way through the Handbook of Poetic Forms once before in my early 20s.  I am not sure if I was as strict about doing every one as I am in this go 'round of the project, but the Chant is a form that I actually remembered from the first time.  I had written one about a night when I was probably talking to a girl and a rainstorm suddenly happened.  The repetitive line was, if memory serves, "And the skies open up when we speak."

This was somewhere in the dark recesses of my brain when I arrived at writing a poem in this form and, as synchronicity would have it, at the same time I was reading the story of Noah from the book of Genesis from the 1599 Geneva translation of the Bible (for fun).  The line jumped out at me "The windows of Heaven were opened."  So, I decided to write my chant as sort of a reflection on the relief of annihilation.

Ron Padgett says that chants have no fixed form, but do feature repetitive lines, words, or phrases.  He pays particular attention to a revival of the chant form in poetry with a sort of modern primitive feel among some poets in the 1960s.  There is a suggestion of power or weightiness to the repetition.

I understand the draw of this.  Although I am now about as urban as they get (and, hopefully, urbane as well) I do have the vestigial remains of roots in modern primitivism from my younger days.  The example of chant that immediately sprung to my mind is a song by Faith & The Muse (a favorite of mine in the years of my life which always remind me of that Paul Verlaine line
"What have you done, O you there. Who endlessly cry,. Say: what have you done, there. With youth gone by?")

So, here is my chant poem.

And The Windows of Heaven Were Opened
by Paul Mathers

This lifeless dry rock face a-craving for weeping and
the windows of Heaven were opened.
The earth was congested with cruelty and
the windows of Heaven were opened.
All eyes were clouded and fogged out of sight.
The heat of mid-day burnt fully at night.
The people grew cagey and ready to fight and
the windows of Heaven were opened.

All creation groaned from its caverns beneath and
the windows of Heaven were opened.
The blood-spattered dust demanded a fee and
the windows of Heaven were opened.
We stood on the hills, we stood in the vale,
watched darkness pour in and beginning of hail,
and soon we'd be sleeping in the eye of a whale and
the windows of Heaven were opened.

The task of atonement makes one quite alone and
the windows of Heaven were opened.
The sins on a ship or the sins on the loam and
the windows of Heaven were opened.
We huddle in mansions, we huddle in caves,
we huddle in gutters, we huddle in graves.
We count up our losses and ignore that which saves and
the windows of Heaven are opened.

1 comment:

  1. Nice poetry Paul, on a more superficial level -

    Happy memories decades ago of being in a crowd of over one hundred people all chanting the lines of an Edgar Broughton song 'Out, demons, out!' in unison to unwanted law-enforcers at a Rock Festival. O the power of the chant !