Opus 67

    I WOULD not in the early morning
    Start my mind on its inevitable journey
    Toward the East.
    There are white domes somewhere
    Under that blue enameled sky, white domes, white domes,
    Therefore even the cream
    Is safest yellow.
    Cream is better than lemon
    In tea at breakfast.
    I think of tigers as eating lemons.
    Thank God this tea comes from the green grocer,
    Not from Ceylon.

    Anne Knish
    (Arthur Davison Ficke)


American poets Witter Bynner and Arthur Davison Ficke published a slim volume called Spectra: A Book of Poetic Experiments in 1916 as a collection of modernist poetry. The Spectra school of poetry was a deliberate hoax poking fun at the new artistic endeavors such as the Imaginists and Disumbrationists. The contemporary poetry received favorable reviews as the work of serious poets like Amy Lowell and Ezra Pound. After the hoax had been revealed and the world of poetry had a chance to reflect upon the jest, Carl Sandburg admitted, "Spectra" (the hoax) "is a piece of creative art."

"Our intent," wrote Spectrist," Emanuel Morgan, "was to satirize fussy pretence; and if we have in any degree focussed laughter on pomp and circumstance among poets we shall have had enough satisfaction in our fun."

In 1916 Ceylon (today known as Sri Lanka) was under British rule and marked by abortive native rebellions and many tea and rubber estates were developed. By now the full impact of German U-Boats were being felt, supplies fell, demand grew and prices rose. In 1946 the British managers returned the tea estates to Ceylon and India. Opus 67 is one of these poems by Ficke, or "Anne Knish", his Spectric pseudonym. Knowing that it's a parody it is easy to spot it as one. But if you had read it in the context of the history and literary fashion of the day, do you think you would have understood the joke?

Sources:

Blair, Bob:
http://www.geocities.com/~bblair/000906.htm

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:
http://www.theotherpages.org/poems/2001/ficke0101.html

CST Approved.

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