Stephen E. Henderson: On "Crootey Songo"

Kaufman’s poem suggests the scatting of the jazz vocalist, and if its form, including the length of the lines, were determined by music, one would probably be justified in calling it a song, or simply a musical composition with a minimal tone range (see Kostelanetz, The End of Intelligent Writing 373). But there are several elements that make us classify it as a poem. The first is the resemblance of these sounds to actual language, and the treatment of the forms as though they were language. The entire poem, for example, consists of three stanzas, the first containing four lines and the last two, three lines each, for a total of ten lines. Thus we have an appeal to the visual practice of arranging poetry in stanzas, with an echo of the quatrain in the first stanza, and the triplet in the last two. There are other connections also, of grammar and punctuation, that emphasize the verbal. In the passage quoted, note the commas separating the series of "words." Note, too, the implied "grammatical" distinction between "PLOG, MANGI" and "PLOG MANGI." Note the implied grammatical parallel between "ASLOOPERED" and "AKINGO LABY." It is all very clever and very funny, and it never loses the humor and satire of jazz and its folk roots. It is also the work of a highly sophisticated poet whose fabulous verbal gifts have not been fully appreciated. And as we read lines like these we sense the mingling of the conventional and the creative. We are brought in contact with puns that are part nonsense and part slang, part satire, part play. The first stanza ends with word-play: "HEDACAZ, AX -, O.O.," with the puns on the word "sax" and "sex." There is a similar playfulness at the beginning of the second stanza: "DEEREDITION, BOOMEDITION, SQUOM, SQUOM, SQUOM."

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Title Stephen E. Henderson: On "Crootey Songo" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Robert Frank, Henry Sayre Criticism Target Bob Kaufman
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 09 Jun 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication The Line in Postmodern Poetry
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