Beatnik poetry, invented and found

Today’s Zippy, with Dingburgers continuing their fascination with all things bop and beatnik (previous installments here and here):

Two pieces of invented beatnik poetry (on tv in the 60s), plus found poetry from Herman Cain back in November.

The full text of the Johnny Staccato burlesque:

Perambulation has a thousand songs that one by one pursue, RUNNING, FALLING, VOMITING forth cobras enamored of higher escapes. If you give way, or hedge aside from the direct forthright, like to an entered tide, they all rush by and leave you hindmost.

One could pass valuable hours, perhaps days doing nothing but hanging by ones earlobes strung by a thin white hot wire burning with ecstasy.

Up through eternity and back, I myself have often succumbed, knowing not of brown and white saddle shoes or dim high stone portals. Knowing only of Guanahato and the jelly covered invaders gazing idly at the chartreuse swan.

More recently, the UK electronic music group Meat Beat Manifesto has quoted almost the whole passage in “Radio Mellotron” (on their 1996 album Subliminal Sandwich); you can hear their version here.

On to Herman Munster in “Far-Out Munsters”. The text:

Ibbity bibbity, sibbity sab.
Ibbity bibbity, canal boat.
Dictionary. Down the ferry.
Mary Mary, quite contrary.
Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear.
Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his hair.
Scooba-doo and scooba-die,
That chicken’s not too young to fry.
Life is real, life is earnest.
If you’re cold, turn up the furnace.

(Video here.) This is mostly a pastiche burlesque, quoting a series of things: “Ibbity bibbity” from the musical Peter Pan (1960), the nursery rhyme “Mary, Mary, quite contrary”, the 1944 novelty song “Fuzzy Wuzzy”, the Mattel Beatnik Scooba Doo doll from the 60s, and more. Here’s an analysis by Angela Sorby that sees a racial context behind both the Herman Munster character and the faux-beatnik poem:

In August of 1965, Marie Jordan wrote to Negro Digest magazine, objecting to the Beat poet LeRoi Jones’s Afrocentric vision; Jordan insisted that “the first duty of any writer, be he black, white, or green, is to be continually striving to develop and improve his craft and artistic skill.” Jordan’s letter does not acknowledge that at least one green poet emerged from the crucible of the Civil Rights era: Herman Munster, whose verdant hue enabled him to register anxieties about integration—and about poetry—on network TV. Like The Addams Family and The Beverly Hillbillies, The Munsters depicts awkward social mixing within neighborhoods, and Munster’s green skin enables him to act as a racialized other while ducking the politics of black and white.

Literary histories of the 1960s, such as Conrad Aiken’s Twentieth-Century American Poetry (1963), tend to be chronological, nationalistic, and largely white. But Munster’s performance offers a pop counterdiscourse that is fluid, transnational, and multicultural, including an anonymous sixteenth-century British rhyme (“Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary”); a bit of nineteenth-century didacticism (Sarah Josepha Hale’s “Mary’s Lamb”); a phrase from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Psalm of Life” (“Life is real! Life is earnest!”); a snippet from Rudyard Kipling (“Fuzzy Wuzzy”) and some snatches from the R & B star Louis Jordan (“That chicken’s not too young to fry”). And, of course, the whole poem is recited to the beat of an African drum, recalling Allen Ginsberg’s “Negro Streets” of Harlem. Munster’s poem, then, is a compressed précis of verses that circulated orally and that are understood as available for use by non-elite speakers. Indeed, his final trope on Longfellow (“If you’re cold / turn up the furnace”) recasts Longfellow’s romanticism as pragmatism, and sums up Munster’s implicit ars poetica: do what works.

Some of this is a stretch — it’s a jump from the tongue-twistery children’s rhyme “Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Bear” back to Kipling’s racialist poem — but it’s not unreasonable to see the poem as nonsense peppered with some social content.

Which brings us to Herman Cain thinking on his feet about the Libyan uprising and not quite connecting the thought dots:

OK, Libya. [Pause] President Obama supported the uprising, correct? President Obama called for the removal of Khaddhafy. I just wanted to make sure we’re talking about the same thing before I say, ‘Yes, I agreed’ or ‘No I didn’t agree.’ I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reason — nope, that’s a different one. [pause] I gotta go back and see. I got all this stuff twirling around in my head. Specifically, what are you asking me that I agree or not disagree with Obama? (link)

This could use some editing to make it into first-class found poetry, but “I got all this stuff twirling [or twirlin’] around in my head” is a good beginning, and the syntax of the last sentence is fascinating. (I’m guessing that agree or not disagree is an inadvertent blend of agree or not and agree or disagree. Putting that aside, there still seems to be a missing preposition — on or about — at the end of the sentence: a case of “P absorption”, probably.)

I thoroughly admire Bill Griffiths’s managing to put these three passages together in one short comic strip.

3 Responses to “Beatnik poetry, invented and found”

  1. Burlesques, parodies, playful allusions « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Beatnik poetry, invented and found (link): Zippy: two pieces of invented beatnik poetry (on tv in the 60s), plus found poetry from Herman […]

  2. Marcus Tee Says:

    Beaver Cleaver also invoked the Ibbity, Fibbitty, Sibbidy, Sab. Ibbity Bibbity canal boat line in the episode “Beaver’s Library Book.” (season 3 episode 18 of January 30, 1960)

  3. J.J.Hayes Says:

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