Following my posting on perilla and phonologically similar words, I was playing with Camilla Perilla and sashimi and that’s my spicy duchess hanging on the wall scooby dooby, and I caught an echo of

Daisy and Lily,
Lazy and silly,
Walk by the shore of the wan grassy sea

The “Valse” from Façade, which I seem not to have posted about before.

From Wikipedia:

Façade is a series of poems by Edith Sitwell, best known as part of Façade – An Entertainment [first performed in 1923] in which the poems are recited over an instrumental accompaniment by William Walton. The poems and the music exist in several versions.

A YouTube of a recording of Sitwell and Peter Pears in one version (from 1953) of excerpts from the entertainment: here.

The Sitwell/Walton collaboration was not generally well received at first; critics complained that it was just outrageously silly nonsense. From the Poetry Foundation bio of Sitwell:

When Facade was first performed in London in 1922, the response of the audience and of critics was derisive and indignant. Dame Edith recalled: “I had to hide behind the curtain. An old lady was waiting to beat me with an umbrella.” (In 1949 the work was enthusiastically received in New York.)

Well, Sitwell’s poetry in this work is certainly a fabric of nonsensical word play, reveling in the sheer sound of the words. The beginning of “Sir Beelzebub”:

Beelzebub called for his syllabub in the hotel in Hell
Where Proserpine first fell,
Blue as the gendarmerie were the waves of the sea,
(Rocking and shocking the barmaid).

Eventually, however, the work was a huge success. From the Poetry Foundation site:

Robert K. Martin summed up Sitwell’s literary career in Dictionary of Literary Biography: “Sitwell’s reputation has suffered from the exceptional success of Facade, which was often treated as if it were the only work she had ever written.

Some commenters on YouTube suggest that Façade was the original rap music. Not such a preposterous idea; consider the Wikipedia entry on jazz poetry:

Jazz poetry is poetry that “demonstrates jazz-like rhythm or the feel of improvisation”. During the 1920s, several poets began to eschew the conventions of rhythm and style; among these were Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and E. E. Cummings. The significance of the simultaneous evolution of poetry and jazz during the 1920s was apparent to many poets of the era, resulting in the merging of the two art forms into jazz poetry. Jazz poetry has long been something of an “outsider” art form that exists somewhere outside the mainstream, having been conceived in the 1920s by African-Americans, maintained in the 1950s by counterculture poets like those of the Beat generation, and adapted in modern times into hip-hop music and live poetry events known as poetry slams.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: