Nutmegs And Ginger, Cinnamon and Cloves

It’s too easy to write an off-the-cuff comment online.  It’s fast, also – and perhaps this is the reason why so many people unadvisedly, and unthinkingly type something out and hit ‘send’, or ‘submit’ without cogitating a bit first.

But it should take time and thought to write poetry.  It certainly takes a great deal of time and thought to write good poetry.

Sometimes, though, people put even less effort into writing poetry than they do into online comments.  Or at least, it seems as though they do.  But perhaps they just aren’t very good at writing poetry.

Today is a marvellous day.

It’s marvellous for lots of reasons, but for two above all: I got my first bit of hate-commentary (‘i can’t tell who is a bigger douche, you or the person you’re writing about’).  I’ve been waiting for my first bit of hate-commentary for a while.  But what really makes me excited is the second reason: my hate-commentator writes poetry.

Oh… this is going to be fun.

Let’s have a look at Derek Calavera’s latest (he of the ‘i don’t know who is…’): it’s called ‘Cinnamon’.  Roll the tape:

Cinnamon synonyms:
spicy, piquant
spit powder
pit fire, morocco
cocoa, jamaica,
hashish, narghile
nile, papyrus
ash bark, incense,
heart of Osiris.

A synonym is a word that is ‘identical and co-extensive in sense and usage with another of the same language’.  Are all the words in this poem ‘identical and co-extensive in sense and usage’ with cinnamon?  Or did the poet fail to look at a dictionary first?

Still, the second line starts quite well, doesn’t it?  Two aggressive trochees (the poet might want to look that term up: I doubt that he knows it) that grab the attention.

And ‘piquant’ is even apposite, since it means ‘agreeably sharp, pungent, appetizing’.  Nice work.

Now then: ‘spit powder/pit fire, morocco/cocoa’.

Is this a reference to the undergraduate undertaking which involves trying to eat a teaspoon-full of cinnamon?  In which case, again, it starts quite well.  People do tend to spit when trying to ingest a large quantity of cinnamon.  Often, they vomit quite spectacularly.  Under these circumstances it’s not hard to guess what ‘pit fire’ refers to either.  But ‘morocco/cocoa’ (Morocco is a country, and therefore a proper noun, and therefore needs a capital letter: again, let us hope the poet is taking notes) – what does that mean?  Cocoa from Morocco?

Cinnamon (to return to the alleged subject of the poem) isn’t even grown in Morocco.  It was first native to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), whence its name is derived.  So either this poem has become an utterly unfettered exercise in word association (undertaken by a dyslexic), or it means nothing at all.  Or, it’s a combination of both.

Word association is a fun game: it can lead to hilarious results and it’s good for word-power.  But when any association disappears from the exercise, you’re left with Hamlet’s ‘Words, words, words’.  Which is to say, you’re left with not much at all.

One can see how ‘morocco/cocoa’ come together: through consonance (again, the poet might want to look that word up, he’s certain not to know it either).  Still no meaning, though.

No capital letter for ‘jamaica’, but that fails to surprise by this point, and probably a sad reference to smoking weed covers the ‘cough-cough-cough’ before ‘coffee’ – although consonance once again plays a part in connecting these disparate elements.  The weed element is confirmed by ‘hashish’, which in turn inspires ‘narghile’ (a hookah, or water pipe), but by now the drugs aren’t only a theme, they seem to be in the driver’s seat.

And then we’re off to Egypt.

And we end with ‘heart of Osiris.’  We even get a full stop.  That’s a rare honour, from this poet.  I quite like the phrase ‘heart of Osiris’: it seems pregnant with meaning, even though Mr Calavera won’t stoop to act as a midwife for it.

Oh, and does the poet know that the only bit of Osiris that Isis couldn’t find after he was torn into fourteen pieces by Set was his cock?

Freudian slip, Mr Calavera?

Or are you hinting at something?

What do we have, in the end?

A list.  Not a poem.  A list of words so ineffectually cobbled together that you wouldn’t put it on your fridge if your five year-old child came home with it from school.

You can read the whole of ‘Cinnamon’ in a breath, and the rhythm is unlikely to trip you up.  That (at least) works in its favour.

But in the end, it’s not even a tale.  It certainly was told by an idiot, however: it’s full of sound and fury, and it signifies nothing.

I think the key to Mr Calavera’s poem is contained within his neat little comment: ‘i can’t tell who is a bigger douche, you or the person you’re writing about’.

No capital letter at the start, no full-stop at the end, no apparent care for how a sentence in English should be put together, and nothing that indicates the slightest interaction with what he commented on.

Funny: almost all of those comments could be made about his poetry.


9 responses to “Nutmegs And Ginger, Cinnamon and Cloves

  1. Let’s not underestimate this chap (by the way where did you find his alleged poetry..? I’m intrigued), ever heard of e.e.cummings? He was no…douche sayer. “i can’t tell who is a bigger douche, you or the person you’re writing about”, sounds like poetry to me. Needs a few more lines, if I may, “i don’t mean to sound uncouth, your writing just leaves me with so much self doubt”. I couldn’t bring myself to use completely incorrect grammar, it just feels wrong. By the bye, Mish, you’re a bastion of civlisation. It warms my heart to know that someone cares about propper punctuation, and is proud to write about. Nerds unite!

    • I love my e e cummings too.

      But cummings wrote ‘The Enormous Room’, as well as ‘my sweet old etcetera’.

      In other words, he could write.

      And thanks for considering me a battlement standing against the forces of evil and illiteracy!

      I’ll be standing like this for a while. Until gin and cigarettes get the better of me, of course.

    • Oh, and you can find his poetry by googling his name. I’ll be damned if I post a link to the swine on this blog.

  2. somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
    any experience, your eyes have their silence:
    in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
    or which i cannot touch because they are too near…

    (i do not know what it is about you that closes
    and opens; only something in me understands
    the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses
    nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

    Read it out to Lou in my wedding vowes, haunting.

    • Since they were part of your wedding vows, I’d go for ‘beautiful’, rather than ‘haunting’ (and beautiful they are) – but they’re bloody stunning.

      If someone reads me something half as nice when I’m giving up all my personal freedoms I’ll be lucky.

      You’re such a SWEETIE, Pat!

  3. Whee! Congratulations. So much fun to get poorly reasoned negative comments. I’m almost jealous.

  4. …and also provided my night-time laughter.
    I hope this fellow is slumped in his seat, realising the extremity of what happens after you hit that “submit” button.

  5. Oh dear Misha – you have obviously been blinded by your need for a vitriolic dummy spit – clearly you have missed the true deeper meaning in … (excuse me wile I scroll back in search of name) … uh, here it is, Derek Calavera!, right, well obviously you have failed to see the sparse beauty in DC’s neatly pared poetry (and yes I do believe that having read said poem I am now close enough to the artist to refer to him in such tearms of endearment, you know on a creatospiritual level).
    Let me spell it out – clearly DC is waxing lyrical about the juggernaut that was British Imperialism, and the subsequent pillaging of exotic cultures – the spice is a metaphor for the trade in cultural substance – the taking of that which proved valuable and the subsequent grinding down of what was left. He has delved deeply into the motivations behind Imperial Britain’s ravaging of exotic cultures – the truth of the spice trade being a front for the exportation of hashish to quell the unruly masses, just as tea became a front for the opium out of china. And dare i say it that the lack of capitalization is a reference to the contempt in which Britain held these exotic jewels – as possessions to bedeck the mourning Queen and not as nations.
    DC’s work is a thing of beauty! Damn you Misha for tearing out the heart of Osiris!!

    That was awesome!! It felt good to get that of my chest … back to normal transmissions …

    At least he spelt douche right – right? Oh shit, should that be spelled?? I think that may have cost me some brain cells.

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