Genius in a catch 22?

1. Similarities: The main similarity between Bukowski’s “Genius of the Crowd” and Whitman’s “I Sing the Body Electric” is in their rhythm. As far as content goes, they have nothing to do with each other. In the aspect of rhythm, however, they are very similar. Both poems lack a formal structure, and are lacking in any sort of rhyme scheme, but both poems have a changing and choppy rhythm. They don’t detract from the poem, but simply create a different tone.

2.Images: Why doesn’t Bukowski use images? His poem was rather like the first stanza of Emily Dickinson’s “Tell all the Truth But Tell it Slant” in that they both had a general moral lesson to them. I believe that if Bukowski had used images in his poem, it would have detracted from the meaning of the poem. The only exception to this is his reference to hemlock.

3.Hemlock: What is the significance of the hemlock? The hemlock is a reference to Socrates. Socrates was and is considered a great philosopher. What makes the reference to him significant is the story of his death. Socrates stood out against the status quo. He challenged the Greek belief in deities and was sentenced to death for speaking out. The manner of his death was poisoning with hemlock. A “genius of the crowd” who was murdered by “average people.” 

4.Didactic: What is the message? I believe this poem is geared towards “fellow geniuses.” Bukowski obviously has a very low opinion of the common person. In fact, he fears them because he believes that if they can’t understand something that they will destroy it. That “they will attempt to destroy anything/that differs from their own” (lines 28-29). Bukowski is trying to warn that people who take a stand against something are the biggest hypocrites, but isn’t he proving his own point? If he fears the “average man” (20), then does Bukowski lack understanding of him. I believe that Bukowski makes a good point that ignorant and prejudiced people will do wrong things, but he takes it too far by using the blanket statement “common man” to imply that all non-geniuses act like that. I see the validity of the point he is making, but I do not fully agree with him.

5.Open Form Poetry: Open form poetry is interesting in that it leaves the author open to write more directly without having to sacrifice the potency of a point for making a line rhyme. Where do you draw the line? What is the difference between open form poetry and prose? I believe that to make the cut as a form of poetry a poem must either have rhythm or rhyme. If it lacks in both of these areas, then I count it as prose.

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1 Comment

  1. danielsbrown said,

    July 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Very good!


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