Poetry is basically the absolving of narrative from a subjective stance. The essence of good and meaningful poetry lies not just in the perfection of form, but also in the manner by which the theme is expressed at large. T. S. Eliot rejects the ambivalence commonly associated with poetry and speaks of it as being a transparent and meaningful medium of the poet’s subjectivity (Raine 122). But not all poems carry a strictly subjective expression in that numerous factors often belie the poet’s spontaneity and freedom of expression. The term ‘hegemony’ typically involves the phenomenon of getting institutionalized.
In other words, it is the cultural hegemony of beliefs and conventionality that sometimes influences the society in a restricted way, causing it to pronounce misplaced ideologies the society thrusts upon its dwellers. This paper is going to focus on two modern poems for identifying the hegemonic elements in them. To analyze the rules of hegemony in works of literature, we have taken Dancing in Odessa by Ilya Kaminsky and A Song on the End of the World by Czeslaw Milosz. It is imperative that a certain amount of background researching is made into the aforementioned poems to swiftly bring out the hegemonic components in them, if any.
Written by a Soviet emigrant to the United States of America, Dancing in Odessa tells a story of forlornness and despair. The poet Ilya Kaminsky looks back at the memories of a tormented childhood from the recesses of his powerful imagination, and documents them meticulously in the book. However, the poet’s authority or lack of it, over a foreign language like English does not take away the passionate rendering we enjoy in Dancing in Odessa. The creative force is articulated by repeating images and phrases – a poetic trend more common to the Victorian times.
Such a method also highlights the ingenuity of art in terms of its realistic expressions and sometimes, tragic visions. The frequent imagery which haunts the poet is that of his previous dwelling place which he had to forsake in the beginning of the 1990s. Frequent references to the Russian city of Odessa in this lyrical masterpiece resonate with dark and somber moods typical of postmodern anguish. The narration is literally disrobed of excesses, thus allowing the readers to attain a position of first person viewers. The use of metaphors is sporadic and therefore, has an impressionistic sense of coherence.
Now in relation to the thesis question, Dancing in Odessa can be interpreted as being a product of the cultural dominance of a changed society having a significant amount of hegemonic impact on the intellectual expressions of its time. Kaminsky family’s migration to the United States of America as political refugees left in the poet’s mind a profound sense of yearning for the city of Odessa and its myriad memories. The change of guards in terms of the social, political, administrative, religious and cultural controls had a radically shifting influence for the newly migrated segments in the US society.
Almost a collage of imageries merges into each other in the poem to form a continuous loop of expressions suited to bring out the occasional allegories. It is apparent after reading the poem that the poet’s vision is shaped by the erstwhile social superstructure in Russia: “The German tanks on tractors,…” (Kaminsky 12). Just as Kaminsky creates a crossbreed of forms and patterns in Dancing in Odessa, Czeslaw Milosz in A Song on the End of the World draws on from his personal experiences and pantheistic beliefs to paint a picture of universality.
All the imageries used in this narrative provide a familiar yet ethereal representation of nature and its relationship with mankind. In this sense, this poem almost antecedes many of the earlier works of art, especially that of William Wordsworth. The richly meditative mood of the poem is captured perfectly by repeated lines that almost sound like a sacred hymn. As far as intellectual hegemony is concerned, it is the Christian convictions of the poet that urge him to muse over the outputs of life within a continuous cosmic framework.
The fact that the constancy of nature is complemented by the routine course of our everyday lives goes to show how transcendence creates a sense of dilution. A strict adherence to the established rules of the society which we live in is unlikely to let us contemplate on an existence which is essentially evil and diabolic. So the poet advertently dismisses the evil influences working behind the impending end of the world by voicing his poignant Christian beliefs: “As long as the sun and the moon are above, As long as the bumblebee visits a rose
As long as rosy infants are born No one believes it is happening now. ” (Peakdesign, 2009) One of the striking aspects about Milosz’s craft is his ability to look beyond the petty problems of the temporal existence. This is evident in A Song on the End of the World which converges beyond the borderline of transient existence of being. The omnipotent Creator and His creations become unified as and when the end nears. This theological argument perfectly justifies the dichotomy between the songs of experience and that of innocence (Nathan and Quinn 22).
Since both these two texts belong to contemporary times marked by lack of faith and tolerance in general and realism, it is quite obvious that they ought to accrue to certain social and intellectual rationales. So the thesis argument is met with in terms of finding plausible hegemonic correlatives in the works of Ilya Kaminsky and Czeslaw Milosz. What still remains to be seen, however, is the ensuing literature that is undoubtedly capable of producing more such heartrending documentations of life.
Courtney from Study Moose
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