This beatifications is believed to precipitate in poetic masochism, where Evans gives the example of Allen Cornrows “self-flagellating verse”, which I hold to be an incorrect ascription of the selected poem The Skeleton of the Great Moa In the Canterbury Museum, Christopher. The definition of masochism, as “fundamentally the desire for the harm to self” (Bandmaster 33). Should first be considered when making such remarks. Cursor’s poetry, although self-deprecating and diminutive is not masochistic; whereas James K.
Baxter religiously inspired poetry actively portrays a desire for pain and punishment. Cornrows Moa poem along with Spring 1942 will be compared to Baxter masochist poem Jerusalem sonnets to indicate that the verse of Cornrow Is In fact not “self-flagellating” at all. As masochism has been defined in the Introduction, it should be explained why Its application exists. This would assist In confirming If these poets either represent It In their poetry or not and how it relates to the overall thematic intention of the poems.
Masochism is believed to be means of a temporary transcendence’ from the intellectual and overly Self-conscious’ self, through a focus of attention to physical pain. It is believed by sociologist Roy Banister that “masochism is essentially an attempt to escape from self, in the ensue of achieving loss of high-level awareness. More precisely, awareness of self as symbolic, schematic, choosing entity Is removed and replaced with low-level awareness of self and a physical body and locus of Immediate sensations”(Banister 29).
This definition is relevant to Baxter poem because of its focus on the absence of high intellectual contemplation of self; which, though it achieves a similar level of self-deprecation as Cornrow, is crucial in reinforcing Bester’s themes of suffering as a spiritual purging and as a means of religious transcendence. Bester’s poetry will be discussed first, as to give a positive example of which to show what Is missing In Cornrows poetry.
The history of Christianity Is one riddled with self-flagellation and a relishing at the suffering of the individual: the description of masochistic desire in Bester’s Jerusalem Sonnets finds its explicit mandate in Pall’s letters to the Corinthians. “For Chrism’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties (2 Corinthians 12:10). This assertion that the holy should relish in their physical sufferings as a means of spiritual growth and transcendence, In resembling the suffering of Christ, Is confirmed In the poem’s welcoming of the grossness and uncomfortable nature of a religious existence.
The opening lines where the existence of louse of the beard is considered, rather scholastically, to be a divine punishment where Baxter writes: “The small grey cloudy louse that nests in my beard/ Is not, as some have called it, ‘a pearl of God’ -l No, it is a fiery tormentor/ Waking me at two a. M. ” This is the poetic subject’s rejection of the majesty of God’s creation and instead his focusing on it as a reduce AT torment. Yet, It would De a rejection AT Pall’s request to remove ten Dear or the lice and instead a masochistic coexistence ensues with the welcoming of continued torment.
To Baxter the suffering of the body is not important spiritually, and what is not important spiritually is not truly important. This according to Elizabeth Sissies is “about hatred of the body, of which an element is reflected in the obsession with lice” (Sissies 244). The complete disregard for the body and the focus on its suffering and destruction is continued when the physical state of comfort is Juxtaposed with worship and a mutual association of the two is made.
Baxter describes the tracking across the “thick grass/ wet with rain, feet cold, to kneel/ For an hour or two in front of the red flickering/ Tabernacle light- What he sees inside/ My meandering mind I can only guess-“. Though also taking a diminutive view of the self as is present in the selected works of Cornrow, which will be identified later, its coupling with the begrudged discomfort of the body confirms a level of masochism absent in the Moa poem.
The grass is thick and gives resistance, he is reboot, cold, and obviously threatened with poor health; yet to a man whose corporeality is disregarded these are superfluous to spiritual health. It is stressed at a second level when, like a man shackled to the corporeal, he questions the intentions of God in that he must accept and welcome a level of masochism he finds abhorrent: ” Do You or don’t You expect me to put up with lice? However, definitely being a contemplation of his form of “self-flagellation”, his focus on the corporeal state of pain and discomfort detracts from any focus on the spiritual, thus indicating hat difficulty that mortal mind has in separating itself from its suffering and achieving any true transcendence. According to J. E Weir’s examination of the later poetry of Baxter, it becomes apparent that an absence of pleasure aids transcendence and that “suffering is the one reality and alone brings true self- knowledge” (Weir 40) – An observation that is confirmed by Baxter himself.
Bester’s own enforcement of masochistic asceticism deprives himself with fulfillment of physical desires “for apples, wine and concubines and loud shouting! ,” instead asserting that ” quietly one has to accept the fall and love the fallen; which means to feel in one’s bones the process of detachment from life”(Baxter in Weir 41). This is a common belief of Catholic poets and one line in particular reflects the almost mocking indifference of the fecundity of nature which further asserts a feeling of suffering at one’s own futility.
Bester’s line, in possible reference to an earlier poem Wild Bees, where: “The bees that have been hiving above the church porch/ Are some of the killed by the rain/… Plenty of them are singing with what seems a virile ay/ In the apple tree whose reddish blossoms fall”, resembles closely (possibly by accident) a line of similar contemplation of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Thou Art Indeed Just Lord: “the sots and thralls of lust/ Do in spare hours more thrive that I that spend/… Rids build- but not I build; no but strain”(Hopkins 67). To quote Hopkins it appears that “nature is never spent,” and nature’s Joy in the face of death and suffering again mocks the poetic subject and his fruitlessness worship as to receive no answer from God. This poem in particular contains a “self-flagellating” undertow, ascribing not only a welcoming of resistance and suffering but also the level of which man is shackled to his body and his meandering mind.
It should be first addressed the false claim made by Patrick Evans of Cornrows poetry, that there is a “steady undertow AT sell-Delegating verse ruling ten second world war [verses], epitomized by his famous elegy to the moa in the Canterbury museum”(Evans). There may be examples of this in other poetry of Cornrow but there is none of this present in two selected war poems and in particular the Moa poem. Cornrows poetry often appreciating of the self who is not present in a world shaping battle, does not qualify as masochistic because not once is there any call for the infliction of pain or self- flagellation- spiritual or physical.
The intention of the poetry is not to document a failure of transcendence but a failure of involvement, as evident in Spring, and self- certainty, in Moa. “The skeleton of the moa on iron crutches / [that] Broods over no great waste” focuses instead on a weakened identity, be it of an individual or group. Its inability to stand alone without support could be an association made by Cornrow o state possibly the extent that the new New Zealand identity is now to exist with a colonial structure that forces a lifeless representation of its previous Maori glory, but more likely it is a representation of Cursor’s insecurities.
It is most likely an example of self- depreciation and I point to the line describing the moa as “Taller but not more fallen than l, who come/ Bone to his bone, peculiarly New Sealant’s”, as an example. A level of deprecation the falls short of Elite’s Froufrou poem, transplants a physical decay onto an imagined self to reduce the conscious image of one’s worth. It seems rather dramatic that Cornrow would assert that the dead moa is not as fallen as he is, even if he is referring to fallen in a religious sense; but by no means is this self- flagellating.
He continues to assert his inability to confidently stand without aid and hopes that in time as the certainty of the New Zealand cultural identity grows, it will be able to assert itself as separate from the colonial associations: “Not l, some child, born in a marvelous year J Will learn the trick of standing upright here. ” Barbara Johnny’s argument about the self-effacing quality of New Zealand poets is hat “it would seem one has to be positioned in the place of power… For one’s self- deprecation to be valued” (140 McKay).
Cornrows deprecation falls flat, in that for his fall to be considered important, he himself would have to be of a reasonably high societal altitude for his fall to be damaging. He continues to be a reductionism of his own image in the Spring poem, where the small and every day is Just Juxtaposed with not only the international but the cosmic. Two examples of the diametrical situations of a begrudging Cornrow and his imagined experiences of Glover, is of a nouns boy fishing: “Where a boy too young for his angler/ Hooks trout too small to take”; and a soldier firing “Into God knows what target? In all that violent process/ You follow the arc of islands, / The seas are shaping something”. The reductionism language of the domestic as being insignificant and diminutive compared to the cosmic concerns of God’s knowledge of the target and the massive seas forming an unknown something of global change Just adds to the belittling tone of Cursor’s poetry. But once again failing at being masochist it becomes only a pathetic attempt t self-deprecation.
Danville Brown continues a similar critique of New Zealand poets as offered by McKay that often their “self-deprecation is a dialogue function, depending on a listener/reader who is expected to deny the self-deprecation and thus re-affirm the speaker’s position of power” (Brown 139). Cornrows claims act then to assert his confidence as an intellectual elite; through his lack of self-confidence he desires that his ‘plight’ be felt and he reassert himself- even though he fails in being a memoir AT a global movement .
Nils renters a Dealer still n Dye New Leaner’s AT all occupations, that New Zealand is so far removed from the world stage, that their influence internationally- is unlikely. I agree with Van’s claim that New Sealant’s cultural nationalist movement does establish a canon of melancholy; I however disagree, as I hope has been shown, that its poster child Cornrow and his verse is at all self-flagellating. Masochism should not be confused with a lack of self-confidence. Bester’s poetry documents not only his welcoming for his discomfort but does so as to contemplate the body as a crucial element of spiritual worship.
The corporeal centrality present in the sonnets reflects the transcendence of the self as masochism and asserts is an element of a similar religious transcendence. Cornrow transcends what, The Brander bus shelter? The fishing boy? Does he really desire to be a soldier in the continent or is he Just reflecting his own insecurities that he is not the central figure of the attention of New Sealant’s gaze. The contempt he held for Ursula Bethel and her superior verse shows Cornrow as man whose opinion of himself was one larger than is actually arrayed, and his false ‘modesty fails at leaving a bullet hole, let alone a whip mark on his city skin.