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I had been in a poetry mood, but this may have finished it.

The internet will tell me nothing much about Louis J. Rodrigues, preferring to tell me about his much more popular twin, Luis J. Rodriguez, also a poet, who has entirely eaten the Google results and whose memoir about L.A. gangs sounds rather interesting. They are not the same person. I checked. What little I can find indicates that Mr. Rodrigues was still working as of 2000 and has concentrated on translations from the Catalan and the Anglo-Saxon, which may be a good idea, really, though the snippets of translation available online do not indicate that it is necessarily a great one.

This book, a collection of Mr. Rodrigues' non-translation poetry, came into our house without anyone having any knowledge of the author, and is most interesting because of its provenance: Thrud bought it on ebay from a collection of poetry books that belonged to Robert Graves. There's an inscription in the front by the author saying "for Robert Graves-- remembering your criticism of "Oblation" which you read ten years ago under a different name... and much modified since then. Best wishes, Louis J. Rodrigues, 24.7.79" This means that for me, at any rate, there is the question of what Robert Graves would have thought of this particular poetry, since it seems likely he read the rest of the volume, and it's certain he read the one poem.

I was amazed, because this is a) terrible poetry, and b) actually the sort of poetry I could see Robert Graves liking, although neither because nor in despite of the terrible. It's the subject matter, it's all Mythic With No Citations and you can tell that the poet was reading Graves and reading Housman and seems to have decided that the way to go was to crush those two together through a strainer and add a jot of thesaurus. I mean this is a school of poetry that was once very in, though I would rather have expected a date of mid-twenties rather than late seventies.

It's just... really bad. It's almost all clearly meant to rhyme, and he'll go the entire poem rhyming away, and then he'll have something that isn't even a near-rhyme no matter what accent you're thinking in, such as trying to rhyme 'status quo' with 'no more'. I mean it. He tried that. And almost all of the conceits are borrowed from other poets-- why yes I have read 'On Looking Into Chapman's Homer', and it was much better when not crossed with Housman's 'Reveille' and made into a meditation about why the poet should write more poetry-- and the ones that aren't borrowed, well, I can't tell what he's talking about. There is one entitled 'Shakespeare-- A Phantasy'. As far as I could tell, it centers around the idea that, occasionally, Stratford-on-Avon is subject to mist. For this we needed four stanzas?

And all the politics are obvious. I sit here wondering whether he read the World War I poets or only sent them unsolicited mss., as he thinks pacifists or indeed people who ever try to stop wars are total idiots. He thinks God/the gods is a lie, too, but he wants to use the mythic, so he'll go on for thirty lines or so trying to evoke a mythic atmosphere and then tell you what a fool anyone is to believe it.

Have a sample. It's all like this. )

I should say, also, it's all like this unless it's explicitly Arthurian, or, God help us, Orientalist. I should not be able to mistake 1979 for the glory years of the British Raj. Maybe he had these sitting around in a drawer since the twenties? It would explain a great deal.

I leave you with the following autogram (taken from his poem on pacifism), as some sentences are best at describing themselves: "This pent-up recrudescence of inane puerility." If that sentence weren't, in context, clearly supposed to be in iambic pentameter, I'd say he'd managed to get something right.


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March 2017

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