Back in February, I mentioned I was experimenting in writing slam poetry in the alliterative meters. Today I present one of the results of that experiment, which I actually presented at the Steel City Slam on March 25. However, it appears that the world of slam is not yet ready for metered Viking poetry. (Indeed, presenting a poem in meter is virtually unheard of in the slam scene.) Nevertheless, I enjoyed writing in this particular style and tone and will probably do so again in the future. I may try something even more unusual in the future: writing an “MFA-style” poem, but in my own voice and using the ancient meters.
The poem is titled “Ancient and Modern Dragons” and it is written in 48 lines of the Anglo-Saxon continuous style that is not broken into stanzas (which first debuted here on my blog). Of the various alliterative forms I work with, I think it is the one best suited to slam poetry. The poem features famous dragons from ancient and modern literature, and more political commentary than is usual for my poems. It’s still heathen to the core, however. 🙂
Of ancient dragons, the elder poets
left us stories of their strength and size:
Of hungry Níðhögg, who gnaws at the roots
of the great green tree, a glorious ash
that nurtures the worlds, named Yggdrasil.
Of Jörmungand, who yields to none,
a serpent so big, he circled the world.
Of fierce Fáfnir, who was fought by Sigurd;
he hoarded gold in hubris and greed.
Their stories continue, still to this day,
as in Tolkien’s tale of terrible Smaug,
that dread of dwarves when Dale he smote,
and famed Erebor followed after.
But dragons aren’t real, else dead they’re all.
Or are they really? Aim for the truth
behind the forms, hidden from sight,
and then you’ll see how they have changed.
Today has dragons, those deadly fiends,
but green and scaly, their guise is not.
How do they look in these latter days?
They’re media masters; our minds they fix,
limiting the space of allowed debate,
setting lie as truth and truth as lie,
gnawing the roots of needful inquiry.
They’re mealy-mouthed and much deceitful
slimy politicians, who seek control
of every aspect in all our lives,
with power circling the people’s world.
They’re corporate Smaugs with cash they hoard
—like Fáfnir of old, on a field of gold—
wrecking the world with ruinous greed,
and terrorizing all who would take a coin.
So keep your courage in this Kali Yuga,
and for slaying dragons, seek old wisdoms,
for to face and defeat these fiercest terrors,
the days of old have dropped some hints,
though easy they aren’t, to understand.
They speak of weapons, of special swords,
broken and reforged, for fame anew.
But what sword will slay a slimy corporation,
or make an end of media power,
or tame a congress of uncaring louts?
Best to be bold, brave and fearless,
as Sigurd was, and so was Beowulf.
I know not now what knights will succeed
in slaying the dragons of this century’s world,
but songs from poets they’ll certainly earn,
like all who slew them in ancient days.
Copyright © 2014 Eirik Westcoat.
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