Monday, February 09, 2009

Sumo And Poetry

This just came in by a circuitous route from Mr Scales:

'When Channel Four used to put on Sumo wrestling late at night I saw an interview once with Chiyonofuji, the "Wolf," the most dominant yokozuna at the time. Rather disconcertingly he looked almost like a regular human being (his opponents by contrast had nicknames like "Haystack" and "Dump Truck"). He said the key things they emphasised in training were physique (strength), skill/technique and chi (or qi – spirit or "heart"). He admitted that as far as some aspects of physique were concerned – sheer body weight, for example – he was deficient. But he compensated with exceptional skill and chi.

‘It's maybe spurious to use those categories to draw parallels with the making of poetry; but if we tweak the first to refer, say, to wit in the older sense – intellectual capacity – it's pretty rare to find the right balance of that plus technique and vital spark. If the Wolf is right, maybe two will do. Common enough, though, now to meet "poets" who aim to get by on one or none of the three.'

Any thoughts?

6 comments:

deemikay said...

I remember the Wolf! He was the best. ahhh... takes me back to being 13. :)

wit (in old sense) + technique + spark

Taking two at a time as suggested, these are the only options:

1) wit + technique
2) wit + spark
3) technique + spark

I'd happilly settle for any of those combinations in a poet. Ones who had only one of the three would be tedious quite quickly (how many are spark but nothing else?). And yes, there are plenty who are none of them. They maybe exhibit a hidden quality not in the formula: mouthiness!

Someone who was all three? Well... this is where debates would start. :)

Background Artist said...

My own three point plan to achieving that superior state where we can afford to be magnanamous and kind to duffers, is that to be in the top 1%, a bluffer need have talent in the three areas below:

1 - poems printed on the page

2 - critical prose skill

3 - a gift for live delivery

Most have one or two of these skills, but rarely three. Those who have all three will be in the top 1% by default and that's why the very very best get the rest of the poetry world flapping in their prescence.

Anonymous said...

Doubt if Scales is talking duffers.

1. wit: Whole quality of mind
2. technique: What makes it work and "sing" at the same time.
3. chi: Inspiration; breath of the muse.

Who's got them all and when/where?

Colin Will said...

Ah, he was my favourite. His technique was formidable, and his reflexes were extremely fast. He used, I thought, intuition and anticipation, two qualities very useful in writing also.

Colin Will said...

Incidentally, the literal translation of Chiyonofuji is 'thousand year cherry tree', but actually he started off as Kitanofuji (Northern cherry tree) but was given his name by his mentor Chiyonoyama (thousand year mountain). And the Chion-in (or Chiyon-in) temple in Kyoto is one of the most impressive in that city of temples.

Anonymous said...

"..lofty city Kyoto
wealthy, without antiquities"

That came into mind straight away, Colin - from Bunting's "Chomei at Toyama".

Scarcely true now, of course - but true at the time of the prose account Bunting's poem was based on. Here it is - on the Poetry Foundation website.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=9369

Eerily up to date today - with the current crop of civic and other disasters and individual reactions. And Bunting - with full mental scope, skill in prosody, chi or duende - (grumpy, charming, litigious too) - covers all the categories.

Sandy H.