Thursday, March 29

The Akond of Swat

Oh, man! Proof that the Internets are a deadly place!

So I was toolin' around and found this post by Brooke over at The Brookeshelf. Some guy animates an Edward Lear poem. I'm totally digging it, remembering how Lear opened up the whole world of poetry to me when I was in fourth grade.

And then it hits me: Could these wonderful Internets also contain even more Edward Lear? Not just, but more: They contain an Edward Lear poem recited by Ken Nordine. To wit.

Ken Nordine was a 50's jazz poet, a voiceover artist, a man whose voice you hear and never forget. The first time I heard it was when I was young and he was doing ads for Levi's. He's done stuff with Jerry Garcia and put out a number of Word Jazz disks in his time. In the annals of spoken word, he's a great.

Then I'm checking out the comments on his video on YouTube and there's all this stuff about people not digging his politics. Ken defends himself by saying they're Lear's politics but what I'm seeing is people object to Nordine suggesting that Lear's poem did not apply equally to the political leaders shown in the video.

Reading the poem straight it is difficult to make out if Lear is just riffing on the possibilities of what a charismatic and war-like leader the Akhund was (according to one citation I found) or if he was merely using the unique sound of the title as a way of taking charge against the behavior of despotic leaders in general. I'm no Lear scholar, it's difficult to say, but I'm guessing the latter.

I also find it curious is that this poem, "The Akond of Swat," is included in the Edward Lear volume of Poetry for Young People series put out by Sterling, edited by Edward Mendelson. Here's their introduction:
"The poem never tells us who the Akond of Swat might be, but there really was a person with that title; he was a religious leader in what is now Pakistan, and Lear read about him while planning a trip to India."
All very well and good, but I suspect there's more to this story.

As for Mr. Nordine's politics, all I can say is if the images offend then close your eyes and listen. The man has a great voice.
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