I am yet to find any school in America that teaches history well. For most high school students it is rapid march through a list of bullet points with a few deliberately bland and lame explanations of why things happen the way they did.
One of America's greatest strengths and weakness is its general ignorance of history. Being free of the burden of history keeps you focused in the here and now. Practical problems are easier to solve when you're no longer also trying rectify past injustices. But without the context of history past lessons learned are lost and the whole world is without depth.
When talking to one high school student I asked him to imagine reading an edited edition of Lord Of The Rings (his favorite story) where all the history of the characters and the kingdoms was deleted. He thought that was a stupid idea, without the back stories the book is just a short description of battles and a trip to Mordor. History is the back story of the world and I wish we would teach it like it was really is important.
Sorry for the side trip because what I really wanted to write about Ken Nordine. The name probably doesn't ring a bell but if you're over 30 you might have heard his voice in a TV commercial or in a movie. It's a very distinctive voice.
If you're a little bit older you might have heard his poetic narratives. Some light and comical others that are dark, trippy and experimental. Ken Nordine was most productive during a very pivotal period in America, 1959 - 1967. It was the end of the Eisenhower 50's and the great overblown emergence of the Counter Culture was yet to happen. The stereotypical image of the 1960's was really all about the events of the last three years of that decade. Where there was the Summer of Love, the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Bobby Kennedy, the moon landing and Woodstock.
The early 1960's was a golden era of American culture. American movies, books and music were sort after throughout the world. It was the last time poetry meant anything in America. Ken Nordine was a little bit like Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol -all three men had a foot in the commercial world and in the artistic community. I guess because they were able to stay financially solvent they didn't fade away like their contemporaries .
This period, the Don Draper period, was about the last time an artist could write serious poetry, get published and even expect a royalty check for his efforts. During these years Allen Ginsburg becomes famous for Howl and Frank O'Hara for Meditations In An Emergency. Sylvia Plath will shock the world with both her poem Daddy and her suicide. Live Or Die by Anne Sexton changed a generation of how woman looked at themselves. Even the older poets like Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg where popular and widely read.
I'm happy to find out that Ken Nordine is alive and working at age 94. I have included a few of his works. They are as accessible as they are entertaining.
Everyday should be more than making a living. Bring back the magic, everyday can have poem, a song, an important verse to make it special.
The greatest incantation of your soul has rhyme and reason all its own.