Grammatical: I’m Damian Grammatical, Radio Highbrow’s Culture Correspondent based in Austin, Texas. On Saturday, the 18th of October, 2014, the Texas World Cultural Festival and Poetry Recitation Competition was held in Corsicana, Texas. The day began with the “Not Square But Just as Interesting” ethnic dance exhibition, which featured such dances as the Viennese waltz and the Argentine tango. Onlooker Hieronymus Aloysius Neff of Paducah expressed his surprise and delight.
Hieronymus: It was amazing seeing dances with more than two steps.
Grammatical: The exhibition was followed by an international-
I asked Sunny Sunja Kim, a student at UT Austin who was one of the few visitors able to eat more than one spoonful of the winning entry, what she thought of Mr. Park’s creation.
Kim: I was really disappointed. I had heard that Texans cook their chili very spicy, but none of these were spicy except Mr. Park’s. His was so hot I could only eat one bowl.
Grammatical: In the afternoon, visitors gathered for the poetry recitation competition. Chief Judge Calliope Melpomene McClannahan Crockett, Assistant Professor of English at Turtle Bayou Community College, opened the ceremonies in the Beauford H. Jester Convention Hall.
Calliope: Ladies and gentlemen, it is my profound pleasure to welcome you today to the Beauford H. Jester Convention Hall for the first annual all-
Grammatical: Mrs. Crockett was joined by two assistant judges, Thalia Polymnia Bascom Culberson, Instructor of Rhetoric and Elocution at the University of Texas at Matagorda, and C. Leo Euphemus Cassety McNulty Pendleton de la Crane y Benton-
The first finalist, Austin P. Austin of Megargel, recited a suitably languorous rendition of the French poem Chanson d’automne.
Les sanglots longsDes violonsDe l’automneBlessent mon cœurD’une langueurMonotone.
Tout suffocantEt blême, quandSonne l’heure,Je me souviensDes jours anciensEt je pleure
Et je m’en vaisAu vent mauvaisQui m’emporteDeçà, delà,Pareil à laFeuille morte.
Grammatical: There was a contretemps, however, after the second finalist, Chester Ferguson of Nacogdoches, began reciting what has been provisionally identified as Alexander Pushkin’s To Anna Kern.
Я помню чудное мгновенье:Передо мной явилась ты,Как мимолетное виденье,Как гений чистой красоты.
В томленьях грусти безнадежной,В тревогах шумной суеты,Звучал мне долго голос нежный,И снились милые черты.
Thalia: Excuse me, this is a poetry competition.
Ferguson: I beg your pardon, ma’am, but I fail to see the point of your objection...
Thalia: We’re here for poetry, not speaking in tongues, sir. This is a cultural event.
Calliope [a bit whispered]: Thallie, not so loud. We don’t want to make anyone mad.
C. Leo [laughing]: This isn’t the State Board of Education, Callie.
Calliope: All right, all right, point taken. Agreed, disallowed. Mr. Ferguson, please observe the rules in the future.
Grammatical: The third finalist, Truman ‘Tex’ Beauregard of Uncertain, walked a fine line between winning over and alienating the crowd and the judges by choosing Si tu deseas a mi, a poem in Spanish, but of the non-
Si tu deseas a miyo non lo sé;pero yo deseo a tíen buena fe.
Ca non a ninguna más,así lo ten;nin es, nin será jamásotra mi bien.
En tan buen ora te víe te fablé,que del todo te me díen buena fé.
Yo soy tuyo, non lo dudessin fallir;e non piensses al, nin cudessin mentir.
Después que te conoscíme captivé,e seso e saber perdíen buena fé.
A tí amo e amarétoda saçón,e siempre te servirécon grand raçón:
pues la mejor escogíde quantas sé,e non finjo nin fengíen buena fé.
Grammatical: The fourth finalist, Cletus Augustus Van Zandt, allegedly of Gun Barrel City, reached even farther back, into Anglo-
Nu scylun hergan hefaenricaes uardmetudæs maecti end his modgidancuerc uuldurfadur swe he uundra gihwaeseci dryctin or astelidæhe aerist scop aelda barnumheben til hrofe haleg scepen.Tha middungeard moncynnæs uardeci dryctin æfter tiadæfirum foldu frea allmectig.
That last part sounded kinda heathen with that Freya in it, but I guess it’s okay; it’s right here on the page.
Calliope: Mr. Van Zandt, while we appreciate a certain amount of artistic interpretation in the delivery of poetry, I must admit that your elocution leaves more than a little to be desired, sir. I hesitate to impugn a man’s good character, but
Cletus: Ma’am, I assure you, that’s how we speak back home. You might should check the vowel formants on that again.
Calliope: This is poetry, sir. We do not cotton to un-American ideas like descriptivism round these parts. Disallowed!
Grammatical: The fifth finalist, Wendell Summerdale Stockdale of Muleshoe, who goes by his nickname, Dale, gave a suitably somber rendition of Catullus 1.
Cuī dōnō lepidum novum libellumāridā modo pūmice expolītumCornēlī tibi namque tū solēbāsmeās esse aliquid putāre nūgāsiam tum cum ausus es ūnus Ītalōrumomne aevum tribus explicāre cartīsdoctīs Iuppiter et labōriōsīsquāre habē tibi quidquid hoc libellīqualēcumque quod o patrōna virgōplūs ūnō maneat perenne saeclō
Grammatical: The sixth finalist, Květoslava Ježeková of Ennis, upset the crowd’s expectations of a Texas Czech by reciting Heine’s Die Lorelei.
Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten,Daß ich so traurig bin,Ein Märchen aus uralten Zeiten,Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.Die Luft ist kühl und es dunkelt,Und ruhig fließt der Rhein;Der Gipfel des Berges funkelt,Im Abendsonnenschein.
Die schönste Jungfrau sitzetDort oben wunderbar,Ihr gold’nes Geschmeide blitzet,Sie kämmt ihr goldenes Haar,Sie kämmt es mit goldenem Kamme,Und singt ein Lied dabei;Das hat eine wundersame,Gewalt’ge Melodei.
Den Schiffer im kleinen Schiffe,Ergreift es mit wildem Weh;Er schaut nicht die Felsenriffe,Er schaut nur hinauf in die Höh’.Ich glaube, die Wellen verschlingenAm Ende Schiffer und Kahn,Und das hat mit ihrem Singen,Die Loreley getan.
Grammatical: The competition seemed to be neck and neck between Mr. Austin, Mr. Beauregard, Miss Ježeková, and Mr. Stockdale when the seventh and last finalist, Leonidas Jefferson Bell of Waxahachie, brought down the house to thunderous applause and a standing ovation with a poem of his own composition, Ode to Cows.
Cows are neat,Cows are fun,They taste greatCooked on a bun.
They give milk,And they give steak,The first is voluntary,The last we take.
We eat ’em with veggies,We eat ’em with cheese,After we kill ’em,We stick ’em in a deep freeze.
How now, the brown cow,A nice juicy T-bone,Or maybe roast beef,Or perhaps a filet mignon?
Round roast, rump roast, tenderloin, strip,Porterhouse, sirloin, cubed steak, rib,Flat iron, ribeye, skirt loin, plank,Brisket, short loin, plate, chuck, or shank.
And then go have a hot dogWith the parts they had left over.It’s amazing when you stop and think,“Why, these all came from clover!”
When all is doneAnd all is said,We all like meatFrom a cow that is dead.
Calliope: That was brilliant.
Thalia: Indeed, you have captured the true heart of Texas culture, and of culture across the globe.
C. Leo: I think we’re all agreed that there’s no doubt who the winner is today.
Grammatical: Mr. Bell came forward and knelt to receive the bestowal of a white Stetson hat with a laurel wreath in place of the usual leather band flanking a single white silver star, as well as a solid gold bolo in the shape of the head of a longhorn steer for ceremonial occasions. The second place winner, Mr. Austin, received a grey Stetson with mockingbird feathers flanking a silver armadillo in the front, as well as a ceremonial solid silver longhorn steer bolo. And after some discussion third-
The closing remarks were given by Mrs. Culberson, who was the only judge not overcome with the vapors, be it from the grandeur of the event or as a result of the chili.
Thalia: It is my honor to bring this exalted event to a close. I am reminded of the words of Dame Mary Douglas, who pointed out that the dietary rules of Leviticus draw a sharp distinction between those things that pertain to men and those that pertain to the divine. Human culture often crowds close to that boundary, as we are reminded today, whether from the divine, purifying flame of Mr. Park’s championship chili or the supra-
Calliope: I think she means to say, “Ite, missa est.”
C. Leo: Now now, none of that...
Calliope: You all can leave now, hear?
Grammatical: And with this charming bit of levity, the first, but we may all hope far from last, Texas World Cultural Festival and Poetry Recitation Competition drew to its close.
This is Damian Grammatical for Radio Highbrow.
Announcer: This report was made possible through the financial support of the Journal of Second-
Written by Mikael Thompson & Trey Jones, with assistance from Mark Brierley and Bill Spruiell.