Special Supplemental Letter from the Editor SpecGram Vol CLXXVII, No ο Contents

The Texas World Cultural Festival and Poetry Recitation Competition

Damian Grammatical
Radio Highbrow Culture Correspondent

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-themed chili cook-off that was won by Bruce Kwanju Park’s Kochukaru Surprise, which tricked the tasters with its thick red resembling tomato sauce but of an entirely different source.

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-Texas competition in poetry from around the world. As a once-independent nation that combines the best of several cultures, Texas prides itself on its cosmopolitan appreciation of the finest in cultural attainments from throughout the world. For much of its history, Texas has contributed more than her fair share to world culture: In literature, Robert Howard, Allen Drury, Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy, and Marianne Williamson; in music, Scott Joplin, Don Gillis, Ray Luke, Carlisle Floyd, Van Cliburn, and Fisher Tulland I would remind you that Samuel Barber composed his 2nd Symphony in Texas; and in painting, oh, too many to name, so it would only be invidious to name any. And so it is only fitting that we host a celebration of the greatest poetry from around the world, recited by the finest students of elocution at our many leading universities.

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-Runnels, Lecturer in Fine Letters and the Beaux Arts at Tom Green County Community College at Knickerbocker.

The first finalist, Austin P. Austin of Megargel, recited a suitably languorous rendition of the French poem Chanson d’automne.


Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon cœur
D’une langueur

Tout suffocant
Et blême, quand
Sonne l’heure,
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
Et je pleure

Et je m’en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m’emporte
Deçà, delà,
Pareil à la
Feuille 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.

[More laughter.]

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-local medieval Castilian variety.


Si tu deseas a mi
yo non lo sé;
pero yo deseo a tí
en buena fe.

Ca non a ninguna más,
así lo ten;
nin es, nin será jamás
otra mi bien.

En tan buen ora te ví
e te fablé,
que del todo te me dí
en buena fé.

Yo soy tuyo, non lo dudes
sin fallir;
e non piensses al, nin cudes
sin mentir.

Después que te conoscí
me captivé,
e seso e saber perdí
en buena fé.

A tí amo e amaré
toda saçón,
e siempre te serviré
con grand raçón:

pues la mejor escogí
de quantas sé,
e non finjo nin fengí
en buena fé.

Grammatical: The fourth finalist, Cletus Augustus Van Zandt, allegedly of Gun Barrel City, reached even farther back, into Anglo-Saxon history, for his selection: Cædmon’s Hymn. However, his delivery raised first the suspicion and then the ire of the judges.


Nu scylun hergan       hefaenricaes uard
metudæs maecti       end his modgidanc
uerc uuldurfadur       swe he uundra gihwaes
eci dryctin       or astelidæ
he aerist scop       aelda barnum
heben til hrofe       haleg scepen.
Tha middungeard       moncynnæs uard
eci dryctin       æfter tiadæ
firum 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, butyou’re not from Texas, are you?

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 libellum
āridā modo pūmice expolītum
Cornēlī tibi namque tū solēbās
meās esse aliquid putāre nūgās
iam tum cum ausus es ūnus Ītalōrum
omne aevum tribus explicāre cartīs
doctīs Iuppiter et labōriōsīs
quāre habē tibi quidquid hoc libellī
qualēcumque quod o patrōna virgō
plūs 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 sitzet
Dort 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 verschlingen
Am 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 great
Cooked 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 dog
With the parts they had left over.
It’s amazing when you stop and think,
“Why, these all came from clover!”

When all is done
And all is said,
We all like meat
From 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-award was awarded to Mr. Stockdale, who received a black Stetson with blue jay feathers around a blue enamel and silver bluebonnet sprig and a ceremonial solid bronze longhorn steer bolo. The other participants not to be disqualified, Mr. Beauregard and Miss Ježeková, were each awarded a Taco Bell gift card for $25 and a refillable Seven-Eleven coffee mug, while Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Van Zandt were allowed to slink from the premises out the back door.

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-mundane grandeur of Mr. Bell’s poetic gifts. And so, I wish all of you well and hope to see you next year.

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-Language Phonology Acquisition Studies.

Written by Mikael Thompson & Trey Jones, with assistance from Mark Brierley and Bill Spruiell.

Special Supplemental Letter from the Editor
SpecGram Vol CLXXVII, No ο Contents