These monthly commentaries seek to call attention to works I admire. I also will be presenting some of my own literary work with reference to my intent and methodology. My aim is not to harbor nostalgia but to consider the most effective form and content appropriate for the art of tomorrow.
One of my favorite poems is Bertolt Brecht's "Questions from a Worker Who Reads." I admire the poem's simple but elegant style. I identify with his view that much conventional history is an upside-down cake that distorts, devalues, or omits the role of the mass of humanity. Another plus is that the international historical events and legends evoked are so well-known or so easily comprehended by the poem's context that educational elitism is avoided. Rather than authoritatively asserting a new dogma, Brecht ends by asking the reader to use the perspective he offers to ponder the validity of established assumptions. The poem's answers are inherent in his choice of questions.
Questions from a Worker Who Reads
Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will find the name of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of Rcok?
And Babylon, many times demolished
who raised it up so many times? In what houses
of gold-glittering Lima did the builders live?
Where, the evening that the Wall of China was finsiehd,
did the masons go? Great Rome
is full of triumphal arches. Who erected them?
Over whome did the Caesars triumph?
Had Byzantium much praised in song
only palaces for its inhabitants? Even in fabled Atlantis
the night the ocean engulfed it
the drowning still bellowed for their slaves.
The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone?
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Did he not have a cook with him?
Philip of Spain wept when his armada
went down. Was he only one who wept?
Frederick the Second won the Seven Years War,. Who
else won it?
Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors?
Every ten years a great man.
Who paid the bill?
So many particulars.
So many questions.