Kurt J. Hargan – “The Train Out of Bangor”

THE TRAIN OUT OF BANGOR
By Kurt J. Hargan

We rattle the train out of Bangor
The morning sun blinks Colwyn Bay
We are away to change at Birmingham
The miles we desperately gain.

You’re quiet and watching the castles
Embedded in ancient Welsh hills.
There’s something you have to, must tell me
Something I fear we both feel.

The aisles are clanking with tea carts
The silence is slicing my heart
The windows are clapping and tapping
To say it would cause too much hurt.

This land has its meadow hue reaching
The lanes and the flats are all bought
The dank, musty hedges are grabbing
This land has a hold of you tight.

Oh, leave! Please dear God, don’t you leave me
My life would be empty and shell
Just say it, that’s all now, just say it
Somewhere I’ll deal with it all.

Our train clatters on in the morning
Through Abergele and Rhyl
Moving on, moving on through the Midlands
We wait for the tea cups to spill.

(Originally published in A Winter’s Journey Through England and Wales in 2005 by Northfork Publishing.)

———————————————-


*Editor’s note:  Form poetry is probably the toughest genre to tackle for today’s young writer.  Apart from the fact that the popularity of form poetry has waned since the surge of Modernism over a hundred years ago, all that fuss about the traditions of meter and rhyme just seems like so much school HOMEWORK for the budding young writer.  Confessional poetry is HARD ENOUGH, I’ve heard some complain, why complicate matters by adding all that rhythm and cadence?  Plus, Bukowski became famous without writing any form poetry, so why should I do it?  Ah, yes, the staid complacency of the Bukowski mimic and apologist.  I don’t know, sometimes I ask, do you think that a rock and roller should learn how to read music?  Invariably I always get some type of response about the POWER and FEELINGS of the Jazz player who ignores the sheet music and plays from the SOUL, as if harmonic expression and melody is not some kind of learned and practiced structure.

A few literary movements in the last 25 years have harkened and longed for the return of more traditional forms in American letters, most notably the New Criticism of the mid-80’s and in the last decade the New Formalists led by Dana Gioia and the NEA.  But even these promulgated some type of fusion with the emerging technologies and the ubiquitous return to oral poetry in the guise of spoken word and the performance poet.  In this type of ambiance youth is king, youth in the Hollywood sense of the word, the hip-hop sense of the word.  Style trumps any other consideration.  A motto that was adopted early on in the slam poetry competitive world was “the best poet always loses.”

This artifice has evolved to the point where we now have invitation-only poetry “battles” where the poetry gladiator needs to be known to the arena poetry promoter and / or the poet warrior must audition through a cattle call process that involves the audience of the arena.  This is done not so much to select the best poetry that can be found but to actually cultivate a certain type of audience, sort of like the Goth kids having to make sure a potential Goth is Goth enough for their little clique.  In ancient Rome, the best gladiator survived, bar none.  In current poetry circles, the best poets may still be banished by the audience if they don’t look or dress correctly or have the right attitude.

My contention is that the LUSH beauty and musicality of the form poem is completely lost in so much theatrical contrivance.  Rhymed poetry is hardly ever heard, unless the poem sounds like rap music lyrics, and traditional forms are not even recognized.  Masters of form and style such as Yeats and Keats are equated or rather equivocated with Hallmark Greeting Card level rhymes.  To write a Shakespearean or Petrarchan sonnet is an ironic exercise in futility.  Kids unabashedly name Eminem and Tupac as their favorite poets, neither of which have ever written a book of poetry, and the omnipresent Bukowski adulation, always with Bukowski.

————————————

I first heard Kurt J. Hargan read his poetry around late 2002 early 2003.  We were both regulars at Adam Bresson’s showcase of poets called the ReallyBIGShow at the UnUrban Coffeehouse in Santa Monica.  This was long before the current Velvet Guerrilla Cabaret that is there now and run by Michael Slobotsky (Go check it out!)

What was amazing about Kurt J. Hargan is that he had the rare ability to quiet down the room by reading form poetry, he is just that good, and the talent is readily apparent.  In 2005, I got lucky and was part of the first of two ReallyBIGShow tours of the Southwest.  We toured and performed throughout Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada.  Hargan was a fellow performer and he was selling several books and I bought all them.  All of them were brilliant, all of them were different styles, and all of them included perfectly written traditional forms.

One clear influence was Robert Service.  Kurt J. Hargan has a series of Alaskan odes that in my opinion far surpass Robert Service.   I say that because Hargan retains a more serious balance with his nature vs. man metaphysics and Service tended to delve into humor and Wild West type grandiosity at the most inopportune times.  Think of Hargan as more of a Service and Jack London mix, without the bombastic adventures, but with the venerational nature elements written in various forms and verses.

The other clear influence and the poet I would more closely associate Kurt J. Hargan with is W. B. Yeats.  Yes, listen up people, I just compared Kurt Hargan to Yeats.  Their styles clearly match, the consonant rhyme (near rhyme), the cadence, the rhythm, their highly artistic forms.

Just look at the similarities in style from the last stanza of Hargan’s poem above to the last stanza of one of Yeat’s best known poem, The Wild Swans at Coole:

Hargan

Our train clatters on in the morning

Through Abergele and Rhyl

Moving on, moving on through the Midlands

We wait for the tea cups to spill.

Yeats

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

Both Hargan and Yeats here have mixed pararhymes along with assonance and perfect rhyme to create two very different but beautiful exacting scenes.  In fact, I would argue that Hargan has managed more active movement, more immediate movement than Yeats, since Hargan captured the immediacy more succinctly (clatters – moving on, moving on – wait… to spill.)

I am proud and honored to present Kurt J. Hargan as the inaugural poet of the Featured Writer section here at Rumrazor Press.

-Angel Uriel Perales, March 2012

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About Rumrazor

Just a malcontent surviving in Los Angeles, working the news, writing the poetry, making the films.
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6 Responses to Kurt J. Hargan – “The Train Out of Bangor”

  1. b says:

    I always love reading Kurts work, I can hear him perform it, I can feel getting smarter as I do!
    Everything about this poem is classic! Thanks for posting it!

  2. K. J. Hargan says:

    Thank you so much for the lovely criticism. However, I hardly think I measure up to W. B. Yeats.
    The preamble was accurate, and a rally cry, I hope, to new poets to reach beyond the growing banality of open, free verse.

    Kurt

  3. Ariel Marie says:

    Great find, Angel. Trains, storms, night, and fire are my favorite themes for poems. It would be cool to hear him read it, the onomatopoeia works best with someone that has both a knack for it and a feel for the specific work…which is usually the author 🙂

  4. Laura says:

    Love it, and definitely better than Yeats 🙂

  5. Becky Fisher says:

    The most honest praise I can give this is the confession I have kept this poem open in it’s own tab for several days so I could read it over and over again without having to look for it. Thank you.

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