hearing the boom of the blood-lust song…

After the seven minutes of gymnastics reqired to complete the poem, “The Congo”, the piece de resistance of the Vachel Lindsay repertoire, Lindsay was hoarse and dripping with sweat, and the audience was almost as exhausted. The wind-up inevitably brought the students to their feet roaring…

(see link at end)…Quite at odds with the poets we now know as the High Modernists, who saw poetry principally as an artifact, as a visual and spatial form, Vachel Lindsay envisioned poetry fundamentally as a performance, as an aural and temporal experience. Moreover, poetry was not meant simply to be read or even recited, but to be chanted, whispered, belted out, sung, amplified by gesticulation and movement, and punctuated by shouts and whoops. Lindsay’s performances of his poetry were legendary, even in a period when audiences were accustomed to similar theatrics on the Chautauqua circuit, at revival meetings, and in vaudeville….Read More:http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/lindsay/performer.htm

—Like any youngster growing up in Central Illinois, Lindsay was schooled in the virtues of Abraham Lincoln, Springfield’s most famous resident. He, like Lincoln, was fascinated by the common people, and much of his poetry reflected that fascination.
Young Lindsay, whose full name was Nicholas Vachel Lindsay, attended Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio, for three years before studying art in Chicago and New York City. He later turned to poetry, a medium which was more successful for him.
He first received recognition in 1913, when “Poetry” magazine published his poem “General William Booth Enters into Heaven” about the founder of The Salvation Army. Racial harmony was a concern of Lindsay’s. “The Congo,” a poem about blacks, was one of his most famous and popular poems.
Lindsay spent much of his life walking across the country, performing and distributing copies of his poetry in exchange for bed and board. Lindsay’s poems were very rhythmic, and he performed them almost melodramatically — chanting, shouting, gesturing, and even singing rather than merely reciting.—Read More:http://www.americanpoems.com/poets/lindsay

At his peak, these readings, whom many regarded as a dubious poet who behaved in an outlandish manner, brought auditoriums into a turmoil pitch: in the throes of a recital his arms would pump up and down, his eyes rolling like a man in a fit or trance, his body rocking, and his shoulders weaving, his hands jabbing in the air. A Lindsay performance was usually an unforgettable night. To the students, the greatest theatrical act they had ever seen. But the grownups had reservations about such a frenetic performance. They regarded Lindsay as a freak, not as a legitimate artist. To them, it was like going to a slightly disreputable side show only faintly redeemed by a facade of culture.

The typical reaction of the older generation was that the poet had been undignified, prancing, and scampering around like an acrobat. The “new poetry” was pretty obscure stuff. A lot of shouting. Vachel Lindsay was certainly no Longfellow, no Whittier. What was the fellow trying to prove anyway? …

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