Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Big Smoke: “Carefree as a Plantation Darky in Watermelon Time”

[The Big Smoke reading group]   

“Carefree as a Plantation Darky in Watermelon Time,” the title of one of the poems from Adrian Matejka's The Big Smoke, is a derogatory expression from a newspaper report used to describe Jack Johnson while he was training for his fight with Jim Jeffries. Ironically, Matejka's Johnson uses this to describe the ease in which Johnson defeated Jim Jeffries’s younger brother, also named Jack. Throughout this volume of poetry, Johnson and Matejka are ever aware of the social contexts.

At the same time Johnson is also self-aware, and he privileges the value of possessing and exercising knowledge. As he comments on his lesser skilled opponent: “The younger/Jefferies was a game fighter, but he had/no elasticity & limited self-knowledge.”

What did you think about the nature of Johnson’s intelligence or perhaps Matejka’s thinking as you read this poem?

--Jeremiah Carter and Howard Rambsy II

11 comments:

J.Shaw said...

I believe that Johnson's amount of intelligence while in the ring was amazing. No other boxer, that I've heard of, is confident in their abilities to the point where they can predict when to knock out their opponent before the fight has begun. Johnson had a set of peculiar skills that allowed him to fight as well as he did; and Matejka did a great job of captivating the readers' attention with each fight.

Jordan Hardman said...

I feel as if his intelligence is remarkable. He was able to study his fighters and know exactly how each of them would be a challenge to him. In the poem Matejka was able to keep the reader interested and want to know more.

-Jordan H.

Elijah Person said...

Johnson is very intelligent and was able to analyze his opponents so he knew how they could be beat. He was also cocky like Muhammad Ali, and would play with the opponent to wear them out and keep the audience interested

Isaiah Blackburn said...

Jack Johnson's ability to read people is probably more impressive than his actual fighting skills. With every fight that we've read, Johnson has predicted the outcome and seems to be two steps ahead of his opponent at all times. I think Matejka used the racial expression from the newspaper as the title to catch the reader's attention. Although the title isn't referenced again in the poem, Matejka shows how Johnson appears to be carefree but he is really just calm because he knows no one can touch him.

Christopher Matthews said...

Johnson's intelligence in the ring was very impressive. He knew his opponent and what they could do before the fight even started. In that regard he reminded me of Muhammad Ali.

John Kriha said...

I believe Johnson was very smart. However, I feel like his intelligence inside the ring was situational. Johnson, like many of the best boxers, was more than confident in his abilities. That, combined with his opponents lack of respect for him as a fighter allowed him to pick them apart in the ring. Like Johnson said, he wins many of his fights outside the ring, in most cases, mentally.

Xavier Morrison- Wallace said...

Jack Johnson does seem to have a high boxing IQ. The fact that he predicts when he will knock his opponents out in the poem means that Johnson knows his opponent's weaknesses and strengths and how to exploit and get around them. Jack Johnson is intelligent because he doesn't just say that he is going to knock everybody out in the first round. That's unrealistic.

Trion T. said...

I think the nature of Johnson's intelligence is seriously understated by all of his peers and his opponents. The way that he knows his own abilities is outstanding. At first glance it would appear that he is just being over-confident, but he truly knows his own capabilities and limitations, if any, as a boxer.

Jelani Brown said...

I thought originally that Johnson's intelligence was superior to that of Jim's little brother due to the amount of experience he had, but now I am almost certain that his intelligence is lacking to an almost subpar level because of how cock Johnson has become. I think Matejka wanted us to think that as we read this we should be thinking about the future because this type of cocky attitude tends to foreshadow a bad event in the future.

Phillip Goens said...

First off this is another “normal” Matejka poem. In the perspective of Jack Johnson, he is downing another boxer. I think that Johnson’s intelligence has a lot to do with experience, at this point when he examines another boxer he will already know if he can beat them or not, and how long they can compare to him. This happens with every professional athlete, they know their limits, what they want to achieve, also some information about their appointee. Every athlete learns this at a young age, or develops this skill, and he inputs this skill threw another person, which is astonishing. He also knows his own limits, but sometimes it feels like Matejka will over exaggerate them at the same time.

Nicholas Rawls said...

The nature of Johnson's intelligence showcases how far he's come as a champion. Most professionals are able to predict certain outcomes when they hone their art enough. Such as doctors who provide their own input as to the condition of their patients. It's a learned skill that people just happen to pick up. That's not to say that something unexpected happens... like miracles.
-Nicholas Rawls