An Opinion on Poetry


Poetry in rhyme and meter is embroidered silk, a surging wave, a clever device, a labyrinth, a song, an elder statesman, a stained glass window, and an inspiring sister of prose.  On the other hand, a compilation of words, dubbed poetry but lacking meter and rhyme, is by comparison rick-rack on polyester, a backyard pond, a tool in the bottom of the drawer, a sidewalk, a banal conversation, a salesman, a windshield, and a stunted twin of prose.

I posted a poem by Swinburne a few days ago and I offer it here as Exhibit A, conclusive!

Of course meter and rhyme are necessary but not sufficient causes for poetry.  Words on a page that scan and rhyme, but miss the mark otherwise, own the term doggerel.

I make allowances for blank verse because it has the rhythm of meter, if not rhyme.  Meter gives the words activity and the aural interest that is the reward bestowed from the efforts at keeping to a metrical scheme.  Meter frequently, through necessity, causes changes in word order that can surprise and stick.  One advantage in writing poetry in English is that it is so word-order bound that any reversals can be arresting and memorable.  Here is an example from a fairly current song by the Strokes: “On the mind of other men I know she was.”  The word emphasis fits the beat of the song and only works if the normal word order is reversed.  Compare to “I know she was on the mind of other men” — pure prose.

There is such a thing as “poetic prose.” I take that to mean language that makes use of literary devices because the author has a concern for the sound of a phrase and a desire to give the reader a sensory experience and to draw images of intangible things.  That can go awry with yeoman writers who toil in the shop to smith their poetic phrases, but who have lost membership in the storyteller’s guild.  Much of Wuthering Heights is poetic prose.  Although more poetic than much of what passes itself off as poetry, it is still a long, engrossing story written in prose; just really wonderful prose.

I have departed from treating various facets of Stoicism to indulge in voicing an opinion that is neither here nor there for anyone. I have, then, embraced the freedom of blogging—no assignment, no oversight, and no criticism. That situation does present Stoic aspects: the benefits of solitude, self-sufficiency, and doing things for oneself.  I have a platform though, however obscure, and with all this freedom I might run rampant …oh, that would be excessive—enter my philosophy again with the golden gift of moderation.

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