All 16 entries tagged The Practice Of Poetry
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February 13, 2007
It is interesting to consider poetry that concentrates more on the music of the line and language than the actual meaning. Cynghanedd and the englyn are Welsh forms of poetry that do just this. There is a very good webite on these forms at the Kalliope Website or you could buy Mererid Hopwood’s excellent book, Singing in Chains .
Meanwhile, here is a very basic explanation. The Welsh poetic line often uses Cynghanedd (meaning Harmony) or as it is sometimes known, Canu Caeth (Captured Song). Here are a few kinds. There are more on the Kalliope website.
1. Cynghanedd Lusg (Drag Harmony)
Here the second syllable and first syllable of the penultimate word rhyme.
eg. The great man and his irate wife…
2. Cynghanedd Sain (Tonal Harmony)
Here there is a development of a sound from the first main word to the second main word and the second main word chimes slightly differently with the third main word:
e.g. The passion will fashion the fascists.
3. Cyngahnedd Drychben (Chief Mirror Harmony)
Here there is a kind of mirroring of consonant sounds.
Spaghetti westerns, spies, ghettos, whist turns.
sp gh t w st rns / sp gh t w st rns
A Simple Form of Englyn
The englyn is another form of syllabic poetry. Written in a verse of four lines, it contains thirty syllables and is usually organised in the following pattern:
Line 1: 10 syllables
Line 2: 6 syllables
Line 3: 6 syllables
Line 4: 7 syllables
The seventh or eighth syllable of line 1 rhymes with the last syllables of lines 2-3. There should also be a rhyme/chime between the last syllable of line one and syllable 2/3 of line 2. There is usually cynghanedd in the lines too.
Here is an example:
O ryfedd dorf ddi-derfysg y meirwon
Â gwymon yn gymysg!
Parlyrau’r perl, erwau’r pysg
Yw bedd disgleirdeb addysg.
In Memoriam – to a sailor
In a strange, unclamorous host, the dead
And the seaweed tangle;
Pearl parlours, acres of fish
Are tomb to learning’s splendour.
But you don’t really get a sense of the wonderful sounds if you don’t understand the Welsh, so here is an englyn that I have been working on in English. It bends some of the rules but it may give you a sense of the effect that I want you to aim for:
The Wives’ Englyn to Malinche
Amidst raw livers rives stumped cedar,
livened knot of knitted hives;
branches sing of broaching scythes,
prizes stung by priesting wives.
objects – music – shapes
The poet, Louis Zukofsky, was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1904. He came from Lithuanian-Jewish origins and later he went on to study at Columbia University, NY, completing his MA in 1924. He taught at the University of Wisconsin during 1930s Objectivist movement. Throughout his life he was a teacher, writer and editor.
The Objectivist movement had a number of aims which included:
• To write poems in which the form also made the same case as the content.
• To reinvigorate the word which had been degraded by a culture that lacked awareness of how words were arranged.
• To experiment with form and syntax, language on the page and visual poetry.
Poets who had some connection to the Objectivist movement include: Ezra Pound, Charles Reznikoff, George Oppen, William Carlos Williams, Carl Rakosi, Kenneth Rexroth, Basil Bunting and E.E. Cummings.
The text is the range of pleasure it affords as sight, sound and intellection. —Louis Zukofsky
Interestingly, one focus of Zukofsky’s poetry was its musicality. See the following extract from Peter Jones’ essay which can be read in full at: http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=6388
The poem becomes a score. As he [Zukofsky] abandons metaphor, symbol and connotation in language, meaning takes a subordinate place. The clearest example of this approach is in his Catullus, prepared in collaboration with his wife (1969). His ‘translations’ of Catullus are into a language that attempts in his words to ‘breathe the “literal” meaning with him’. – Peter Jones
From Catullus’ poem CXII:
Multus homo es, Naso, neque tecum multus homost qui
descendit: Naso, multus es et pathicus.
You’re a made man, Naso, nor is he who lays you made:
you’re a made man, Naso, and a — maid.
Mool ‘tis homos’ ‘Naso, ‘n’ queer take ‘im mool ‘tis ho most he
descended: Naso, mool’tis — is it pathic, cuss.
Which is nearer the Latin? But that begs the question: what is Latin? What do we mean by ‘being nearer’? The larger question Zukofsky has spent a lifetime probing is, What is language? – Peter Jones
So it seems that Zukofsky is more interested in the music than the literal meaning of the poem, although his translation of Catullus does convey something of the original message, doesn’t it? Michael Schmidt writes of this tendency in The Lives of the Poets describing Zukofsky’s ‘music’ as ‘the poem as score rather than realisation of score’.
February 12, 2007
I feel a part of a literary family, a community of both living and dead poets. In the way of families, I may argue vehemently with other relatives sometimes, but empathy-the fact of inclusion-is always there… I remember discovering Langston Hughes in an anthology when I wsa in my teens and reading a poem like Dream Boogie , where the language leaps all over the page, and recognizing a part of my life that I hadn’t ever encountered in a poem before. That recognition is incredibly vital to my personal and spiritual identity.
February 09, 2007
Writing about web page http://www.princeton.edu/eclipse/projects/LANGUAGE/language.html
• To question conventional attitudes to speech and referentiality.
• To use the influence of Louis Zukofsky as a model.
• To use the influence of Gertrude Stein (remember language divorced from its reference – silences!!).
• To react to Wittgenstein’s ideas of language as a game.
• This Magazine ed. Robert Grenier and Barratt Witten.
• L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E ed. Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein. (Archive at: http://www.princeton.edu/eclipse/projects/LANGUAGE/language.html)
• Reality Street Editions at http://freespace.virgin.net/reality.street/editor.html
Some L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poets
Rae Armnentrout ~ Charles Bernstein ~ Clarke Coolidge ~ Tina Darragh ~ Ken Edwards (UK) ~ Allen Fisher (UK) ~ Carla Harryman ~ Lyn Hejinian ~ Fanny Howe ~ Susan Howe ~ Michael Palmer ~ Bob Perlman ~ Leslie Scalapino ~ Ron Silliman (See Silliman’s blog: http://ronsilliman.blogspot.com/ ) ~ Hannah Weiner
Charles Bernstein and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poetry
“words are notes on the keys of the imagination” – Wittgenstein
In his poem, ‘Solidarity is a Name We Give to That We Cannot Hold’, Bernstein’s speaker declares himself to be affiliated with many different kinds of poets:
I am a nude formalist poet, a sprung
syntax poet, a multitrack poet, a
wondering poet, a social expressionist
poet, a Baroque poet, a constructivist poet,
an ideolectical poet. […]
The entire poem is made up of different factions, groupings and definitions for poets and amongst these Bernstein lists his status as “a Jewish poet hiding in the shadow / of my great-grandfather and great-grandmother”, a stereotype that views Jewish writers as turning back to the great patriarchs and matriarchs of that culture. However, its inclusion amongst all the other definitions of poets reveals how this means of self-definition is as limiting as any other.
The desire to resist the standardized language that homogenizes individuals is an essential part of Bernstein’s poetics. Like the Marx Brothers, Bernstein disagrees with ‘standardization’ of language describing it in ‘Comedy and the Poetics of Political Form’ (1990) as a kind of “arteriosclerosis”. Bernstein’s answer is a kind of play that “collapses into a more ambivolent[sic] , destabilizing field of pathos, the ludicrous, schtick, sarcasm; a multidimensional textual field that is congenitally unable to maintain an evenness of surface tension or a flatness of affect, where linguistic shards of histrionic inappropriateness pierce the momentary calm of an obscure twist of phrase, before cantoring[sic] into the next available trope; less a shield than a probe”. He continues: “If my loops and short circuits, my love of elision, my Groucho Marxian refusal of irony is an effort to explode the authority of those conventions I wish to discredit (disinherit), it constantly offers the consoling self–justification of Art” . Yet Bernstein emphasises that this must not be self–centered but an “interaction”, “conversation” or “provocation”. Bernstein reaches towards the syncopated, the polyrhythmical, the heterogeneous and the offbeat, because, for too long, what he calls ‘male’, patriarchal language has made people speak “to those aspects of their consciousness that have been programmed to receive the already digested scenes or commentaries provided”. The ellipsis, the non-sequitur and the irrelevancy are all significant elements in this linguistic reinvention.
The distortion is to imagine that knowledge has an “object” outside of the “language games” of which it is a part—that words refer to “transcendental signified” to use an expression from another tradition, rather than being part of a language which itself produces meaning in terms of its grammar, its conventions and its “agreements in judgement”. Learning a language is not learning the names of things outside a language, as if it were simply a matter of matching up signifiers with signifieds, as if signifieds already existed and we were just learning new names for them [...] Rather we are initiated by language into a socious, which is for us the world. So that the foundations of knowledge are not so much based on a pre–existing empirical world as on shared conventions and mutual attunement. -Charles Bernstein in Boundary 2 (Vol IX, No. 2, 1981) 295–306.
Writing necessarily consists of attaching numerous bits and pieces together in a variety of ways. & it comes to a point here you feel any composition is artifice and deceit. & the more ‘natchural’ the look the more deceptive. That any use of language outside its function of communicating in speaking is a false hood (cf. Laura Riding). Or even that language itself—everywhere conditioning our way of seeing & meaning— is an illusion (as if there were something outside language.
‘Or take it this way: I just want to write—let it come out— get in touch with some natural process—from brain to pen—with no interference of typewriter, formal pattern. & it can seem like the language itself—having to put it into words— any kind of fixing a version of it—gets in the way. That I just have this thing inside me—silently—unconditioned by the choices I need to make when I write—whether it be to write it down or write on. So it is as if language itself gets in the way of expressing this thing, this flow, this movement of consciousness.
But there are no thoughts except through language, we are everywhere seeing through it, limited to it but not by it. Its conditions always interpose themselves: a particular set of words to choose from (a vocabulary), a way of processing those words (syntax, grammar): the natural conditions of language. What pulses, pushes, is energy, spirit, anima, dream, fantasy: coming out always in form, as shape: these particulars, ‘massed at material bottoms’ in hum of this time—here now—these words, this syntax & rhythm & shape. The look of the natural as constricted, programmatic—artful—’lying words’ as the most abstract, composed or formal work.– Charles Bernstein in ‘Stray Straws and Straw Men’.
February 08, 2007
a rose is a rose is a rose
In ‘Explaining a rose is a rose is a rose’, Gertrude Stein commends a poetics of silence in that she demands an absence of ‘worn out literary words’. (54) She writes about how the poet must ‘work in the excitingness of pure being; he has to get back that intensity into the language’. Ironically, in ‘hundreds of poems about roses [...] you know in your bones that the rose is not there’ yet in ‘a rose is a rose is a rose’, Stein claims that ‘the rose is red for the first time in English poetry for a hundred years’. (54 – 55) An absence of description becomes a presence.
Stein is sometimes accused of being obscure and nonsensical. Even her editor, AJ Fifield found her experimental style challenging. When rejecting one of her submissions, he wrote:
I am only one, only one, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your manuscript three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.
However, you might like to examine the quotations below. What meanings can you discover in them? How large is the space for interpretation? How do you feel about the use of vocabulary and subversion of grammatical rules?
A silence is no more than occasional. It respects understanding and salt and even a rope. (‘France’)
Silence which makes silence gives that sense to all there is, silence which has light and water and vision and appetite and result and a motion and more exaggeration and no recklessness, silence which is there is not disturbed by expression. (‘France’)
What comes out of silence. What comes out of silence is that which having usefulness, that nature and fashion is not shown to be managed by the combination. (‘France’)
Surely silence is sustained and the change is sudden.(‘England’)
Silence is so windowful. (What Happened)
by Mina Loy
of the laboratory
congealed to phrases
a radium of the word.
by Gertrude Stein
A charm a single charm is doubtful. If the red is rose and there is a gate surrounding it, if inside is let in and there places change then certainly something is upright. It is earnest.
Read these quotations and you might like to consider the questions that follow:
Even today the culture industry dresses works of art like political slogans and forces them on a resistant public at reduced prices; they are as accessible for public enjoyment as a park. […] Culture is a paradoxical commodity. So completely is it subject to the law of exchange that it can no longer be exchanged; it is so blindly consumed in use that it can no longer be used. -Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment
Thinkers like Richard Hoggart, Raymond Williams, and E.P. Thompson came to see culture as a means of resistance to capitalism. If illiteracy was a way of keeping the poor and working people away from intellectual instruments that might impel rebellion, literacy in the form of clandestine pamphlets and underground newspapers was a way of maintaining alternative perspectives to those demanded by the progress of industrial capitalism and the subsumption of the population by factory labor. -Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, “The Politics of Culture”
[…] to take up arms to dominate a people is, above all, to take up arms to destroy, or at least to neutralise, to paralyse its cultural life. […] This for example is the case with the so-called theory of progressive assimilation of native populations, which turns out to be only a more or less violent attempt to deny the culture of the people in question. -Amilcar Cabralcar, Return to the Source
Look at the images in the Zionist films of the thirties: the land is always displayed as empty. Insofar as Arabs are present, they are acknowledged only as camels and keepers walking across the screen at one moment or another to supply a kind of exotic local colour: This is not a field in the Ukraine, this is the exotic East. […] And the same idea occurs in America: the pioneering spirit, errand into the wilderness, the obliteration of another society, and the continual sense of enterprise, that enterprise is good for its own sake, especially because a Book says so. It doesn’t matter that the enterprise means killing people, bombing apartment houses, emptying villages. But it’s enterprise of a particular kind, the kind associated with new settler society. And with it goes a tremendous hostility to traditional societies which are posited as backward, primitive, reactionary, and so on: Islam for example. -Edward Said, Power, Politics and Culture
It is the outward looking, expansive gaze which makes possible the interaction with a ‘significant other’, a foreign culture in which gifts for the future of one’s own culture may be located, and in which an illuminating reflection of one’s own identity (or desired identity) may be glimpsed. That foreign culture may be geographically or linguistically or temporarily ‘other’ or a combination of these. -Robert Crawford, Identifying Poets
How to tear a minor literature away from its own language, allowing it to challenge the language and making it follow a sober revolutionary path? How to become a nomad and an immigrant [...] in relation to one’s own language? -Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature
• How can poets and poetry reach the ordinary citizen and to what end?
• How does poetry help define or redefine “community” or “culture”, a term that has lost meaning and significance by virtue of its overuse?
• Can poetry transform suffering? Can it be useful in creating unity; does it have value as a tool for change?
• How has poetry influenced various kinds of communities—the disabled, the oppressed, the incarcerated, the gifted, the professional, and the cleric—by way of insight, balm, or transcendence?
• What role does poetry play in defining identities and concerns of ethnic groups within a given community?
• How do poets help to make silent voices heard, and what other opportunities do we have to bring poetry to the public?
February 02, 2007
Denys Thompson’s The Uses of Poetry: ‘Patriotism and Politics’ notes that poetry has always had a political purpose in human societies. There were eulogies that strengthened the position of a tribal leader by glorifying deeds in war. There were war songs that enticed people to fight enemies, but it was also believed in early times that the songs could bring destruction to their enemies by means of spells and curses. Poems of nation or culture have existed fro a long time, their role being to preserve the identity and maintain the continuity of those groups or nations under threat. Finally there is propaganda. This kind of writing has a short term purpose – a change of government or the relief of a wrong – and the poet does not necessarily believe in what he is saying. Rather the poet may be a hireling working for an individual group.
However, some critics, poets and theorists do believe that the poem has the potential to be a powerful political too. Julia Kristeva states: ‘The text [i.e. poetry] is a practice that could be compared to political revolution’. Below, I present a number of view of poets and critics on the relationship between poetry and politics. Read them and then study the questions below:
When literary doctrines or manifestos become pawns in politically motivated power-games, then poetry is forced to yield up its essentially symbolic, apolitical nature. – Anne Stevenson in ‘Defending the Freedom of the Poet’, Contemporary British Women’s Poetry.
It is impossible for anybody who wants to write a poetry that is politically revolutionary to write in the way that most poems in Britain are written. […] It means that a lot of poetry today will look like adverts. It sells not a product (“Right for baby, right for you”) but a moral (“What survives of us is love”). -Robert Sheppard in ‘The Education of Desire’, Ship of Fools.
I came out first as a political poet, even before The Dream of a Common Language, under the taboo against so-called political poetry in the US, which was comparable to the taboo against homosexuality. In other words, it wasn’t done. And this is, of course, the only country in the world where that has been true. Go to Latin America, to the Middle East, to Asia, to Africa, to Europe, and you find the political poet and a poetry that addresses public affairs and public discourse, conflict, oppression, and resistance. That poetry is seen as normal. And it is honored. – Adrienne Rich
This OBE thing is supposed to be for my services to literature, but there are a whole lot of writers who are better than me, and they’re not involved in the things that I’m involved in. All they do is write; I spend most of my time doing other things. If they want to give me one of these empire things, why can’t they give me one for my work in animal rights? Why can’t they give me one for my struggle against racism? What about giving me one for all the letters I write to innocent people in prisons who have been framed? I may just consider accepting some kind of award for my services on behalf of the millions of people who have stood up against the war in Iraq. It’s such hard work – much harder than writing poems. – Benjamin Zephaniah
Certainly among a number of our writers, ‘radical’ and otherwise, a crude new notion of decorum has developed. One speaks harshly of harsh realities, brutally of brutalities, one tells it how it is and finds in one’s responses to the subject matter the idiom of the poem. That is, one leaves as little distance as possible between the poem’s idiom and the poet’s initial response to subject matter. One capitulates, not to the subject matter (as the Imagist would try to do) but to one’s first response to it. This is conceived of as poetic truth: to sacrifice perspective to the immediate tone of response, regardless of the context — temporal, spatial, ethical — of that response. The extreme subjectivity and the ultimate irresponsibility of such capitulation to ‘self’ excludes the reader from the experience of anything but the poet experiencing, the poet responding. -Michael Schmidt on the Politics of Form
The welding together of poetry and politics becomes the art of recognising an appropriate level of language. For instance, factional politics (Party or issue-based politics) is infamous for mishandling and degrading the language. Those who place Mayakovsky above Mendelstam fall into the trap of mistaking Mayakovsky’s dogmatism for certainty. Mandelstam was far more certain — the purpose and precision of his imagery shows his mind was locked onto the world like a laser. -David Morley on Poets, Politics, Etcetera, Etcetera
• How can a poem influence political change?
• Can you think of any examples of poems that have influenced political change? E.g. war poetry, feminist poetry etc.
• Is writing politically putting the integrity of poetry in danger?
• Should it remain apolitical as Anne Stevenson suggests?
• Can political poetry be too didactic?
• Is the message or the poem more important?
• If the tricks of poetic language are being appropriated by media forms like advertising, how can we ensure that it retains its integrity?
• Can there be politics in the use of poetic form?
In Les Mots et Les Images, Magritte notes that ‘everything tends to make us think that there is very little connection between an object and what represents it’ and that ‘an object never fulfils the same function’. Influenced by the Surrealist movement that was emerging from Paris, Magritte’s art began to play with the notion of language, representation and art. Most infamous is his painting of a pipe with the caption ‘This is not a pipe’. The painting emphasises that a picture of a pipe and the real object are not the same thing thus undoing a more traditional, mimetic motivation in art.
Andre Souris talking of Surrealist thought labelled the word as ‘ a highly combustible object’. Magritte emphasised that words and images must be freed from ‘the obsessional urge to give meaning to things so as to use them or dominate them’.
In his art, Magritte provides attentive analysis of the arbitrary nature of language. Like Wittgenstein, Magritte believes that language is made up of games rather than acting as a picture of facts. Knowing the words that make up a language is not the same as speaking or writing in it. A player may know the name of the chess pieces – rook, castle, queen – yet this does not necessarily mean that s/he will be able to play. Words have uses and these uses are dictated by the rules of the game. Neither Wittgenstein nor Magritte would have agreed with the simplistic understanding of language as words that stand for some thing. This view would ignore the rules of language and how it is used in patterns of use.
Magritte’s word-pictures provide a commentary on language and art and they seem to suggest to us that pictorial representation and verbal description work in much the same manner. Just as words are symbols so are pictures and importantly, pictures need not necessarily resemble what they represent. Representation can be arbitrary and almost anything can be used as a sign.
In art, a finished work may bear little resemblance to its subject. When Picasso was asked about his portrait of Gertrude Stein and told that it did not resemble her, he replied ‘No matter, it will’. Here is the conflict between resemblance and representation.
We usually attribute resemblance to things which may or may not have a common nature. We say ‘as alike as two peas in a pod’ and we say, just as easily, that the fake resembles the authentic. This so-called resemblance consists of relations of comparison, whose similarities are perceived by the mind when it examines, evaluates and composes. Likeness is not concerned with ‘common sense’ or with defying it, but only with spontaneously assembling shapes from the world of appearance in an order given by inspiration. – René Magritte
Magritte based his word paintings on a child’s reading primer. The juxtaposition is startling and seems to reflect Baudelaire’s advocating of ‘that unexpected element, strangeness , the condiment indispensable to all beauty’. In Magritte, strangeness is linked to the mysterious play of undecidability in representation.
Balakian, Anna. Surrealism and the Road to the Absolute. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1972. (PQ 443.S8)
Caws, Mary Ann. The Poetry of Dada and Surrealism: Aragon, Breton, Tzara, Eluard and Desnos. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970. (PQ 443.S8)
Gascoyne, David. A Short Survey of Surrealism. Lodnon: Frank Cass, 1970. (PQ 307.S8)
Germain, Edward B. ed. English and American Surrealist Poetry. London: Penguin, 1978. (PR 1228.S8)
Harmer, J.B. Victory in Limbo: Imagism 1908-1917. London: Secker and Warburg, 1975. (PR 605.I6)
Hughes, Glenn. Imagism and the Imagists: A Study in Modern Poetry. London: Bowes and Bowes, 1960. (PR 605.I6)
Matthews, J.H. ed. An Anthology of French Surrealist Poetry. London: University of London Press, 1966. (PQ 1193.S8) (See introduction, poems in French)
Matthews, J.H. Surrealism, Insanity and Poetry. New York: Syracuse University Press, 1982. (PQ 443.S8)
Matthews, J.H. Surrealist Poetry in France. New York: Syracuse University Press, 1969.
January 18, 2007
• Clare Pollard on Getting Poetry to Confess (This summarises some of the issues that we talked about this week, although Pollard seems to think that Kristeva invented the idea of ecriture feminine, when it was really Irigaray and Cixous).
• Resources on Robert Lowell on Literature Online (You need your Athens username and password to log onto this site – ask one of the university librarians if you don’t have it already).
• Info on Life Studies by Robert Lowell
• Resources on John Berryman on Literature Online (Again you will need your Athens username and password).
• Resources on Pascale Petit on Literature Online
• Interview with Pascale Petit (You need to be logged in to see this interview).
• My Own List of Web Resources on Pascale Petit
• Information on the Warao Violin on my Blog
• Pascale Petit’s website