12 dic. 2006

What is the purpose of rhythm and sound in poetry?

The normal answer is that it is supposed to reinforce the meaning. But that is unsatisfactory, because the use of sound as mimesis is rather limited, in relation to the total sound and rhythm apparatus. In other words, a few isolated sound-effects do not explain or justify the more systematic use of sound patterns.

The answer i've come up with is that the function of rhythm is to teach us the rhythm in question. In other words, to get the reader to follow along, "acompasar" his or her reflections to those of the poet. To get the mind and body of the reader to dance to the right steps.

The way if you're walking down the street with someone you have to adjust your steps, whether in length or tempo. Or two people in a conversation with each other, they each have to adjust their rhythms if it is going to be one conversation.

Acompasar is a great verb for that, because it means adjust a rhythm. From the word "compás," beat or measure, we get a verb, a-compas-ar. I'm sure we've all had the experience of not understanding a poet because of not being able to get the poet rhythmically. Think of people who don't get Creeley, or Ashbery, or who think long lines are automatically "sloppy" just through length alone.

9 comentarios:

Joseph Duemer dijo...

If you think of "feeling" as more than an emotion with a label on it, but rather as a state of mind & body, a physical gestalt, then the rhythm in the poem is an attempt to transfer the poet's gestalt in relation to the matter of the poem over to the reader. Well, maybe. In any case, you are absolutely right that mimesis does not explain the power of sound & rhythm in poems.

Jonathan dijo...

I like that, "to transfer the gestalt." That's what I was trying to say in my semi-articulate way.

Jordan dijo...

Or being all too able to get the poet rhythmically. Dig?

Jonathan dijo...

Judith Roitman writes:

"Transfer is not strong enough. Try transform. And not gestalt, but
brain function. If rhythm wasn't inescapably everywhere, someone would
have banned it a long time ago.

Just spent an hour reading to my 2.5 year old granddaughter. Watching
her while I read strongly confirms the above."

Joseph Duemer dijo...

Yeah, "transform." Dig. Or maybe just move it, baby.

"If I could shimmy like my sister Kate..." That is the poem's greatest wish.

Anónimo dijo...

How does the idea that rhythm in poetry was long used as a means of memorization relate to your idea that rhythm serves "to teach us the rhythm in question"?

Jonathan dijo...

Suhxhl, I say. Completely. Poetry lives in the memory. It's not like memorization is some added thing you do with a poem. It's fundamental. When you memorize a poem the rhythm is what you are memorizing, and when you try to recall a poem the rhythm comes first, doesn't it? You might forget the words, and reconstruct them from the rhythm.

Anónimo dijo...

Yes, of course, that's right: you use the rhythm to remember the words, but of course, first you have to learn (and be able to learn) the rhythm. In jazz, of course, you use the rhythm not to remember the melody, but to make it up. :-)

What is "suhxhl"? Is that the word verification that you had to type, or an acronym I have not seen before? :-)

Robert dijo...

I think you're spot on that "rhythm reinforcing meaning" is as much nonsense as "sound echo sense." In fact, onomatopoeia is more likely the verbalization of an internal response to an external sound or event than a real or intended mimicry of that sound or event. Rhythm, conversely, being imposed, is but one of multitude lines of non-literal "thought" at play in the poem. Rarely does it intersect with any logical line in any predictable way. More often, its inherent interest adds to the overall effect.