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Poetics and Poetry Discussion


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Michael Shepherd Male, 85, United Kingdom (5/19/2005 5:27:00 AM)

Lamont, I assume you're not a teacher of poetry; they have to engage with students at their own level. If you're going to be so dismissive, I think you owe it to us to explain your criteria. What is 'music' in poetry to you?
It seems to me from my superficial reading, that American poetry is doing exactly what you condemn - becoming more like the definition that is now commonly given to free verse - 'prose with enhanced consciousness'. You clearly still hear the music. But if rhyme, and lyric, and the metaphysical with its soaring ecstasies, are all put out of the ballpark, what's left? I would say, the 'music' of prose. I'm currently reading Kooser's 'Local Wonders' which is entirely 'prose' yet so beautiful in its writing that every few lines could be half a poem. Don't the prose writer and the poet meet in this 'music'?
The Greek origin of the word is in thinking and contemplating- as is the origin of the word 'mystic'. If I read a poem which comes from the heart, and from contemplation of its theme, and whose words are chosen with a 'poetic' discrimination not to jar with its presentation (I agree with JC about those two words in James Mills' poem which 'disappointed' me more than just jarred) - and a poem which most of all, if it's descriptive, makes me feel I am right there with the writer - than for me there is something between being called 'music' and 'not unmusic'...
A master like Auden can write a lyric which is deeply serious as well as being amusing, and musical, such as 'Tell Me About Love'. I wonder if what we define as 'music' isn't ultimately the sound of the poet's very self, which we hear or don't hear. I wouldn't myself, on that score, dismiss either Jerry or Jimmy as being without music. Nor is Bukowski, in a poem like 'A Certain Smile' which sears my heart, without his own music in his 'best' work.

So where does that 'music' rest? Over to you!

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  • Poetry Hound (5/19/2005 11:10:00 AM) Post reply

    I think defining the 'music' of a free verse poem is elusive. You can point to things like use of alliterations or a pattern of accented and unaccented syllables. But ultimately it's hard to break down what makes a musical poem musical. I think a poem that is clever, has an interesting or unusual outlook, and employs an economy of words, creates its own music.

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