Michael Shepherd

Rookie (8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

! Prosody? - Poem by Michael Shepherd

it’s about - it means - what poetry does,
and how. I guess..
In Greek, it just means ‘tune’. That
should give a clue. In Latin,
the word they used meant
‘song added to speech’.

So ‘poetry’ is pretty well
indefinable. It’s – well—
whatever it means to you.
And how the hell it does that. There
are rules but,
it finds its own. For
one thing above all
really matters: poetry is
what it does. What it does. If
it doesn't do anything for you
that's it. No theories –
just that. Be glad.

Aristotle tried to help
with his ‘Poetics’. Good on drama.
But poetry? Let’s fast forward to
Ezra Pound: poetry’s function is, he said,
‘to charge words with meaning
to the utmost possible degree’.

Now put all this together and
I believe it’s saying,
poetry’s not - never was -
shouldn’t be - couldn’t be -
just words on the page, like this, but, it's
me saying them to you, strongly, here and now,
charging them with meaning
to the utmost possible degree..

So if your child comes home with
as homework, ‘Analyse this poem by..’
- Angelou, Silverstein, Neruda,
Hughes of both hues black and white,
Milligan, Budowski, Pralutsky –
tell them, go back tomorrow and say
politely, ‘Teach, Dad’s a practising poet and
he says, why not have a class comp in
reading that poem aloud, and who
makes most sense of it and keeps us
listening down to the
tips of our toes; and by the time
we’ve all had a go and decided
who’s the best, we’ll remember it
for the rest of our lives and maybe, Teach,
not need to ‘analyse’ it much and
only after that? '

So here’s to the next poem
that you read aloud, or write to read aloud,
charging it with meaning
to the utmost possible degree.

Comments about ! Prosody? by Michael Shepherd

  • Theorem Thetruthserum (12/3/2005 6:45:00 PM)

    This poem definately does poetry some justice. It tells about how it really is. Good job...loved it and it is inspiring for any age. (Report) Reply

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  • (12/3/2005 4:20:00 PM)

    What a great idea for a classroom project Michael! That would be so interesting to see each child reciting the same poem..........the versions would be so varied that I think it would be amazing to see. And you're right, I doubt they would ever forget that poem. Great work here! Sincerely, Mary (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, December 3, 2005

Poem Edited: Friday, October 5, 2007

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