Monday, December 19, 2011

Ah Yes... Now That's A Poem.

Robert Wilson is the title of a poem written by Michael Collier that I read in The Writer's Almanac on December 17, 2011. In my mind there was no question about it... this was truly a poem. But, as so often happens in the solitude of my mind, I understood that it was not a poem merely because it was printed with line breaks that are not customarily found in unbroken prose, but was a poem because it was a poem and would be a poem even if it had no line breaks at all.

Only those who have followed the twistings and turnings of the various thoughts previously recorded in this blog will (or can) understand what a remarkable spark of insight this amounts to.

Now, it seems, I have at last grasped the difference between a poem and a work of prose, and it has nothing to do with where the lines of text are positioned, broken or unbroken, but whether or not the piece moves the reader emotionally. Therefore the answer to whether a printed piece is or is not a poem is a matter of how it moves (or does not move) each individual reader.

Now . . . the spoken word, a poem delivered to a listener by a poem reader's voice is another thing entirely. A reader reading aloud a supposed poem can unthinkingly or even intentionally affect how the listener is or is not emotionally moved and might therefore cloud the poem or prose issue drastically.

Below is a weak example of what I mean.

If I were to read the following line: John Wain once said “Poetry is to prose as dancing is to walking” I would seriously consider it.

But if that same line were spoken to me aloud, I could mistakenly think the speaker had said: John Wayne once said “Poetry is to prose as dancing is to walking”

And, to me, that would put a whole different light on the matter.

See what I mean?

Whether a specific composition is a piece of prose or a poem might be merely a matter of individual interpretation.



“Always be a poet, even in prose.”
--Charles Baudelaire

Note: Of course, in his journal, Baudelaire also wrote: There is no form of rational and assured government save an aristocracy. A monarchy or a republic, based upon democracy, are equally absurd and feeble. The immense nausea of advertisements. There are but three beings worthy of respect: the priest, the warrior and the poet. To know, to kill and to create. The rest of mankind may be taxed and drudged, they are born for the stable, that is to say, to practise what they call professions.

Go figure.

No comments:

Post a Comment