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Tag Archives: Poetics

Essay: What is poetry? Pre-writing

First draft thinking. Very simple. Free flowing.
A sort of poetry to essay formulation: pre-exposition poetics.


Prehistory is what happens before there is a decipherable record of events. What happened in prehistory is largely speculative. There can be some education to the guessing, but absent informants who can explain meaning and origin, we are indeed guessing.

We obviously have language and song and poetry and music. But which came first?

To make sound with the body is instinctive: listen to a baby. (Linguists call it vegetative sound or pre babbling.)
At some point this became words.

Precursors to Language (Pre-linguistic)

0-2 months 2-5 months 4-8 months 6-13 months

reflexive crying and vegetative sounds

cooing and laughter

vocal play

– reduplicated
– non-reduplicated

(Symbolic) Language

12-19 months

14-24 months

20-30 months

28-42 months

34-48 months

48-60 months

Early One Word Stage


Later One Word Stage

Two Word Stage

Three Word Stage

Four Word Stage

Complex Utterance Stage

Fold into this that some believe language was informed by other beings:


The ancients observed the animals closely. Sound and movement. The Bobé spirits. The animal styles of martial arts.

Increasingly, we are tool users. The drumstick. I wonder at which came first: the physical rhythm of percussion – say, drumming – or the bodyrhythm that is syllabication?

A lifetime is an evolution of physicalities. See the second sense:

phys•i•cal |ˈfizikəl|
1 of or relating to the body as opposed to the mind : a whole range of physical and mental challenges.
• involving bodily contact or activity : verbal or physical abuse | football and other physical games.
• sexual : a physical relationship.
2 of or relating to things perceived through the senses as opposed to the mind; tangible or concrete : pleasant physical environments | physical assets such as houses or cars.
• of or relating to physics or the operation of natural forces generally : physical laws.
phys•i•ca•li•ty |ˌfiziˈkalitē| noun

ORIGIN late Middle English (in the sense [medicinal, relating to medicine] ): from medieval Latin physicalis, from Latin physica ‘things relating to nature’ (see physic ). Sense 2 dates from the late 16th cent. and sense 1 from the late 18th cent.

You roll. You crawl.  You stumble. You walk. You run, skip. You catch. You dance. You somersault, tumble. You move a ball with others. You “parkour.”

You reach and point. Your body makes noise. You hear, you imitate. Syllables emerge. You form a word and see effect. A phrase, a clause. You speak sentences and say nursery rhymes. (Already the rhythm is woven in to your speaking.) You sing. You master the body into strong, clear song.

I think the root of poetry is woven in very early. It’s not so much a question of which came first as when was it folded in?
(And if you believe that your culture is in your bones, it is a question of when it happened for your people…)

Sound and movement weave together. Rhythms. Physicality.


Where do you put poetry in this list?

The Discovery of Poetry

The Discovery of Poetry

The google ebook preview of Mayes’ book that is cited in the previous posts.

(You might notice page number citations on my handwritten notes, but I believe the pagination is different in the edition of the class set we use.)

Understanding Poetry: Cornell note set-up





Understanding Poetry: rhyme

From the Oxford:

rhyme |rīm|
correspondence of sound between words or the endings of words, esp. when these are used at the ends of lines of poetry.
• a short poem in which the sound of the word or syllable at the end of each line corresponds with that at the end of another.
• poetry or verse marked by such correspondence of sound.
• a word that has the same sound as another.

To simplify:

rhyme, the correspondence of sounds between words or the ending of words.
rhythm is a regular, repeated pattern, from the Greek rhuthmos, ‘to flow.’

To review:
syllable, a vowel sound usually conjoined to a consonant.
vowel, an open vocal-tract sound.
consonant, a closed vocal-tract sound.

Now, some examples. (Note that rhyme at the end of the line is only one of many types):

triple, words with three rhyming syllables, e.g., quickening/thickening
head, i.e., alliteration: “And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain.”
end, rhyme at the line’s end
apocopated, a “cut-off”rhyme, e.g., hot/potted, pain/gainless
internal, rhyme within the line
rising, an iamb (syllables unstressed and stressed) or single stressed syllable at line’s end (see image below)
slant/half/off/approximate/near, an “almost” rhyme, e.g, fear/care, gone/moan
homonym, a repeated rhyme with different spelling, e.g., sail/sale, preys/praise
identical, or repetition, the same word, reemphasized
pure, rhyme with differing initial consonant: bell/cell/dell/fell/hell
falling, a trochee (syllables stressed and unstressed)(see image below.)
unpatterned, randomly-placed rhymes
eye, slant rhymes that look alike: cough/rough, wind/find
linked, end syllable of one line beginning the next, e.g.,
Night weighs down on the rooftop
stops the flashlight of a scared cop

The list is an adaptation of from
Mayes, Frances. The Discovery of Poetry. Harcourt. 2001.

The stressed or accented syllable is indicated by the ictus′ and the unstressed or unaccented syllable by the breve˘


Understanding Poetry: “West Wind #2” and intonation

I’ll use Snagit to add voice to this later. (I need a different microphone and a quieter venue with better acoustics.)

The linguist uses the International Phonetic Alphabet to indicate rising intonation, e.g., in an interrogative:

He found it on the street?
[ hiː ˈfaʊnd ɪt | ɒn ðə ↗ˈˈstɹiːt ‖ ]

The reader/speaker can use intonation to change attitude or meaning:

You are young.
1.  ↗You are young, as opposed to others, perhaps me, the [the older, wiser] speaker.
2.  You ↗are young, in case you don’t think so.
3.  You are ↗young, to quite a degree.
So you know everything.
1.  So ↗you know everything, as opposed to me, the [more enlightened] speaker.
2.  So you ↗know everything, emphasizing the act of knowing.
3.  So you know ↗everything, emphasizing that you believe you are informed [perhaps a know-it-all].

Poetry 180

Poetry 180

There are usually 180 days of instruction in American public schools.
The idea behind this site is to supply a poem a day, hopefully to be read over the loudspeaker along with the Pledge and announcements.

(The only poems I’ve ever heard read over the PA are the ones I’ve recited when I’ve commandeered the microphone on yearbook deadline nights.)

Understanding Poetry: the “West Wind #2” thesis rough-out


The essay begins to take shape.

Note that I’ve numbered the lines in increments of five.

Understanding Poetry: “West Wind #2” — the real questions

What is it that we are to row toward?

Were we initially rowing from something?


The answer is not literal, not “the churn of water,” the “pounding,” the “falls/plunging.” We have to go into symbol and metaphor at this point.

The speaker leaves us to answer. Our only clue: a life without love hasn’t much worth.

Would you like me to tell you the answer?

What makes you think I know?

Understanding Poetry: “West Wind #2″ literal and symbolic


Part two of the “West Wind #2” lecture.
Language is literal and symbolic, and to apprehend the symbolic meaning, we’d best know what is being said literally. Directly.
The poet is going to employ sentence variety and complexity, and we need to be able to follow the line.

Understanding Poetry: Is “West Wind #2” verse or free verse, sense or non-sense?


A basic walk-through using Snagit and Screencast.

This is the first part of the online lecture to illustrate the steps I’ve written about — see the tag “Poetics.”

A review of the types of sentence in the tag of the same might also be helpful.