Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Thoughts on Poetry

The other day, I heard an interesting piece on poetry.

And this got me thinking about poetry in general. Specifically, I asked the question, "to what extent does the way we read poetry aloud affect how it is understood?"

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This has always been a question with which I am concerned. During my University days I was having a particularly grouchy day. The professor called upon me to read a light and fluffy poem about honeysuckle aloud. I decided to read it in a very morbid, gothic tone of voice. I'll just say it provoked quite a spirited discussion.

This musing centers on the notion that poetry is profoundly oral. And in general, I agree with that statement. Although I also hold that not all poetry is meant to be read aloud, or that some of the poem's power comes from its being seen on the page.

In any case, how would we appreciate a piece of Emily Dickinson if it were read in a mocking tone? Or Poe's Raven if it were read in a cheery voice? What about Gerard Manly Hopkins in a caustic tone?

I posit that the poem is fundamentally changed when we differ how it is read aloud.


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