Poetry spiel

Voice Card  -  Volume 5  -  Stuart Card Number 3  -  Mon, Feb 27, 1989 8:29 PM

This is a response to volume 4, John Card Number 33 ("Of Poetry and Waterfalls")...

Well, you ask me about the technical side poetry. I won't say too much about it (at least not this issue; I see I'm a bit late again) except to say that all that boring drivel about prosody that Mrs. Yanuck and her ilk beat into us in high school is not as boring and rarefied as she (they) made it out to be. All that stuff about iambs, trochees, dactyls, pentameter, hexameter, pyhrric feet, feminine endings, etc., are just ways of talking about the music of language. And it all boils down to this:

In language, the syllable is the equivalent of a musical note. But in language we don't yet have ways to talk about the fine distinctions of notes that there are in music. There are no quarter notes, eighth note, half notes, full notes in language music, for example. We only distinguish syllables as being either stressed or unstressed.

Take your heart beat: da da, da da, da da. In each of those pairings of da's, our ear will make out one of them as being stressed, while the other will seem, in relation to the other one, to be unstressed. Like inhalation and exhalation, or the waves going in and out, or the sun coming up and going down, these primal rhythms underlie the music of language, which is what poetry is all about. It's all about carving out canyons of rhythms from the great mountain of language that we've inherited.

I think we all start out as poets. The first great poem we hear is the epic of our mother's heart beat while we sleep in the womb. It's part of us. And the great poems are still there, down inside us, waiting to be released.

P.S. John, you mention THE BAT POET. Well, good news: MacMillan, the publisher, has republished the book. So, if it's not in Helana's bookstores yet, at least you should be able to order a copy. Is this cause for saying "Yippee!" or what?