Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Against Rhyme


Just because something rhymes and has regimented meter doesn't, by default, make it a poem. We would generally think agree that a poem is , in some sense , a heightened speech that seeks to get at perception, sensation, and psychological states that are problematic for standard prose writing, and that , broadly speaking, the writing that qualifies for those qualities, vague as they are, ought not to be sentimental, conventional, sing-songy, prone to cliche, platitude , scoldings, lectures, or inanely obvious moralizing.

Rhyming, a condition that about dominated all poetic technique until relatively recently in written history, has about been exploited to the degree that it is nearly exhausted . A contemporary audience, desiring a more intriguing vocabulary to discuss and describe the experience of the individual in a culture that is accelerated and quantified and subdivided among a host of meaningless disciplines, wants that discussion to be in a parlance, a rhythm, a cadence and verve that is recognizably of the modern time that typifies the way we address our experiences, and yet has the embedded genius to last decades beyond it's writing.

The art continues as it always has, it changes as the language has, it's pitches and dictions have taken on the twists of the spoken language and forges a unique set of voices that keep the language fresh, relevant, alive. It might well have to do with the fact that the feeling of experience can no longer be contained and convincingly resolved with the now-formula ironies a precise formula compels you to reach; two world wars and the use of nuclear weapons has pretty much undercut the chiming resonance formalistic poems present us; they sound false and eager to smooth away the tragic, the gritty, the sad, the plainly inexplicable conditions of everyday life with a grandiose , over determined orchestration of sounds that are meant, I suppose, to convince you that beauty is most important overall and that petty miseries and small joys are of no consequence. It seems nothing less than a mirror of the conceit of organized Christianity that God has a purpose for this world and that we must accept his will, as small laces in a complex weave. It's about surrender, actually, but it would be the case, rather, that enough history has culminated so recently regarding the disasters of absolutist philosophies that the taste, collectively, has preferred the colloquial to the grand, the open ended to the determined resolution, being-in-the-moment rather than controlling the agenda.Syllabic convolutions, pretty as they sound, are just that, pretty sounds, not the voice of Higher Authority.

The language changes; that's how it stays viable as way of making ourselves understood. Poetry changes; that's the way we keep ourselves interested in testing the limits of our imaginations. Poetry is an active thing, done in real time, in the present period. It is not an art consigned to being little more than duplications of what was done before, endlessly before, forms leeched of all vitality and allure.

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