Sarajevo, 21.3.2013.

21.3.2013. III POETRY MARATHON 2013.
International Festival Sarajevo “Sarajevo Winter 2013”
DIOGEN pro culture magazine

Sabahudin Hadžialić

Introductory words for Round table

„Communicative discourse of modern poetry“

How we can talk about poetry and to mention communication within it?

Is the poetry communication sui generis or eo ipso communication of the poetry is establishment of the new message without borders within the world of globalisation?

Number of words which somebody uses to frame up one poem is equally proportional to the power of his or her vision.

But, to make an analyse of modern poetry within the framework of communication it is no so difficult, but neither it is easy. Namely, let us put some point which can be underlined as starting point for discussion:

1. Why people writes poetry? To send an inner message to outside world, or to release the burden of inside reflections from their souls.

2. Does the communication that comes out from the written or verbal poetry means anything else than just a message of one person to another or many?

Since communication in poetry occurs through parallelism (segmentation) rather than logical and sequential communication (prose), it was deemed necessary that syntactic analysis was better realized prior to poetic devices. Is it?

Trusting Your Ear

Today we distinguish between poetry and song, yet for the ancient Greeks, a "lyrical" poem meant a song—words accompanied by a lyre. Sound, then, has always been fundamental to poetry. The word "prosody" is now used to define the study of poetry, comes from the Greek "prosodia," or a poem sung to music. The first remnant of a written poem dates to 2600 BCE Sumer, but poetry as an oral tradition is likely to have existed beforehand. When dissecting a poem, it is important to keep sound in mind. Just as a person may strike us as charming or untrustworthy not by their character but their manner, so a poem may strike us as beautiful or jarring not through meaning, but through sound. Take this poem by Krystyna Lenkowska, by example:

Death is a simple thing
K. I. Galczynski

Death is simple as a cradle
both are miracles of loss and gain
in the perfectly perfected present tense
is – isn’t
isn’t – is
there’s material evidence
beyond all doubt.

The subject is obscure at first as she contradicts herself and omits natural, vocal pauses through enjambment . The effect is that we pause at the end of the line without finishing a complete phrase, sounding as if we are short of breath or being "strangled," by material evidence just as the author is. So the meaning is confusing syntactically, but lucid sonically. When I use relatively obtuse terms such as tercet and enjambment my intention is to be clear. The terminology used to describe the sonic conventions of poetry is specific and consequently vast. Knowing the terminology is helpful to understanding a poem, though by no means necessary—it is simply the proscribed method of articulating what the poem is doing in order to manipulate your emotion. Its hardly ever useful beyond academia, but it will give you poetic authority, even if you have no idea what the poem actually means. At its most useful, the terminology is the fastest way to convey your opinion on a poem, and the more terms you know, the more you know what to look for while reading.

Before I get into analytic terms, however, it might be useful to give a quick timeline of poetry in modern English. Modern English poetry falls into 7 general historic categories: Renaissance, Augustan, Romantic, Victorian, Modern,Postmodern and Contemporary. The Renaissance (16th century) produced poets such as Thomas Campion, Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare; in the 17th century lived Milton; in the Augustan period (late 17th century to early 18th century, called so because of a return to the Classical poetic form) wrote Pope, Thomas Gray, and Samuel Johnson; The Romantic period (around the turn of the 19th century) includes Blake, Keats, Shelley, Bryon, Coleridge, and Wordsworth; the Victorian period (mid to late 19th century) produced Robert Browning, Elizabeth Browning, Tennyson and Hopkins. The Modern period (1880-1950)—Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Whitman, Dickinson, Wallace Stevens and Ezra Pound; The Postmoderns (roughly 1950-80) include William Carlos Williams, Bishop, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, and Frank O'Hara; Contemporaries (those still alive today) include John Ashbery, Mark Strand, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon and Jorie Graham.

Many of the devices we use today to analyze poetry are from Latin versification. Enjambment, for example, comes from the French word "to straddle," and occurs when a phrase ends not at a natural line break, but in the next line, as if to "straddle" the two lines. Toward the beginning of The Aeneid, Vergil writes,

1 In poetry, enjambment or enjambement is the breaking of a syntactic unit (a phrase, clause, or sentence) by the end of a line or between two verses. It is to be contrasted with end-stopping, where each linguistic unit corresponds with a single line, and caesura, in which the linguistic unit ends mid-line. The term is directly borrowed from the French enjambement, meaning "straddling" or "bestriding". Enjambment is sometimes referred to as a "run-on line."

insignem pietate virum, tot adire labores

Impulerit. Tantaene animis caelestibus irae?

This is obviously Latin, not English, but even without any knowledge of the language one can see how the phrase does not end naturally at "labores," but in the next line, emphasizing "Impulerit," which happens to be the main verb. In this same excerpt is an example of the caesura, another important poetic device that derives from Latin verse. A caesura is a vocal pause (often indicated by a comma or a period) that breaks a line into two halves; it is commonly used to contrast ideas. In Latin poetry, a caesura may only occur between the first and fourth feet of a poem, a foot consisting of two to three vowel sounds. Additionally, in Latin, a caesura must break up a foot—in the example above, the caesura occurs at the period after "Impulerit." If "Im-pu-le" is the first foot (it is a dactyl, but that will be explained later,) then "it-Tan" is the second foot (a spondee), with the period standing in the middle, acting as a caesura. In modern English poetry, a caesura is generally used to mean any pause within a line, for meter is not as proscriptive as it was in Vergil's day (The Aeneid is written in dactylic hexameter, which means that every line has six feet, and every fifth foot must be a dactyl).

Anaphora is a term used to describe repetition, deriving from the Greek word "to bring back." The Latin poet Catullus used it in line 63 poem #63:

Ego mulier, ego adulescens, ego ephebus, ego puer,

Without knowing Latin, we are struck by the word "Ego," showing the significance of sound even before comprehension in poetry ("Ego," is "I" in Latin, and as you have rightly assumed, ancestral to the English word "ego").

A favorite Latin device of mine is the chiasmus. Latin is remarkable for its sentence structure; the ancients appear to have thrown their verbs and nouns around wherever they pleased, resulting in some unique poetic devices. A chiasmus, derived from the Greek word for a cross, occurs when a sentence or phrase follows an ABBA structure, as in "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." In Woodrow Wilson's famous epigram, A stands for "your country," and B for "you." The most famous example of a chiasmus in antiquity is Catullus' poem #85, a brief two lines that read,

Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortqasse requiris?

Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

If you don't know Latin that sounds like a whole lot of mumbo-jumbo, but one thing might have stood out: the bookend verb pairs "Odi et amo" and "sentio et excrucior." Without knowing Latin, we hear a repetition that encloses the rest of the poem, just as the A in the chiasmus encloses the two Bs. Translated, these verb pairs read, "I hate and I love" and "I feel and am crucified." The negative verbs, the As, enclose the loving, emotional verbs, the Bs. This poem is a double chiasmus, crossing in sound and meaning. In addition, "excrucior," which sounds harsh without knowing Latin, means "I am crucified," contributing even more to the imagery of a cross implied by a chiasmus. (Draw a line between "sentio" and "amo" and another between "excrucior" and "Odi." See? A cross.)

If these Latin devices interested you, you might want to read further about litotes, metonymy, synecdoche, and elegiac verse. With the exception of elegiac verse, a meter which seldom appears in English poetry, these terms are not sonic devices but figurative, and so I will not attempt to demonstrate them. They are very fun to pull out in conversation, however, so I suggest you google them.

I mentioned much about feet while demonstrating the caesura. Feet are fundamental to meter in both Latin and English poetry. We use the same categories that the Romans did for scansion, or the method of determining a poem's meter. There are three main types of feet: a iamb, a trochee and aspondee. A iamb is an unstressed vowel sound followed by a stressed, atrochee is the inverse, a stressed vowel sound followed by an unstressed, and aspondee is two stressed vowel sounds. What is two unstressed vowel sounds called, you may ask? This is less common and called a pyrrhic foot. The word "pyrrhic" comes from the Greek leader Pyrrhichus, who invented a dance in which the motions of war are imitated. Shakespeare implements all four types when he writes,

When to the sessions of sweet, silent thought

The first foot, "When to," is a stressed vowel and an unstressed: a trochee; the second, "the sess," is an unstressed then a stressed: a iamb; the third, "ions of" is two unstressed: a pyrrhic foot; and the last two feet, "sweet, si" and "lent thought," are both two stressed vowels, or spondees. The meter of the line feels fast in the beginning, but once it hits the stressed spondees, vocally we must slow down the words in order to hit the stresses, giving weight to "sweet, silent thought." Even if Shakespeare is somewhat complicated in his diction, his meter will often direct his point. Also used in English is the dactyl, or one stressed vowel followed by two unstressed, and the less common anapest, the inverse, two unstressed vowels followed by one stressed. The first line of Tennyson's "The Charge of The Light Brigade" contains two dactyls:

Half a league, half a league,

While William Cowper's "Verses Supposed to be Written by Alexander Selkirk" contains three anapests in a line:

I am out of humanity's reach

Compare the dactyl's stressed, unstressed, unstressed in "Half a league" with the anapest's unstressed, unstressed, stressed in "I am out." The first is forceful, the second sounds near impotent, out of control. The meter directly correlates with the meaning of the poems: Tennyson's describes a "charge," Cowper's, estrangement.

When people comment that Shakespeare writes in iambic pentameter, they mean that his lines favor a iambic cadence, using other feet only to shift emotion, and are five feet to a line. Writing in iambic dimeter would be two feet to a line; three feet is trimeter; four is tetrameter; five is pentameter; and six ishexameter. "The Charge of the Light Brigade," two feet per line and favoring dactyls, is an example of dactylic dimeter.


So, was this communication discurs of modern poetry and/or something else?

So, was this a lesson or just a hint of communication within the poetry?

So, was this a poetry communication agenda or just a short fiction?

Let's discuss and hear what you have to say...

Sabahudin Hadžialić