|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #18|
G[r]eeks would call this "diaeresis" but we won't sweat the terminology. We're not trying to pass an English exam. We're trying to win contests, audiences and acceptances, edging out nefarious competitors who have been "eating our lunch" with these Machiavellian black op tactics.
Paragraphs, strophes and stanzas allow us to compartmentalize our writing into subtopics. Poetry has other ways to bracket and highlight phrases or sections. The most obvious of these is the line. What are some of the less salient segmentation methods?
Note that with diaresis it was the ending that mattered, not the beginning (e.g. the first trochee). Suppose that starting point did matter. This could have the same effect as either parenthesis (i.e. opening and closing brackets) or, if rhythmic, a dramatic rocking motion. For example, we encounter iconic phrases such as:
Do you feel lucky, punk?
Go ahead. Make my day.
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #30|
Consider this soundbyte:
"Black and white, wrong and right."
Here the bracketing is done not only rhythmically, through cretics, but thematically as well. Each DUM-de-DUM "foot" addresses a different subject: in this example, [black and white] distinctiveness and [wrong and right] evaluation. Notice how the rhyme of "white" and "right" helps cement this bracketing. We'll see more of this in a moment.
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #13|
A palindrome¹ involves text that is the same read backwards or forward. "Race car" is a typical alphabetic/textual palindrome. Before the advent of writing palindromes would have been sonic: the same sounds in forward and reverse order: e.g. "clucks" (phonetically: "kluks") and "skulk" or "aisle" ("il") and "lie" ("li"). Indeed, these reversed phonemes (a fancy term we nerds use when tired of saying "sounds") can form opening and closing brackets even without forming entire words. We return, as always, to our example poem, DPK's "Beans":
September came like winter's
ailing child but
viewing Valparaiso's pride. Your face was
always saddest when you smiled. You smiled as every
doctored moment lied. You lie with
orphans' parents, long
As close as coppers, yellow beans still
line Mapocho's banks. It
leads them to the sea;
entwined on rocks and saplings, each
new vine recalls that
dawn in 1973 when
every choking, bastard weed grew wild.
Note the instances of "li" (as in "lye") and "il" (as in "isle") in the first stanza: "like winter's ailing child" encapsulates and highlights the foreboding setting. The rest of the "li" and "il" words are "important": "lie[d]" is repeated [in a way we'll discuss in a subsequent installment] and, as with "lied" and "pride", the "il" sounds are in rhyming words (e.g. "child", "smiled") including those that end both stanzas (i.e. "reviled" and "wild" form perfect closing brackets).
Isn't it amazing the detail and lengths these swine will go to for such miniscule advantages?
A few final cudgels:
- Before dismissing poems others deem noteworthy take a closer look. If it's by a master of the craft like Derek Walcott or Margaret Griffiths you may be missing something.
- Yes, I have been told that it is possible to design entire Creative Writing courses without mentioning "Beans" or "Studying Savonarola". No one has explained me why in hell they'd want to, though.
- Let me stress yet again: It isn't important that the judge/editor/audience recognize any of this gobsmacking 007 gadgetry: diaeresis, cretics, bracketing, palindromics, etc. Indeed, it might be better if they didn't! We're talking about magic, where science meets wonder. Only the performer needs to know the trick.
¹ - As a matter of accepted nomenclature, [alphabetic/textual] "palindromes" will refer to phrasing or words with symmetrical letters while [sonic/phonetic] "palindromics" can describe symmetrical sounds.
- Why Your Poetry Fails - Part I - Diaeresis
- Why Your Poetry Fails - Part II - Brackets
- Why Your Poetry Fails - Part III - Judges and Editors
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