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Sunday, September 6, 2009

English Poetry Versification - Part I

Versification is the poets’ backpack they trek with through the mountains, valleys, streams, plains and moor in a cognitive environment. These poetry chefs search for the right ingredients to clean and season the poetry they cook for us to consume. Ever mindful that their poetry must have the right taste and texture for folks still growing baby teeth, those with all their natural adult teeth and those who must wear dentures. Ever mindful of this, poets select the best spices and condiments to add flavor to their poetry dishes. In advance, they set the weight and measurement then blend them well into the stuffing that goes into the poetry. When completed the poetry is placed on the serving tray with the presentation pleasing to the eyes in a manner that complements the poetry being served.

How is that appetizer above I’ve whipped up for you? Now here is a sample from poetry dish in the form of an acrostic rhyming ababcdeedebcb in non-standard iambic pentameter.


Very well, measure verses as you should
each word, or sound that has fallen from lips;
run as you like under the old stave wood;
stressed and unstressed feet, this way the voice dips
in musing, rhyme as you please on the verse;
for feet brake sharply, for a strong road mark;
in time, those pentameter lines will rhyme
catalectic scanning is not a crime;
acatalectic gives foot a stretch mark;
take time to sway with cadence every time;
inside rhymes and caesura solve conflicts;
omitted vowels make lines roll with terse;
now, those omissions are metrical tricks.

The purpose of it was to lead you on to the main thread, that persons who prepare poetry for consumption are called poets. What poets bring to the table to feed our senses are their thoughts they weave through the process of Versification.

In order to versify, poets use versifier tools which perform specific task but working together in unison to produce the end product known as poems. These six versifier tools are listed below and with comments on each of them.

1. Content
Words = facts, ideas, impressions

2. Form
Content Structure

3. Style
Poetic diction

4. Measurement

5. Sound Effects

6. Elements of poetry
literal meaning
figurative language
rhythm and rhyme

Content for poems is made up of facts, ideas and impressions which poets creatively weave together. The arrangement of content is dictated by the particular form and genre which poets use. In order to present this content to the audience or readers the poet provides a voice. In other words, the poet assigns someone who will speak the words written in the poem. The person who elucidates the content of the poem is called the voice. Voice can also mean the aura. The aura that is created from the element in the artistic production that induces a perception by the audience or reader of the moral qualities of the speaker or character, Aristotle called this the ethos. In narrative poetry, the persona is the “I” or the implied speaker as in the case of lyrical poems. Sometimes the poet would identify a created character as the speaker. However, in the absence of such a specific attribution, the term persona is applied. What good does this do? It allows for no automatic assumption that the creative work done is the expressed experiences or views of the poet. The identification of a character or characters by poets prevents any potential ambiguity. It also enables poets to give expression to things they would prefer not to have attributed to themselves.

Form is the arrangement of the meter, rhythm, lines, verses, stanzas in poems. When predetermined meter, rhymes and stanzas become the structural blocks for poems we have what is known as fixed form (sometimes referred to as closed form, classical form, traditional form). The poetry styles that fit into this mold are the epic, ode, sonnet, ballad, limerick, pantoum, sestina, triolet, villanelle, rondeau, ghazal, elegy, tanka, cinquain, haiku, senryu, octtava rima, terza rima, paradelle. When the structural blocks in traditional poetry are ignored as often done by modernist and postmodernist poets, we refer to such a structure as a non-compliant form also known as unstructured poetry or open form poetry. Non-compliant poetry styles are free verse, reportage, pose poems, language poetry, performance poetry, computer-generated poetry, egoless poetry, beat poetry, blank form, open form.

Style has a way of tagging traditionalist, modernist and post-modernist poets . Style is synonymous with poetic diction which is all about the choice of words, phrases, sentence structure and figurative language in literary work; the manner or mode of verbal expression, particularly with regard to clarity and accuracy. We know that poetry is one of the genres of literature. So the aforementioned holds true. Poets weave their style into content for the expressed desire to captivate the audience or readers. Hence, style has to do with the manner, in which individual poets say, do, express or perform their poetic works. In the western world, Aristotle remains the originating plank for thinking about the use of language in poetry and prose; so according to the English translation by Ingram Bywater (1920) of Aristotle’s Poetics, Aristotle asserted that the perfect style for writing poetry was one that is clear and without meanness. He defined meanness of style as the deliberate avoidance of unusual words, but warned against over-reliance on strange words as seen in this extract from Poetics.

“The perfection of Diction is for it to be at once clear and not mean. The clearest indeed is that made up of the ordinary words for things, but it is mean… A certain admixture, accordingly, of unfamiliar terms is necessary. These, the strange word, the metaphor, the ornamental equivalent, etc., will save the language from seeming mean and prosaic, while the ordinary words in it will secure the requisite clearness. What helps most, however, to render the Diction at once clear and non-prosaic is the use of the lengthened, curtailed, and altered forms of words.”

I greatly admire the style William Wordsworth used in his lyrical poems. In his poetic style, he replaced the lofty and eloquent style used by poets of his era. His style reflects his use of clear and simple language of the people as he bonded intensely with nature.

(to be continued in Part II of this blog)

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Haiti Under Rubble from 7.0 Earthquake

Natural disasters whenever and wherever they occur impact on all of our lives. The Good Book says we are our brothers and sisters keepers lead by the Holy Spirit. Hence, we must do our part when disaster shows its ugly face. Any assistance, great or small, given from generous and loving hearts has equal weight. I'm passing on this information I received that Barbadians can go to First Caribbean Bank to donate to the Disaster Relief Fund for Haiti. The banking information is shown below:

First Caribbean Bank Account--2645374-- Cheques can be written to: HELP #2645374

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