This week: A Dance of WordsEdited by: Kate of House Targaryen
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Greetings! I'm honored to be your guest editor for this week's WDC Poetry Newsletter.
What is a Poem?
A poem is a form of verse that alludes to, but does not tell, what it is. That's the purpose of prose (or in verse, a metaphor perchance). Maybe an article or a class lesson will tell you what to do, but a poem shows what can be. Yes, the old 'show' vs. 'tell' ~ poetry shows the image or idea envisioned by the writer of the poem.
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learned to dance.
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence,
The sound must seem an echo to the sense.
"An Essay on Criticism," Alexander Pope
Greetings, fellow lyric choreographers
I've been catching some classic films on cable, featuring 31 days of Oscar leading up to the Oscars and continuing. I saw this past weekend, An American In Paris, starring and choreographed by Gene Kelly (actor and dancer par excellence). In this film, he combined a variety of dance patterns (i.e., ballet (en pointe) and tap in one number.
So why am I talking dance when this is about poetry? Because I see the poet as a choreographer, creating a dance of words by designing a rhythmic sensory image to evoke the essence of a moment, an idea, a place, an event, in which a reader (and the poet as well) can participate. Think about it, a poem is choreographed by the poet, taking an idea and expressing it in a dance of words - steps that take an image and weave it into a dance of words.
So where do we start? How do we as poets express the images, the essence of these images, in a dance of words which engage listeners? We start with the steps: movement, patterns, that express in words what a dance does in movement, using the art and craft of poetry to create the dance of words. These steps have withstood the test of time (think of the basic two-step as the foundation of a waltz, tap, tango, and hip hop, among other dance patterns). These poetic pattern provide familiar 'steps' which, when choreographed by the poet, create a dance of words, each unique to the artistry of the poet, each creating a dance in which the listener can participate by reading aloud and emgagomg the images conveyed by the rhythm of the words.
Scansion is the given name for the act of choreographing the rhythmic sound of words - the beat, rhythm, tempo. So don't shun the scan lest you lose the beat and miss the steps that guide you through the dance. Just think, reading and writing poetry silently is like trying to recall a song in your head without at least humming or whistling the tune. You don't get the essence, miss a few words perhaps, so participate in the poem, whether reading or writing.
Using scansion, scanning with your senses, you will experience that verse is written first in lines - a line being a breath of words, like a measure in music, with its own rhythmic movement of feet (the good old iambs and dactyls, for example) to incite haste or contemplation along with the image; written in sentences.
Stanzas of varying length normally contain a sentence or two, maintaining a cohesive image, then moving on to the rest of the moment, either a continuation or summation or change, as the poet's eye (and ear) designs.
The writer sees with poet's eye
kaleidoscopic; not black and white.
This, by your humble editor
Reading aloud, you will find in poetry that each line has a base beat that sometimes holds true for the entire poem (the Shakespearean sonnet, for example); and at other times is given pause or emphasis by changing the beat or use of enjambment.
You will see from my example above enjambment where the iambic is used and the first image continues into the second line, and there's a mid-line pause - caesura - before the second line continues again in the iambic. To release the breath, I also employed before the semicolon, a word with an extra soft-foot beat, called a phyrric foot. But note that each line can still have meaning, although I like keeping it in context.
I continue to stress reading aloud poetry to enter and join in the choreography of the dance between the poet and the reader. I am pleased to share with you here - you'll find the rhythm of each 'dance step' somewhere in the stanza that details the meaning of the term ~ as the poem gives voice to nature's rhythm, mortal and ephemeral.
Now, read this poem aloud and engage the changing rhythm of the dance choreographed for our participation by our own embe .
short and long
for the time of year to see,
Another two syllables
long and short
waiting for me to be,
with intensity to
climb and see the tree,
With three syllables
that stress to pensive long
in the forests of time
where pines no longer grow, for
For two or more
consecutive, stressed syllables-
That - Hears, hears hears
the cold grey wind, upon the sea!
I hope you've enjoyed this exercise in literary choreography. My dancing instructors external - Mary Oliver's Rules for the Dance, and Mary Kinzie's, A Poet's Guide to Poetry.
Check out some the variety of insightful and/or inspired verbal choreography by members of our Community ~ remember, to dance, you move your feet ~ to read a poem, you give it breath
Now, how about showcasing your choreography in one of the following
And why not take a session in this 'dance class,' and try a variety of dance steps, then use them in our own artistic choreography.
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I thank you for joining me in this dance of words; I hope you've had some fun with the steps and can use them in your own lyrical dances of words.
Until we next meet, embrace the dance of words, and have fun with it
Kate of House Targaryen
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