In poetry - sound is important.
|REVIEWING POETRY: PRONUNCIATION
As the world has gotten smaller, it is universally recognized and well documented that regional influence impacts how different words are spelled. These differences are now commonly accepted as correct in either form by the reviewing community and readers at large. So while words such as honor/honour, recognize/recognise, or liter/litre (and numerous others) may raise a flag in your spellchecker, they are considered to be spelled correctly in either form.
For the most part, this gracious tolerance of regional influence is somehow not extended to pronunciation. In most forms of writing, e.g. short stories or essays, this is not an issue because pronunciation naturally defaults to the “reader’s voice”. However, this is not the case with regard to poetry.
While poetry is now commonly shared in written format, as an art form it is best experienced and appreciated by reading it aloud. How it sounds is of great importance. Thus, elements such as meter, rhythm, flow, repetition of sounds (e.g. assonance, consonance, and rhyme) are equally very important. So it is no surprise that pronunciation is a vital ingredient.
As the poet’s work is usually read by those with a potential of broad variation in pronunciation greater weight should be given to the “poet’s voice”. This is sometimes difficult for many readers and reviewers because the natural tendency is to assume that their pronunciation is correct. In reality, many words are now recognized to have multiple acceptable pronunciations.
Sometimes the variation may impact the number of distinct syllables that is audible. Take for example a word like bravery. Many individuals would pronounce this word with three distinct syllables (bra ver y), while others would say it with only two syllables (brave ry). Another good example is the word ideals, spoken by some in three syllables (I de als) and others in only two syllables (I deals). The number of examples that could be given is nearly limitless.
Sometimes the variation may impact the potential for rhyme. As an example consider the word leisure. It may be pronounced with a “long e” sound that would rhyme with seizure, or it may be pronounced with a “short e” sound and would rhyme with treasure.
There are even words that impact multiple variations including which syllables of a word are stressed and which are unstressed. One example of this is New Orleans. The variations include (new OR lenz), (new or LEENZ), and even (NEW or LEE anz).
However, this is a complex issue. While it is important to trust the “poet’s voice” in a read, there are also times when the selected word pronunciation is incorrect. As a reviewer, how can you legitimately determine when this is the case, and offer constructive suggestions?-
My recommendation to you is, if during a read, you encounter an unusual “bump in the road” that interrupts flow or rhythm or even rhyme, before you default to your own voice, look the word up in the dictionary. There are many available online. Pay particular attention to the potential variation in pronunciation. This will help insure the validity of your suggestions, and you may even gain a new sound that you can use in your own work.