There is a persistant plip plop
scritch scratch scratch scritch
staccato beats like the tapping
of alien fingers on the window.
I pause and shiver shoulders tense
It must be the amplified sound of rain
and leaves yet there is a discordance
in the air like the distant call of the tocsin.
I shrug and turn on Rusalka and sit feet up,
as the liquid notes of the music envelop me
and I visualise the prince swimming in the lake
-the phone rings.
Use of Sound in Poetry Part 1.
Poets use words not only for connotation and meaning but also to utilise their sounds to make patterns.
Sound is the most basic element of language. We learn to speak long before we learn to read or write, and the emotional response we have to sound is programmed in to our psyche very early on, during our pre-verbal development.
Because sound is made by the movement of air in response to muscular activity, speech and poetry are not just intellectual acts, but physical ones. When you read a poem aloud you are not just hearing the words and interpreting the stories, your whole body is involved in producing the sounds required to deliver the poem.
When reading a poem, your brain accesses both your knowledge of language, your knowledge of the sounds made by that language, and your previous experiences of sensations and feelings. Whatever you write, therefore, has sound. People hear your words in their heads, and so the sounds you create can draw people’s attention to your message.
“I may write in silence but my words will always be heard” – Marie Summers
Poets use a range of musical and figurative devices to achieve their effects. Some of these effects relate to the rhythm and metre of the words.
We use the sound of individual letters as well as the way we pronounce, read and decode the hieroglyphics of writing and speech.
Alliteration the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words are utilised as sound effects by poets.
Sweet birds sang
Susie picked seahells on the seashore.
Why do we write and why do folks read
Why is poetry an endangered breed?
When In a world of buy one – get one free
When fast furious games accompany life’s grand prix.
If you look at the four lines above you will note that not only have I repeated sounds at the beginning of some words I have used vowel sounds that are the same.
I have the i sound sprinkled along the lines
y sounds like i
why (i )
line three has repetition of the w … also o
So this little poem is constructed to sound good to the ear… your brain loves patterns, those repeat sounds helps add a sort of rhyme that adds musicality.
The repetition of vowel sounds is called Assonance.
The formation of a word from a sound associated with an action, object or thing or naturally associated with it’s properties such as plop, click, buzz, splat, hiss are attempts at imitating a sound. The interesting question is do these imitations, influence the meaning of the other words that they are combined with when we write or talk. Do onomatopoeic words throw up pictures in our minds, send our minds on a chase for other word associations.
In addition to the sounds they represent, many onomatopoeic words have developed meanings of their own. The word whisper not only represents the breathiness of people talking quietly but also describes the action of people talking quietly.
after the rapids
your upturned canoe
Rhythmic pauses in poetry
The caesura plural caesurae.
It can be used in poetry and prose.
This literary device involves creating a break of a breath within a line where the two separate parts are distinguishable from one another yet intrinsically linked together. The purpose of using a caesura is to create a dramatic pause, which has a strong impact. The pause helps to add an emotional, or theatrical touch to the line and conveys a depth of sentiment in a short phrase.
Everyone speaks, and everyone breathes while speaking. For instance, when you say, “Josh has done his assignment,” you take breath or make a pause before further saying, “But Gideon did not.” Then again you take a little breath and say, “He ran out of ink.” Such pauses come from the natural rhythm of your speech.
Poetry also uses pauses in its lines. It uses them to indicate how a piece should be read, to help rhythm and speed and sense.
A comma, semi colon, full stop, dash, double space ellipse or exclamation mark often in the middle of a line would indicate a caesura.
In metrical poetry the caesura can be used as unstressed syllable.
Even if a caesura is not marked by punctuation, poets use the natural breaths and intonations of speech to get the rhythm right. Word choice is extremely important to get the intonation right to speed and slow reading, to heighten, reduce emotion.
How we speak using caesura
Caesura on the whole are not big pauses you are not going to pause for 3 seconds just slightly longer than normal speech transmission.
Like everything in speech caesura come in various degrees longer or shorter. Sometimes a caesura happens as we lengthen the syllables in one word as we speak.
If we look at the lines
‘Death, only death, can break the lasting chains ‘
We say the first death sharply and crisply then the second as deathhh. Say it out loud try it.
Examples of caesura
In the children’s verse, ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence,’ the caesura occurs in the middle of each line:
‘Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye.’
This caesura this pause would remain even without the coma its a natutal space to breathe.
In this piece there is no visable caesura but some occur naturally through word choice and speech patterns.
‘Do you wonder at the why of life
Heed the truth kick the doubt.’
Sometimes Caesura occur near the beginning of a line, for emphasis, not at a place we would normally pause for breath, unless our speech was dramatic or we wanted our listener to really tune in.
For example, in the first line of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s ‘Mother and Poet’, the caesura occurs after the very first word of the poem:
‘Dead ! One of them shot by the sea in the east’
Sometimes poets use more than caesura in a line as in
‘To be, or not to be — that is the question…’
Here there is a short pause with the coma but a longer more dramatic pause on the dash.
Sometimes near the end of a line.
‘Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!’
This stanza from John Ashbery’s poem “Our Youth” gives a more modern example of caesura using three different types of punctuation: ellipsis in the first two lines, a period in the third, and finally a comma in the fourth.
Blue hampers . . . Explosions,
Ice . . . The ridiculous
Vases of porphyry. All that our youth
Can’t use, that it was created for.
How we mark caesura in scansion
If we are analysing poetry we mark a caesura with ll called a double pipe.
Why use caesurae
Writers use caesurae to create variation in the rhythm of a poem, or to emphasize words in the middle of lines that might not otherwise receive attention. Since line breaks in poetry tend to serve as a natural pause regardless of whether the lines are end-stopped with punctuation, the rhythm of poems with lines of equal length can become somewhat monotonous and unvaried without the use of caesurae to create pauses in the middle of lines. The use of caesurae also allows writers to formulate their thoughts and images using more complex sentence structures with different clauses and a freer use of punctuation than is possible without the use of caesurae.
Check out caesurae in poetry and see how they work.
There are technical names for the different types of caesura you can look them up but to me it is important you understand the idea and ways to use pauses in lines. Technical terminology is not as important in the short term.
Want to write love poems? Unless you are writing to give to a specific person you need to find an edge a new angle. Telling someone you love them they are perfect has been so overdone that it is boring. You need a new angle, so much of love poetry has been overdone it has become hackneyed and clichéd.
Don’t reach for a host of clichés to describe your love, think about going back to the emotions you want to portray that you want to hook your reader into. Does the reader want to hear I love you because you are perfect, I love you because you are beautiful, will they care? The sun and moon are in love with you – really? I will die without you.
Probably not! Most readers know in truth we are imperfect human beings and we love other imperfect human beings and it is sometimes those imperfections that make us love or endear that person to us. We all know that love is not perfect that love is a roller coaster! (cliche) That the first flush of romantic love changes to something different and deeper. That love isn’t roses and champagne it might be be there are tensions, obstacles and its the handling of them that is the fulcrum of a lasting love.
Poetry is not a fairy story its also not about how we feel – its perhaps about how we feel about what we feel.
Poetry should have some authencity and many love poems fail because they are flights of fancy with no basis in fact. If your love poem is going to appeal to the reader as a perfect dream as the fantasy they wish love was then it’s got to work exceptionally well like the best love songs that stay in your head and make you yearn for that undefinable something.
Like any good poem a love poem needs to hook the reader and hold them, excite them. Telling the reader my heart gallops when I see him/her, I would die for her will most likely have your reader thinking ‘whatever’ and moving on, it would not make them give it to everyone to read, they wouldn’t wake in the night thinking of your lines and this dear poet is the essence of a great poet.
All good poetry needs an unfolding story, it might be a tiny moment in time but it should unfold take the reader somewhere. Readers need to connect to the narrator, or the subject of the poem. If someone is being adored I want to know why what is it about that person, if they are beautiful I want to know what that means. The reader needs to care.
Read some great love poetry.