Something Beyond Words

I recognize that poetry, among the writing disciplines, is probably the most subjective. The commentary and feedback I’ve received from contest entries gives a wide range of reasons WHY the piece in question was not worthy of a prize. Largely, I read comments regarding strong imagery. I respect and accept the comments, knowing full well I could enter the same piece the following year and a new judge might feel differently.

But some 25 years ago, I was associated with fellow poets Joe Gallo and Cathy Coley in Boston where the poetry scene was lively and engaging. Our discussions revolved around our respective readings and how they related to our own work. Prosody, versification, word choice were all intensely discussed. Rhythm was as important as rhyme (or off-rhyme). The SOUND of the poem was highly significant.

Consider the Latin word “carmen” which primarily signifies “verse” (as in the Carmina Burana). The word itself is derived from the root meaning “to sing” and, as such, carmen could mean “song” as well. The word we use to designate a verse could also mean a song.

I have come to see contemporary poetry running alongside the visual arts, whether painting or sculpture or even graphic design. What we can see is vastly more important. Accordingly, we want our poetry to create a visual sensation. But why not close your eyes and listen, allow the poem to create a mood, perhaps a biorhythm which you can feel innately?

One of the things Joe Gallo referenced was poetry that went beyond words. However he meant it, I took it as meaning the creation of a sensation not exclusively linked to what we can see. While I admire young poets creating vistas of imagination and exuding colors and textures, I would like to encounter someone who pays as much attention to form (even old forms that are rarely used or considered) to dispatch a wave that can only be felt and not seen.

Perhaps that poet is out there. I will keep looking.

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