On Poetry

On Poetry,
An Introduction to Eliza’s Fancy

Dearest Reader,

There was once a time in history when poetry filled so many vast and endless pages of books that one couldn’t step into a family library without the very ink singing in meter and stomping in beat. But those days have long faded, and the rhythm of the song-stories is no longer easy to distinguish, as our ears have grown accustomed to the crashing marches and brass pitches of the ever forward-moving novel. The average book talks, whispers, and occasionally gives a nearly unidentifiable yelp that startles you into confusion, but it rarely flutters its voice in sweet-spun melody. Even modern poetry has exchanged form for freedom, and thus lost that which made it poetry in the first place while still grasping pointlessly on to the word whose meaning it has rejected. Yet because both the novel and the modern poem can be done with such outstanding talent and gripping emotion, they have often brought with them a deriding sneer towards the very literature that paved the way for their rise. For the very first stories that shook the artistic world were poems, set to song, and accompanied with a tapping foot. And when one loses the ability to read music, it seems like a droll mess instead of the framework for a symphony.

It has been to many peoples surprise when I explain that the book herein is written with some semblance of meter, and that I try and use rhythm as a musician would use it. There are verses, choruses, bridges, introductions, codas, and every other structural support found in music both on the radio and in the concert hall. And while I make no assurance that such things are written particularly well or sung with a particularly smooth tone, they are nonetheless composed with a particularly meticulous plan: to make the poetry as natural as possible to a completely untrained reader.

It is my hope, and here is where all criticism of my form should rest, that the beat will flow as naturally as speech while still imparting that sense of structure. To those of you who have not touched poetry since you were forced to stand in class and recite a Shakespearean speech in a manner that would have saddened even Shakespeare, do not try and read this with any forced timing or dramatic bravado (ah, how the ill-trained have ruined the greatest of the Bard’s monologues with the dreary pseudo-beat taught in schools). Such an attempt will only make you lose your interest, as well as your place in the story. Instead, read it as you would a speech: pause where the sentences demand a pause, stress where the words want the stress, and inflect as the emotion imposes inflection.

Though it may take some small amount of practice, know that learning to read as you sing will open up an entirely new world itself filled with a thousand worlds. The greatest fictional works in history have all mixed the quick wit and sharp tongue of a storyteller with the practiced ability to use word-harmonies as they would a piano, striking melodic notes with rhyme and creating thick, heart-rending chords with structure. While I am the least of these, I hope my own simplicity of form will aid in training your mind to work with your ear in singing songs to your soul.

Author

P.S. The only time you may need to speak unnaturally is in the rare cases that -ed endings must be pronounced to maintain the beat. I avoid this as often as I can, but on occasion it becomes a necessary sacrifice to the tidal movement of the song. These will be written with a dash, as in ‘blame-ed’, and are to be pronounced with the -ed as an extra syllable (blame/id).

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