Monday, November 02, 2020

"Here hath been dawning

another blue day, Think wilt thou let it slip useless away? " My morning mantra - Odd how this is so often the first thing that crosses my mind as I struggle up from sleep to consciousness. 

I get a daily email from Merriam-Webster Word of the Day and last week one of the words was rue.  My brain immediately responded - "With rue my heart is laden" - a line from a poem by A.E. Housman. 

And that got me to thinking about memory. I don't think I have one line of poetry in my memory that hasn't been there for at least 65 years - I don't remember (Ha!) the last time a line of poetry has stuck in my head. Why is that? 

We lose short-term memory first, long-term memory is tenacious. That little poem you memorized in kindergarten is with you forever, the contents of your grocery list, not so much.

Then again, we have the rhyming thing. Rhymes are patterns and our brain LOVES patterns. Patterns are short cuts for our lazy brains - the blanks just fill themselves based on a learned pattern. So many memory hacks involve rhyming. 

Which brings me to the topic of poetry (yet again). 

Rhyming is a lost art when it comes to poetry these days. Perhaps that is why I have no new random bits of new poetry in my long-term memory poetry library. Writers of poetry these days, the lauded and published, seem to have a preference for free verse or prose poems - none of which are memorizable. I like my poetry with, at the very least meter - there must be music or, to my unprofessional mind, it is NOT poetry. Chopping thoughts into short lines does not make it poetry. 

Perhaps my prejudice only extends to 'poems' that don't speak to me - on the one hand I very much like Charles Bukowski, I remember the sense and ideas of his poems but not a line of the poems themselves. On the other hand, I don't care for the much lauded and awarded Mary Oliver at all, she bores me. and I find her a bit precious...(as in - insincere).

Making me quite crazy at the moment is trying to remember a particular poem that I once posted on the blog that blew me out of the water and now I can't remember the name of the poem or the poet. I also can't remember one single line but only the sense of it; the concept; the ideas. And no, there was not a rhyme in it.

I actually spent decades tracking a poem, I only remembered there was a line in it about blood running down the walls of Buckingham Palace. I could have sworn it had to be by one of the War Poets instead it was by William Blake, and I mis-remembered the line (the actual line was "And the hapless Soldiers sigh/Runs in blood down Palace walls").  I should have remembered that poem better because it did have an exact rhyme scheme and yet - I guess it was just the one thought/image that stuck with me. 

One of the more annoying rhyme schemes is aabb ccdd etc. What that means is each verse is 4 lines composed of 2 couplets (a couplet is 2 rhyming lines).  This rhyme scheme is to be taken in small doses. Actually it is not the easiest  to master if you want to make sense and not go stretching for a rhyme. I've seen amateur poets use 'old' words (like twas) to make their rhyme and it is just awkward and anachronistic.  This is also called 'sing-song' rhyme and it has its uses - especially when creating a mnemonic device. But even when a master poet uses this scheme it gets old really fast. 

There are so many ways to use rhyme and meter when writing a poem, some very complex and some not readily recognized (like internal rhyme, it's there you might not even notice it except subliminally.)

So - I'll go to my grave believing, nay, insisting, that to be a poem it must have rhythm and meter. And I'll continue to mentally recite bits and pieces of poems from days long gone whilst trying to remember why I walked into a room.

2 comments:

  1. I enjoyed your essay this morning, but I won't be memorizing it!

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