Charles Bukowski

The Misunderstood Aural Art of . . . Poetry

As I mentioned in my post about “The Wheel of Time” fantasy/sci-fi book series, I have a degree in English Literature.  As is also mentioned in that post, I tend to take a bit of an interest whenever anyone starts talking about books, and literature.  Finally, as is further mentioned in that post, that degree, and my interest in pursuing such a degree, has made me a bit of a book snob.  However, as I was revisiting that post, and looking at the authors I mentioned in it, I began thinking about poetry.

Okay, relax, I know what everyone is thinking right now, which is some variation of how poetry is boring, dusty, sullen, sappy, (insert more adjectives here); and, despite my educational background, I can understand why most everyone feels that way.  I mean it is really  hard (not in the absolute difficult sense) to read poetry, and I say that as someone who enjoys dabbling in writing poetry (stay relaxed, I won’t torment you with any of my poems).  However, what if I were to tell you that poetry is not meant to be read.  Wait . . . what?

Poetry IS hard to read – quietly.  That is because it is meant to be heard.  It is, in short, an aural, as well as an oral art, like music; and for all of those out there that dismiss poetry as (insert adjectives here): think of the lyrics to songs, which, for better, or for worse, are essentially poems set to music.  Nonetheless, a poem, though typically not having musical accompaniment, is not meant to just be read, quietly, alone; but spoken aloud, and shared.  I found that I began to understand, and appreciate poetry more once I accepted this, and actually started reading the assigned poets, and their poetry out loud.  I also found that reciting whatever I have written aloud helped me in writing my own poetry (keep cool, I still won’t torment you).  So, I thought what I would do is share some poems being recited aloud (not by me) with everyone.

I’ll start with one of my favorite poems from the English Romantic Era, that being Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan – Or a Vision in a Dream:”

For many though, that is still just old and stodgy, I mean it was written in 1797 afterall, so let’s jump into the 20th century, 1951 to be exact, and listen to Dylan Thomas recite one of his mater works, “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night:”

Still too old and stodgy?  How about Charles Bukoski, and his 1992 published poem, “Bluebird:”

Still not new enough?  Well, how about this 12 year old poet prodigy, Kioni “Popcorn” Marshall, and her 21st century poem “Forgotten:”

Of course those are just the tiniest tip of the iceberg in the world of poetry, and damn if Kioni doesn’t make me feel decidedly useless in my poetic attempts (at ease, I’m still not going to torment you), I could have/should have included Pablo Neruda, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allen Poe,  the bard himself, Shakespeare, Matsou Basho, Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, and the list goes on and on and on. Poetry is not dead, nor is it dying.  It is definitely under appreciated, and even utterly dismissed more times than not, but I contend that is because the art of poetry is misunderstood (by many) as small bits of silent literature, read alone in darkened English manors; or tucked deep in the darkest bowels of libraries, and relegated to the tiniest of shelf space of bookstores everywhere.  Too many think that poems are bleeding heart bits of romantic drivel, but there are happy poems, and angry poems; abstract poems, and rhythmic poems, regardless of the style though, a poem is better to be heard and seldom understood if simply read.  The words on the page can only, at times, convey the poets meaning, force, and intonation, but those words, like all words, mean more when they are spoken.  So, next time you see a poem, try reading it aloud, even if it is just in a whisper, you might be surprised at how those words might make more sense and, you should pick up on the tempo of the poem too, and maybe, just maybe, you might like what you just said (not read).

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