The Nymphs are Departed

After the posts on logopoeia and phanopoeia, I guess I have to finish with the third way of “charging” words according to Pound:

Melopoeia, wherein the words are charged, over and above their plain meaning, with some musical property, which directs the bearing or trend of that meaning.

For Pound melopoeia is not the third but the first of the three ways because the special relation music and poetry have. Poems were intended to be actually sung, so it’s clear they had to conform to a specific rhythm, event if it was just to ease the task of memorizing them. This property has been a bit forgotten with the advent of free verse, though “no verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job” as T.S. Eliot said. I think here lies an important point. Free verse cannot be an excuse to hide the musical limitations of a poem, it should be used when the poem needs it, that is, when what the poet wants to say is better said with free verse, because the choice of a specific metric will tie his possibilities and damage the poem.

Continue reading “The Nymphs are Departed”

Tender and Bloody was He

After finishing writing the last post about logopoia I realized I had limited “context” to common ways of speaking, while not taking into account other possibilities as, for example, the syntactic order.

Sadly in this example we meet the curse of Babel but I think people who don’t read Spanish can overcome the difficulties with a bit of effort. The following verses are taken from Amor América in the Canto General of Pablo Neruda

Man was dust, earthen vase, an eyelid
of tremulous loam, the shape of clay —
he was Carib jug, Chibcha stone,
imperial cup or Araucarian silica.
Tender and bloody was he, but on the grip
of his weapon of moist flint,
the initials of the earth were
Continue reading “Tender and Bloody was He”

I had not thought death had undone so many…

As last post was about phanopoeia I thought it might be nice to keep reflecting on Pound’s ways of charging words. So I started digging in my memory in order to try to come up with a good example of logopoeia. But first, lets go back to Pound in  “How to Read” to see his definition:

Logopoeia, “the dance of the intellect among words,” that is to say, it employs words not only for their direct meaning, but it takes count in a special way of habits of usage, of the context we expect to find with the word, its usual concomitants, of its known acceptances, and of ironical play.

That means words can be charged not only by their own meaning but also making use of the context we usually find them in. Words are not isolated species, they live in a context, they are used in certain ways and by changing their natural context we can highlight them and, as a consequence, enhance and expand their meaning. The effect is similar to having an eskimo walking on a caribbean beach… it raises amazement, like “what is he doing there”? Continue reading “I had not thought death had undone so many…”

Trees of Life

O Trees of Life, when is your winter?

That’s the way Rilke chose to open the fourth of the Duino Elegies. I guess if you are able to write a verse like that one, you have already accomplished more than all the myriads of the pseudo-poets going around there…That includes me, of course!

Now, I think it is always interesting is to try to discover the reasons why this verse is great. The answer might lie precisely in the fact that the verse is great in English, in the original German or in whatever language you may translate it to. Its power lies not in rhyme or any other musical quality, but rather in the meaning of the words and the relation between the images those words convey.

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