Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Abstract Poetry

According to the Handbook, "in this type of work, the meaning of the words becomes secondary to their sound."

The first example that comes to mind is Lewis Carrol's "Jabberwocky:" 'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves / Did gyre and gimble in the wabe ...", which is just fun and bouncy to say. There are (if one can call them that) more serious abstract poems, written not to be ridiculous fun but to emphasise or try to get to know the sounds of words apart from their meaning.

Writing abstract poetry is a bit embarrassing. I certainly can't see it producing any Great True Poems, but having dutifully gone through the exercise I think there is value in simply playing around with the way words sound. It helps your ear. It works best when you do it aloud, quickly, without thinking.

Here's what I came up with (I did say it was embarrassing). It's harder than it sounds not to naturally try and make a kind of meaning and order to it:

Oh, anchorite! the slender insolence
of bells sings clinging silver.
Oracles complain from raining pillars
shivering wells echo. Oh! Oh
compline, carol, insular,
consoling. This coracle's inverse
design, the sneering amber
incline, to fragile incorrupt and
un-incarnate, tender.

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