PsyArt: An Online Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts
If a critic, in despair of giving a serious definition of poetry, should be . the instrument counts as well as the meaning—poetry is speech for its. Stephen Burt: What is the social function of poetry? Well, what is the social function of ER nursing? Of plumbing and carpentry? Whatever you. Horace (following Aristotle) posited the educational function of poetry as a . Well-lighted Place' by Ernest Hemingway; and four a newspaper report: . and writers 'share' text, but both seek to use this relationship in different ways. . P1 recognises the poem's richness of potential meaning: 'There might be.
Science and common sense are themselves in their way poets of no mean order, since they take the material of experience and make out of it a clear, symmetrical, and beautiful world; the very propriety of this art, however, has made it common. Its figures have become mere rhetoric and its metaphors prose. Yet, even as it isa scientific and mathematical vision has a higher beauty than the irrational poetry of sensation and impulse, which merely tickles the brain, like liquor, and plays upon our random, imaginative lusts.
The imagination of a great poet, on the contrary, is as orderly as that of an astronomer, and as large; he has the naturalist's patience, the naturalist's love of detail and eye trained to see fine gradations and essential lines; he knows no hurry; he has no pose, no sense of originality; he finds his effects in his subject, and his subject in his inevitable world.
Resembling the naturalist in all this, he differs from him in the balance of his interests; the poet has the concreter mind; his visible world wears all its colours and retains its indwelling passion and life. Instead of studying in experience its calculable elements, he studies its moral values, its beauty, the openings its offers to the soul: This supreme function of poetry is only the consummation of the method by which words and imagery are transformed into verse.
As verse breaks up the prosaic order of syllables and subjects them to recognizable and pleasing measure, so poetry breaks up the whole prosaic picture of experience to introduce into it a rhythm more congenial and intelligible to the mind.
And in both these cases the operation is essentially the same as that by which, in an intermediate sphere, the images rejected by practical thought, and the emotions ignored by it, are so marshalled as to fill the mind with a truer and intenser consciousness of its memorable experience.
The poetry of fancy, of observation, and of passion moves on this intermediate level; the poetry of mere sound and virtuosity is confined to the lower sphere; and the highest is reserved for the poetry of the creative reason. But one principle is present throughout—the principle of Beauty—the art of assimilating phenomena, whether word, images, emotions, or systems of ideas, to the deeper innate cravings of the mind.
Let us now dwell a little on this higher function of poetry and try to distinguish some of its phases. The creation of characters is what many of us might at first be tempted to regard as the supreme triumph of the imagination. If we abstract, however, from our personal tastes and look at the matter in its human and logical relations, we shall see, I think, that the construction of characters is not the ultimate task of poetic fiction.
- The Elements and Function of Poetry
- Finding the Words to Say It: The Healing Power of Poetry
A character can never be exhaustive of our materials: It is, therefore, not by characterization as such that the ultimate message can be rendered. The poet can put only a part of himself into any of his heroes, but the must put the whole into his noblest work. A character is accordingly only a fragmentary unity; fragmentary in respect to its origin—since it is conceived by enlargement, so to speak, of a part of our own being to the exclusion of the rest—and fragmentary in respect to the object it presents, since a character must live in an environment and be appreciated by contrast and by the sense of derivation.
Not the character, but its effects and causes, is the truly interesting thing. Thus in master poets, like Homer and Dantethe characters, although well drawn, are subordinate to the total movement and meaning of the scene.
There is indeed something pitiful, something comic, in any comprehended soul; souls, like other things, are only definable by their limitations. We feel instinctively that it would be insulting to speak of any man to his face as we should speak of him in his absence, even if what we say is in the way of praise: In the construction of ideal characters, then, the imagination is busy with material—particular actions and thoughts—which suggest their unification in persons; but the characters thus conceived can hardly be adequate to the profusion of our observations, nor exhaustive, when all personalities are taken together, of the interest of our lives.
Characters are initially imbedded in life, as the gods themselves are originally imbedded in Nature. Poetry must, therefore, to render all reality, render also the background of its figures, and the events that condition their acts. We must place them in that indispensable environment which the landscape furnishes to the eye and the social medium to the emotions.
The visible landscape is not a proper object for poetry. Its elements, and especially the emotional stimulation which it gives, may be suggested or expressed in verse; but landscape is not thereby represented in its proper form: Painting, architecture, and gardening, with the art of stage setting, have the visible landscape for their object, and to those arts we may leave it. But there is a sort of landscape larger than the visible, which escapes the synthesis of the eye; it is present to that topographical sense by which we always live in the consciousness that there is a sea, that there are mountains, that the sky is above us, even when we do not see it, and that the tribes of men, with their different degrees of blamelessness, and scattered over the broad-backed earth.
This cosmic landscape poetry alone can render, and it is no small part of the art to awaken the sense of it at the right moment, so that the object that occupies the centre of vision may be seen in its true lights, coloured by its wider associations, and dignified by its felt affinities to things permanent and great.
As the Italian masters were wont not to paint their groups of saints about the Virgin without enlarging the canvas, so as to render a broad piece of sky, some mountains and rivers, and nearer, perhaps, some decorative pile; so the poet of larger mind envelops his characters in the atmosphere of Nature and history, and keeps us constantly aware of the world in which they move.Mila Cuda & Jessica Romoff - "Exes"
The distinction of a poet—the dignity and humanity of his thought—can be measured by nothing, perhaps, so well as by the diameter of the world in which he lives; if he is supreme, his vision, like Dante's, always stretches to the stars.
And Virgila supreme poet sometimes unjustly belittled, shows us the same thing in another form; his landscape is the Roman universe, his theme the sacred springs of Roman greatness in piety, constancy, an law.
He has not written a line in forgetfulness that he was a Roman; he loves country life and its labours because he sees in it the origin and bulwark of civic greatness; he honours tradition because it gives perspective and momentum to the history that ensues; he invokes the gods, because they are symbols of the physical and moral forces by which Rome struggled to dominion.
Almost every classic poet has the topographical sense; he swarms with proper names and allusions to history and fable; if an epithet is to be thrown in anywhere to fill up the measure of a line, he chooses instinctively an appellation of place or family; his wine is not read, but Samian; his gorges are not deep, but are the gorges of Haemus; his songs are not sweet, but Pierian.
We may deride their practice as conventional, but they could far more justly deride ours as insignificant. Conventions do not arise without some reason, and genius will know how to rise above them by a fresh appreciation if their rightness, and will feel no temptation to overturn them in favour of personal whimsies.
The ancients found poetry not so much in sensible accidents as in essential forms and noble associations; and this fact marks very clearly their superior education. They dominated the world as we no longer dominate it, and lives, as we are too distracted to live, in the presence if the rational and the important.
A physical and historical background, however, is of little moment to the poet in comparison with that other environment of his characters—the dramatic situations in which they are involved. The substance of poetry is, after all, emotion; and if the intellectual emotion of comprehension and the mimetic one of impersonation are massive, they are not so intense as the appetites and other transitive emotions of life; the passions are the chief basis of all interests, even the most ideal, and the passions are seldom brought into play except by the contact of man with man.
The various forms of love and hate are only possible in society, and to imagine occasions in which these feelings may manifest all their inward vitality is the poet's function—one in which he follows the fancy of every child, who puffs himself out in his day-dreams into an endless variety of heroes and lovers. The thrilling adventures which he craves demand an appropriate theatre; the glorious emotions with which he bubbles over must at all hazards find or feign their correlative objects.
But the passions are naturally blind, and the poverty of the imagination, when left alone, is absolute. The passions may ferment as they will, they never can breed an idea out of their own energy.
This idea must be furnished by the senses, by outward experience, else the hunger of the soul will gnaw its own emptiness for ever. Where the seed of sensation has once fallen, however, the growth, variations, and exuberance of fancy may be unlimited.
Only we still observe as in the child, in dreams, and in the poetry of ignorant or mystical poets that the intensity of inwardly generated visions does not involve any real increase in their scope or dignity. The inexperienced mind remains a thin mind, no matter how much its vapours may be heated and blown about by natural passion. It was a capital error in Fichte and Schopenhauer to assign essential fertility to the will in the creation of ideas.
They mistook, as human nature will do, even when at times it professes pessimism, an ideal for a reality: A man who thinks clearly will see that such self-determination of a will is inconceivable, since what has no external relation and no diversity of structure cannot of itself acquire diversity of functions.
Such inconceivability, of course, need not seem a great objection to a man of impassioned inspiration; he may even claim a certain consistency in positing, on the strength of his preference, the inconceivable to be a truth. The alleged fertility of the will is, however, disproved by experience, from which metaphysics must in the end draw its analogies and plausibility.
The passions discover, they do not create, their occasions; a fact which is patent when we observe how they seize upon what objects they find, and how reversible, contingent, and transferable the emotions are in respect to their objects. A doll will be loved instead of a child, a child instead of a lover, God instead of everything.
The differentiation of the passions, as far as consciousness is concerned, depends on the variety of the objects of experience—that is, on the differentiation of the senses and of the environment which stimulates them. When the "infinite" spirit enters the human body, it is determined to certain limited forms of life by the organs which it wears; and its blank potentiality becomes actual in thought and deed, according to the fortunes and relations of its organism.
Poetry as music | Jacket2
The ripeness of the passions may thus precede the information of the mind and lead to groping in by-paths without issue; a phenomenon which appears not only in the obscure individual whose abnormalities the world ignores, but also in the starved, half-educated genius that pours the whole fire of his soul into trivial arts or grotesque superstitions. The hysterical forms of music and religion are the refuge of an idealism that has lost its way; the waste and failures of life flow largely in those channels.
The carnal temptations of youth are incidents of the same maladaptation, when passions assert themselves before the conventional order of society can allow them physical satisfaction, and long before philosophy or religion can hope to transform them into fuel for its own sacrificial flames.
Hence flows the greatest opportunity of fiction. We have, in a sense, an infinite will; but we have a limited experience, an experience sadly inadequate to exercise that will either in its purity or its strength. To give form to our capacities nothing is required by the appropriate occasion; this the poet, studying the world, will construct for us out of the materials of his observations.
He will involve us in scenes which lie beyond the narrow lane of our daily ploddings; he will place us in the presence of important events, that we may feel our spirit rise momentarily to the height of his great argument. The possibilities of love or glory, of intrigue and perplexity, will be opened up before us; if he gives us a good plot we can readily furnish the characters, because each of them will be the realization of some stunted potential self of our own.
It is by the "plot, then, that" the characters will be vivified, because it is by the plot that our own character will be expanded into its latent possibilities. The description of an alien character can serve this purpose only very imperfectly; but the presentation of the circumstances in which that character manifests itself will make description unnecessary, since our instinct will supply all that is requisite for the impersonation.
Thus it seems that Aristotle was justified in making the plot the chief element in fiction: This idealization is, of course, partial and merely relative to the particular adventure in which we imagine ourselves engaged. But in some single direction our will finds self-expression, and understands itself; runs through the career which it ignorantly covered, and gathers the fruits and the lesson of that enterprise.
This is the essence of tragedy: An episode, however lurid, is not a tragedy in this nobler sense, because it does not work itself out to the end; it pleases without satisfying, or shocks without enlightening. This enlightenment, I need hardly say, is not a matter of theory or of moral maxims; the enlightenment by which tragedy is made sublime is a glimpse into the ultimate destinies of our will. This discovery need not be an ethical gain—Macbeth and Othello attain it as much as Brutus and Hamlet—it may serve to accentuate despair, or cruelty, or indifference, or merely to fill the imagination for a moment without much affecting the permanent tone of the mind.
But without such a glimpse of the goal of a passion the passion has not been adequately read, and the fiction has served to amuse us without really enlarging the frontiers of our ideal experience. Memory and emotion have been played upon, but imagination has not brought anything new to the light.
The dramatic situation, however, gives us the environment of a single passion, of life in one of its particular phases; and although a passion, like Romeo's love, may seem to devour the whole soul, and its fortunes may seem to be identical with those of the man, yet much of the man, and the best part of him, goes by the board in such a simplification.
If Leonardo da Vinci, for example, had met in his youth with Romeo's fate, his end would have been no more ideally tragic than if he had died at eighteen of a fever; we should be touched rather by the pathos of what he had missed, than by the sublimity of what he had experienced. A passion like Romeo's, compared with the ideal scope of human thought and emotion, is a thin dream, a pathological crisis. Accordingly Aristophanes, remembering the original religious and political functions of tragedy, blushes to see upon the boards a woman in love.
When carried to a ridiculous extreme, it becomes the pathetic fallacy e. Nims cited two lines from Sara Teasdale as an example: But its frequent occurrence called animism in the speech of young children aged two to seven Piaget, and in the mythology and poetry of preliterate peoples Frazer, points to right-hemispheric involvement, as neither of these populations is left-dominant for language a fact to be discussed in greater detail later in this paper.
Among the examples in poetry that he cited are T. Bogen tested split-brain patients for their ability to feel just one part of an object with either the right or left hand, then guess what the whole object must be by pointing to the correct picture.
Among the poetic examples Nims gave of each are the following: What all of these devices have in common is their essential ambiguity: Patients with right-hemispheric damage, Stemmer et al.
Poetry as music
With their intact left hemispheres, they are fully able to comprehend literal and semantic meaning, but not indirect requests, inferences, irony, and other forms of nonliteral meaning in verbal and written language. Pictures were used to provide contextual cues showing the correct meaning of the indirect request e. Nevertheless, the right-brain-damaged subjects chose the incorrect, literal interpretations of the requests significantly more often than subjects in the other groups.
A study by Kaplan et al. The comment could be either positive or negative, and the person making the comment could be either a friend or an enemy of the performer. The right-brain- damaged subjects had no problems in interpreting positive remarks about positive performances or negative remarks about negative performances, but they ran into difficulties in interpreting the motive of the commenter when the remark was at odds with the performance i.
Clearly, all of these results point to right-hemispheric involvement in the processing of ambiguous messages with nonliteral meanings. In oral cultures, the lyric poem is expressive of a single overriding emotional state, and it is sung or chanted to musical accompaniment. Zaidel reported that the disconnected left hemispheres of split-brain patients were similarly unable to interpret the emotional quality of spoken sentences.
Similar defects have been discovered in the ability of the left hemisphere, on its own, to interpret the emotions revealed in facial expressions or pictures.
Left-hemisphere-damaged patients scored quite close to normal subjects, while right-hemisphere-damaged patients including two who had post-stroke verbal IQs of andrespectively scored an average of two standard deviations below normal. They also had the patients view a photograph of a face depicting an emotion, then select from four test photographs the same emotion as expressed on the face of a different person.
Once again, right-hemisphere- damaged patients scored significantly lower than left-hemisphere-damaged patients. Persons with right-hemispheric damage are also grossly deficient in their ability to express emotion. The ability to convey emotional affect by means of supplementary hand gestures while speaking is also lacking in right-hemisphere-damaged patients Ross and Mesulam, When they do manage to convey emotional affect, that affect is often at odds with their semantically conveyed meaning or reported emotional state; for example, the patient might laugh while reporting that a parent is dying Dimond,cited in Cook, ; Ross, ; Wapner et al.
The insertion of off-colour remarks into inappropriate situations is also common in the right-hemisphere-damaged population Gainotti, ; Gardner, Conversely, patients with left-hemispheric damage can usually still gesture to convey emotionalmeaning Jackson, ; Critchley,although their ability to gesture to convey semantic meaning i.
Normal, right-handed individuals express emotion more intensely on the left side of their faces controlled by the right brain than on the opposite side, whether the emotion is positive or negative, genuine or staged Sackeim and Gur, ; Heller and Levy, ; Moskovitch and Olds, ; Borod et al.
Nims then went on to explain that when the speaker of the poem: The horse connotes an outdoor life of wandering, adventure, and peril; the saddle connotes homelessness, discomfort, and hardship; the knife, passion and violence. The objects for which he would like to trade connote safety, comfort, and settled domesticity. The evidence obtained from research into denotation, connotation, and laterality is quite clear: They included a small group of patients with right-brain damage in the study only to serve as controls, together with a group of non-brain-damaged subjects.
However, the six rightbrain- damaged patients behaved bizarrely when asked to take the connotation portion of the test; all six of them voiced objections to it, two of the six refused outright to take it, and a third could not complete it. The three who managed to complete the test performed worse than some of the aphasics, although the test population was too small for the results to have been statistically significant.
But the serendipitous finding alerted researchers to a possible link between the right hemisphere and the processing of connotative meanings. And, the following year, Zurif et al. InBrownell et al.
Once again, subjects were asked to select the two most similar words from groups of three. The researchers found that, whereas normal subjects were flexible in their ability to use either denotation or connotation as a grouping strategy: In contrast, left-hemisphere-damaged patients exhibited a preserved sensitivity to connotation as well as a selective insensitivity to denotative aspects of meaning. Cook pointed out that the corpus callosum which connects the right and left hemispheres can send inhibitory signals as well as excitation signals i.
He postulated that, while a word such as farm and all of its connotations tractor, manure, harvest, etc. Whichever model proves to be the most accurate, there is no disputing the laterality of denotation and connotation. They symbolize such abstractions as spiritual ascent, vitality, time. A lion is a symbol for fierceness or courage; a fox, for cunning; a rock, for firmness; a torch, for learning.
Light is a symbol for knowledge; darkness for ignorance. Symbol processing seems to consist of the activation of a visual image plus the activation of connotative concepts associated with that visual image — both of which are right-hemispheric functions. It is suggested that researchers devise one or more studies of symbol comprehension among right-brain-damaged, left-braindamaged, and normal control populations to put this hypothesis to a test.
Assonance Vowel sounds differ from consonant sounds in that the flow of breath is not blocked or restricted—only shaped by the general configuration of tongue, lips, and open mouth.
Poetry as Right-Hemispheric Language
Although consonant sounds are pronounced by singers, it is the vowel sounds of the words in musical lyrics that are truly sung with appropriate pitch and duration. The repetition of the same vowel sound in words of close proximity within a poem is known as assonance, and it is a device that is virtually universal to poetry Adams, a. Nims cited two examples of assonance from the poetry of Sylvia Plath: Citing Tallal et al.
Alliteration The repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of two or more words or syllables in close proximity is called alliteration. However, there appear to be some interesting exceptions to this general rule.
Furthermore, alliteration in poetry often occurs in syllables that are stressed, which also lengthens syllable duration—and stress, pitch, and rhythm together define the prosody see below of speech, which is a function dependent upon the right brain for recognition and comprehension.
Ivry and Lebby demonstrated that the right hemisphere is able to differentiate between consonant-vowel syllables that differ in place of voicing by using lower-frequency cues, although it cannot employ such cues in order to distinguish place of articulation.
Citing Van Lancker and Fromkinthey further suggested that laterality of speech-sound processing may depend upon the meaningfulness of the sound. In support of this hypothesis, one split-brain patient studied by Zaidel and Peters was able, using his right hemisphere only, to match some printed words to pictures of things that began with the same letter as the given word; he was also able to utter the beginning letter sound but not the rest of the word out loud.
Onomatopoeia Onomatopoeia is the term used to describe a word that sounds like the noise its referent emits, or the noise it is associated with, in nature. An environmental sound is an event, an entity, a thing, and the right brain recognizes it as such, quite unlike a random syllable in a given stream of speech-sounds, which is a mere signifier relative to other signifiers.
Theoretically, the right hemisphere should be able to recognize a word-sound that mimics an environmental sound, although this remains to be tested. Rhyme Rhyme in poetry most often refers to end-rhyme, which occurs when two words at the ends of poetic lines in close proximity share the same medial vowel and final consonantal sounds, but have differing initial consonantal sounds Brogan, a.
Native English speakers may certainly be excused for assuming that rhyme—like assonance, alliteration, simile and metaphor, and other devices— is universal to poetry, but the fact is that it is not. Greenway found it to be rare in the poetry of preliterate cultures, and Whitehall found that very few of the thousands of languages spoken in the world virtually all of which have produced poetry employ rhyme as a poetic device.
Finnegan identified a link between the development of rhyme in a given oral poetic tradition and the presence of a written literary tradition in close proximity to it. Repetition of word sounds and assonance q. It should therefore come as no surprise that the left hemisphere, and not the right, appears to be dominant for determining whether two printed words rhyme with each other review in Rayman and Zaidel, Instead, he moved dramatically away from the prosaic mundanities of marriage in his final work, The Unknown Eroswhere the poet seems to have been reconverted to the courtly religion of love, offering straight the attitude he had mocked in The Angel in the House: True, such imagery is no longer deployed in the service of adulterous passion; instead, Patmore's late odes offer a vision of nuptial bliss: Patmore's late poem may be couched in Marian language, but it strongly conveys that pagan sense of existential halfness described by Aristophanes in the Symposium.
Nothing reflects his retreat from the ins and outs of wedded life more clearly than this; Patmore's vision of transcendent love appears to be born out of a Platonic distaste for the merely physical, dissipating consummations of earthly existence: I, while the shop-girl fitted on The sand-shoes, look'd where, down the bay, The sea glow'd with a shrouded sun.
Her gentle step, to go or come, Gains her more merit than a martyrdom; And, if she dance, it doth such grace confer As opes the heaven of heavens to more than her, And makes a rival of her worshipper. To die unknown for her were little cost! Selected Poemsp. Answers the iron to the magnet's breath; What do they feel But death! The clouds of summer kiss in flame and rain, And are not found again; But the heavens themselves eternal are with fire Of unapproach'd desire, By the aching heart of Love, which cannot rest, In blissfullest pathos so indeed possess'd.
Perhaps the poetry of attachment is more likely to be found in the celebrated records of loss and mourning collected in the first part of The Unknown Eros.
This was the example that Thomas Hardy followed when writing his own widower's sequence in —13, yet the comparison reminds us that only certain aspects of the marital relationship echo in the poetic imagination. Patmore's loss does not bring back such intense memories, but the creative flames that it ignites draw less sustenance from recollections of the familiar presence of the loved one than from her tantalising absence; this love poetry does not mourn the passing of comfortable attachment so much as cry out — somewhat melodramatically in this case — impassioned lack: Again, like Hardy, loss has transformed the familiar woman into an absent erotic ideal: The agonising sensation of existential halfness, and the aspiration towards some kind of spiritual union, appears more intense and poetically stimulating to Patmore than mere conjugal relations could ever be; it is no coincidence that the most authentic experience of physical passion communicated in this sequence occurs within a dream: And it was like your great and gracious ways To turn your talk on daily things, my Dear, Lifting the luminous, pathetic lash To let the laughter flash, Whilst I drew near, Because you spoke so low that I could scarcely hear.
But all at once to leave me at the last, More at the wonder than the loss aghast, With huddled, unintelligible phrase, And go your journey of all days With not one kiss, or a good-bye, And the only loveless look the look with which you pass'd: Till 'gan to stir A dizzy somewhat in my troubled head — It was the azalea's breath, and she was dead! Coventry Patmore took not only the adulterous intent out of love poetry, then, he ultimately took the flesh and blood out of it altogether, leaving us with visions of disembodied passion rather than records of attachment.
The chief poetic witness to the Christian marriage ceremony turns out to have been a high priest of eros.