12.23.2004

The Poetics of Design, Part 4: TEXTURE & RHYTHM

TEXTURE, in terms of design, is signified through touch. But poetry has textures as well—language itself has a texture. English language involves several linguistic textures. Words of Anglo-Saxon origin create our hardest, roughest sounds—hard stops, labials, etc. Latinate words have a softer texture; they occupy more linguistic space and involve more intricate sounds. Long vowel sounds have a more luxurious texture than short vowel sounds, and special letter combinations like “sh,” “th,” and “ph” have softer texture than “ch,” “st,” and “gl.” The way a poem sounds in terms of texture is a significant source of meaning for the poet and listener because, in some ways, texture is the source of the emotional, non-definitional meaning of words. The difference between SHUT UP and BE QUIET.

RHYTHM is the last design principle relating in this discussion, and is something probably obvious to all poets: the spoken rhythms of language, which so often lend themselves to pattern, comprise rhythm.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Charles,

    Texture as sound. I normally don’t think of poetry in those terms. I like what you’re doing, at least for me, in terms of getting me to think of the nuts and bolts of the poetic engine, that ugly part of structure. I never think of poetry in those terms. I read poems instinctively, yet I hear the patterns of sound and rhythm, perhaps not exactly as you define them—never thinking of precise letter combination sounds, but rather sounds as specific icons or symbols. Very interesting.

    Also, your comments about Anglo-Saxon sounds vis-à-vis Latinized sounds reminds me of reading strong voice poets, say, for comparison’s sake, Eliot and Neruda in their original languages. I haven’t given it much thought but despite the differing sound patterns—harsh vs. soft, etc.—they both sound of strong loud voices. That may bring in rhythm patterns—say like an almost confidence in rhythm. Much to think about. Nice.

    Alberto

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