As stated in the overview, emotion, rhythm and meaning are building blocks of poetry. In Part 1 we discussed them in relationship to words, now it’s time to think about their relationship to each other.
One of the best examples of this relationship is music. Strip out the lyrics and you are left with rhythm and emotion. Think about the love themes you’ve heard in movies – they’re tender: lyrical. Even without words, they flow around you, they tickle your senses; they leave you wanting more.
Music does that with rhythm and the sound of instruments. In poetry, the rhythm comes from the words you choose and the sound comes from the words themselves, and the reader giving them voice. The meaning of the words themselves become secondary, bridging the gaps and filling in the blanks.
Think about the following in terms of rhythm, emotion and meaning.
I want you
I need you
You are my heart
To give it credit, the meaning is there- right up front, but it falls flat. When I read it, it’s a steady beat with no syncopation and no real soul. It’s full, flat and emotionless, and the first thing I want to do is forget it.
What are your impressions?
Let’s add a few words, mix up the rhythm, and give it a new meaning.
Why would I want you?
How do I need you?
Tell me, you are my heart.
The rhythm’s a little more complicated, and it’s given the words a whole new meaning and emotion. With the additional words, turning it into a question, the emotion and meaning behind it has changed as well. Now I’m asking… and it’s a little more confrontational… or perhaps its looking for confirmation. Asking the reader to help them figure this out.
How about this:
My heart beats
it’s wanting, it’s needing
You, you… always you.
In this one the order changes, and it engages the reader. It gets you to think a little– it mixes things up and yet the message is there, drawing the listener in.
I think that’s actually the answer: it engages not only the readers senses– it engages their mind, it lets the brain work out the meaning and fills them with satisfaction when they do, and the more layers that are in there– the more engaged the reader becomes.
It’s something to think about.