Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Repetition, Music, Poetry

In Aeon Magazine there is a fascinating article on repetition and music. In it the author notes that people consider repeated sounds as more musical. More, repeated words become more like songs.  And by extension, more like poetry.

What this implies, then, is that Fred Turner is right about poetry in, well, everything he has written about poetry. Poetry is repetition. It is repeated sounds, repeated rhythms, repeated words, repeated structures. This would also explain why some forms of poetry involve repeated lines.

Sonnets, for example, have repeated sounds in the end rhymes and in the iambic pentameter rhythms.

With ghazals there is the repetition of the end phrase.

Then there is the villanelle, in which we have entire lines repeated.

But if we take a poem like In the Multiverse, one may wonder how it is any different from prose simply cut up into lines. Well, first, the poem is in iambic pentameter lines, so there is that level of repetition. But it is blank verse, so sound repetition seems gone. But note that there are in fact several repetitions of sentence patterns:

"If there are..." is repeated. "In some," is repeated. And "And, [gerund]," is repeated. Parallelism such as this is a kind of repetition, and is not uncommon in poetry -- see for example the Psalms.

Is non-repetitive poetry even possible? If not, what do we make of the works out there called poetry but do not have repetition? Are they merely prose with line breaks?

The writer who wants to successfully move his audience is one who will use repetition. If you want to make memorable works, you have to use repetition. If you want your work -- poem, prose, play -- to embed itself in the minds of your readers, you have to use repetition. With repetition, your reader, viewer, listener will go away with you forever in their minds.
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