Of Poetry Movements

by Giorgia (’14)

(Last year, when the class of ’14 were sophomores, CWI studied groups of Movements throughout history, and on top of writing responses to each Movement, reflected on each group’s causes, characteristics, and effects in the poetry of the modern world.)

In creative writing I find we often have a very narrow view of poetry, accepting it only as one type of writing that conveys a very limited message using constrained images and form. While most of the poetry we read and discussed from our anthology last week are not poems that resonate on a personal level with me, I found that they greatly broadened my appreciation for poetry as a massive body of work with many genres inside, rather than one genre in itself.

Especially with my group, the Vienna Group, I realized the incredibly fluid definition of poetry, and how tied it is to the language it is being written in and the language’s and region it is being written in’s dialects. One thing might resonate as the “truest” words ever written with one person and it might seem contrived and shallow to another. That said, one does not have to speak the language or be a part of the culture in which a poem was written for it to resonate. This ties to the essay we also read last week in which the woman being interviewed discussed the idea of a collective consciousness—of poetry from one place reaching deep into the heart of a person from another; African women who had been forced to run away from their villages under fear of death marveled at a white American woman’s ability to communicate their own experiences, but her poem was a response to an entirely different experience and image, and yet, poetry tied the two of them together unconsciously.

This allows us to proceed to the idea of the “musilanguage” discussed in that same essay—the idea that there was a language of sounds charged with emotions that existed before the concept of structured spoken language we have today, and grammar. The idea that one can glean emotion and meaning from something even if they do not understand what it says or if it has no words is derived from this. I can connect these ideas to those found in visual art and classical and instrumental music, as well as other languages the audience or “experiencer” does not speak. For example, I attend capoeira and in the Rhoda we sing in Portuguese. I only understand a handful of words (mostly nouns) in Portuguese and yet I glean a particular meaning and resonance from these songs. Often when we discuss what they mean or their history, I will find my personal interpretations free from their literal, Portuguese-to-English translations will not be so different.

In my own writing however, I have found that the schools of poetry we studied and the essay did not have a great effect. They have effected my thinking and the way in which I see and read (which I’m sure indirectly effect my writing), but I have found that Thomas Hardy, a poet I have always carried close, whom I have chosen for the Ponder-a-Poet project and have been reading him intensely and exclusively, is having a profound effect on my writing. In the poems I wrote over the weekend and workshopped, I saw the way in which his work has enhanced my voice and effected my word choice and image refinement, allowing me to communicate ideas with a precision I never have before. It is, quite frankly, remarkable, and makes me glad I chose Hardy rather than any of the other poets I have been considering. The simplicity of his verse cuts deep into one’s own personal sentiments (some one might not even be aware of) and traverse his era in an astonishing way. This way I have connected (and learned by heart) several of his poems although they were written in the late nineteenth century goes back to the idea from the interview of a collected consciousness. It makes me ponder even further the idea of the musilanguage and consider something even beyond that. People often say psychic energy connects people, that animals have it, etc. that we are linked through the mind in channels of emotion, and reading something, pausing, and thinking “How did they know?” just as the African woman asked of the white woman’s poem, demonstrates the fact that poetry is a basis of humanity, a language within a language that transverses what we identify as spoken word and encompasses both music and visual art and unifies us all, across culture, time, and place.