Thursday, December 18, 2008

Speech & Poetry

We know my unshrouded contempt for the claim that 2d art is poetry.

But why?

Here might be an analogue to help:

A painter paints, but then realizes that people, when they are not looking at his paintings, are talking about his paintings.

He says to himself "ah, it is not my painting that people love, it is the experience of my painting they love -- especially the talking about it."

So in order to help people talk about his paintings, he begins to incorporate words on his canvasses. He also starts to include larger and larger explanation placards to give his audience talking points.

One day, he doesn't produce a painting at all, but a large 4x3 white canvas with 16-point type describing a painting that isn't there. Eureka! He has given his fans what they truly want!

Not the painting, not the looking at the painting -- but the shared experience of having thought about looking at the painting -- the water-cooler chat, as it were.

"But," some child says, "you haven't painted anything. You aren't a painter anymore -- this isn't a painting."

"Oh, the ignorance of youth" thinks the painter. "Of course I am a painter, I have just found the essence of painting and given it to my audience."

In all of this,
the "painter" thinks he knows best.
In all of this,
the "painter" ignores the nature of his art.

Painting is eye-candy. As long as colors and shapes are on a canvas, we will look at them. We may talk about them to our friends -- to those who can't see the colors in front of them, but the experience, the purpose of a painting is to see it. No description can do a painting justice.

In the same way,
poetry is ear-candy. We will listen if it sounds good. When we are unable to listen, we may "listen in our heads" by reading the poem -- but the experience of the poem is aural, not visual. When we move away from the aural, we move away from poetry.


Jim Murdoch said...

Couldn't help but think of the artist Robert Indiana when I read this. He's the guy who did the original


painting which he has reproduced hundreds of times along with variations on the same theme.

As for the aural quality of a poem vs its visual qualities your logic sounds reasonable but you can't discount the visual impression of a poem so easily these days. For me the aural aspect of poetry is very much a secondary consideration because I never read the stuff other than in my head and frankly most of it is too short to benefit from reading aloud.

Interesting post mind.

G. M. Palmer said...

Madrid is lousy with his stuff. I've often wondered how to fool a city government into paying me gajillions of dollars to "install" some "poetry."

I'm sure there's a racket there to exploit.

That you never read/experience poetry other than in your head speaks to how far down the "tell-not-show" path we've gotten.

We should be demanding excellent recordings from our poets.

Imagine if Lennon/McCartney only published sheet music.