December 10, 2010

Poetry is Everywhere (Part I)

        It's funny that people often seem to think they don't know much poetry or that poetry is irrelevant to everyday life, because in fact poetry is everywhere.
   Hey diddle, diddle, the cat and the
   The cow jumped over the moon…

        That's poetry.
   Roses are red, violets are blue…

   There was an old man with a beard...

   I before e, except after c.

        Even such sayings as A penny saved is a penny earned and A stitch in time saves nine are framed with the cadence of poetry.
        And then there are songs.
   Hark! The herald angels sing,
   "Glory to the newborn king!"...

          Do you ever feel like a plastic
                  drifting through the wind
          Wanting to start again?
          Do you ever feel so paper thin, like a house of cards
          One blow from caving in?
   Hello darkness, my old friend, I've come to talk with you again,
   Because a vision softly creeping left its seeds while I was sleeping,
   And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains
   Within the sound of silence...
             Double your pleasure, double your fun,
             It's the right one, the Doublemint gum!

        Of course many of these jingles and popular songs aren't very good poems, but they still make use of the manipulations of language that turn words into poetry: rhythm, rhyme, metaphor, repetition, and so on.  For whatever reason, the human brain seems to be hardwired to respond to language like this.  I don't know whether people have studied why we like poetry so much, but I'd sure be interested in hearing some theories about it.
        Poetry is some of the first language we hear, in the form of nursery rhymes and lullabies, poetry is one of the firmest ways things stick in our heads in the form of mnemonic rhymes and advertising jingles, and poetry is in all the songs we listen to on the radio or sing in the shower.  Poetry is in the psalms and hymns at church, in the greeting cards we receive, in the jump-rope rhymes at the playground, and in many of the proverbs and clichés we repeat to each other.  Poetry is everywhere.  Think about all that poetry and consider whether you can really imagine a world that didn't have any.

       And speaking of imagining worlds, what about poetry in fantasy?  Tune in next time…

[Picture: Hey, Diddle Diddle! rubber block print by AEGN, 2001.]

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