The Life Of Poetry

The life of poetry lies in her heart that beats, a rhythmic flow with which readers feel and resonate. The rhythm of poetry is a facilitator, which eases pronunciation and utterance such that readers can focus better on the semantic itself. If melody is the semantic of music, then meter is the background instrumental of poetry. The meter of a verse makes it obvious to tell which words to stress and which to downplay. Monosyllabicity still plays an important role in English poetry. If you are looking for a proof of my statement, then you can consult a dictionary where to collect all poetic terms of everyday vocabularies, all of which tend to be longer than their poetic equivalents, such as “valley” turned into “vale” for poetic rendering. This particular example also illustrates a finer point with rhymes, because “valley” is not iambic to serve the purpose of a rhyme, which requires sonority to mark an ending effectively. If rhymes lose their sonority, they lose their purpose as well. You can find the same principle in Chinese poetry, which teaches this lesson explicitly. Exceptions exist, of course. Not all good poems follow rules.

Semantically, the life of poetry lies in her mind that connects and moves. It presents a set of elements in a particular poetic realm where to connect them together through a flowy movement. You can find this easily in both English poetry and Chinese poetry. As you might have already guessed, I am indeed looking for common elements of poetry that exist in almost all human languages to decide what is portable and what is not. Once the largest common denominator is found, we can then look for a mechanical way to translate poems such that poetry can be shared across languages, platforms and cultures. It is not an interesting technological achievement, but it serves as a good exercise through which to understand better the role semantic plays through syntax. It’s not sufficient for meaningful automation yet, but it’s definitely better little than nothing.

A very good example can be taken from iPhone Nostalgia by Rachel Small (, where the elements to connect are underlined.

A song pulses,
reverberates within my soul
As I gaze through rising steam,
Courtesy of a mug of tea
for reflection purposes.
Empty the device of photos . . .
On to another
A fresh start, purging of the past
Two years. Where have they gone?
Onward to the new memories,
Not forgetting the present
In the process
The song changes.
It’s a new one, I‘ve never heard.
A wise purchase.

Her poetry takes a minimalist approach, which you can’t simplify further. If I am to write an equivalent version that serves rhymes, rhythms and counts, it will be much longer, filled with non-functional elements just to make it sound better. And if I decide to cut any element, her poem will be incomplete. This is why I picked her work as an example to illustrate how elements connect by simply highlighting them.

There are two distinct movements in the poem, outside in and top down. From outside in, alternating, you have “a song” to “my soul”, to “rising steam” and “a mug of tea”, to “the device of photos” and “A fresh start”, to “Two years”, to “the new memories” and “the present”, to “The song”, and finally to “A wise purchase”. Top down, alternating, you have “a song” to “my soul”, to “rising steam”, to “a mug of tea”, to “the device of photos”, to “A fresh start” and “the past”, to “Two years”, to “the new memories” and “the present”, to “The song”, and finally to “A wise purchase”. In both cases, the song is the trigger and the key element to represent her old memories, which are to be replaced with the new ones, while it changes at that exactly same moment to reflect her readiness to embrace a new beginning, coined again by her conclusion that the new song is a wise purchase.

A poetic moment is then defined to be a brief period of time when you tune in with a subset of the world you conceive and that which you perceive, which you connect with to make that moment different from others you have lived, in which case you make that moment worthwhile for poetic writing. The connection has to be there, obvious or not.

If you have studied Chinese poetry before, you understand immediately what I am trying to say. I hope I have done a good job in translation and illustration.


About Run Song

Run Song (宋闰) is my pen name for the Moments of Poetry, a collection of poems about the greatest moments of life. If photography captures the greatest moments of life, poetry is the life behind them.
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3 Responses to The Life Of Poetry

  1. Thank you so much for linking to my poem – I’ve never had my writing analyzed that way before. Very fascinating. 🙂


  2. Pingback: The Problem With English | Simply Jet

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