Are you a fan of poetry? I mean, really, who is a “fan” of this form of written expression, other than those who teach its recognized, notable practitioners, and widely scattered followers of this art form among the general public? Now we have poetry “slams” and “spoken word” events, inviting one and all to jump in and verbalize their poems using the most important aspect of such performance: non-verbal communication. That is, the use of the voice and body to enhance the well chosen words that fashion their feelings first given life on a page, be it paper or digital form.

Studies have shown that the take-away from interpersonal communication–that is, the emotional quality of what is being spoken–derives not so much from the words themselves but what did the speaker look and sound like as the words came forth from their mouths. If you simply read off a piece of paper (or follow from a teleprompter) and are a”flat-liner”, giving next to no vocal or physical variety, speaking without much energy, variety or sense of involvement with your story, then the listener is invited to tune you out, which they likely will–and should–do. Those studies peg the percent of impact that measures the received emotional honesty, sincerity, competency, knowledge and trustworthiness of a speaker at 93% non-verbal and a mere 7% verbal. Thus, as with the cliched it’s not you, it’s me assessment of a messy relationship that is about to to fizz away like a dissolving Alka Seltzer tablet in water, it needs to be wrapped effectively in that non-verbal packaging if its going to come across as heartfelt, rather that a flaccid, facile attempt at respectfully walking away from him or her.

Spoken word or slam poetry events can be an effective means of connecting the visceral component of human experience to a listening audience, but I, personally, prefer to have the poem on a page, and let my eyeballs send that poem to my brain and let that neuro-transmission possibly find its way to my heart. It could fall flat or resonate. As for self-professed poets, as one of the greatest modern voices to shape into words what can come to life before one’s eyes, poet/ novelist Charles Bukowski once said There are a lot of poems, but very little of it is poetry.

Here’s one I came across recently. I can’t imagine it being part of a slam or other performance based rendering. It’s imagery, in my estimation, is 100% in its wording. What “performance” of it could further make its message more meaningful?:

I sit up late, dumb as a cow, which is to say

somewhat conscious with thirst and hunger,

an eye for the new moon and the morning’s

long walk to the water tank.

Everywhere around me the birds are waiting for the light.

In this world of dreams, don’t let the clock cut your life in pieces.

Jim Harrison

Does that example of the written word do anything for you? I hope so. It is both a poem and poetry. There’s a vast difference between those two terms although many think they are interchangeable. They are not.

About jharrin4

mass communication/speech instructor at College of DuPage and Triton College in suburban Chicago. Army veteran of the Viet Nam era.
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2 Responses to Poetics

  1. What a beautiful meditation on poetry, how it’s delivered and what it offers. Stunning selection, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Does that example of the written word do anything for you? I hope so.”

    Well written article BUT, I don’t enjoy poetry.
    I’d like to think that when I listen to some speaker that I hear what they are saying and THAT has meaning for me. I hope I’m not influenced by the emotional quality of what has been said but the truth.

    Liked by 1 person

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