Poetry Pausing

Okay, this is my blog, so I’m gonna whine a little.

In Language Arts class, our teacher had us memorize a poem.  Not a big deal, in fact, it was then that I realized that I am pretty dang good at memorizing poetry.  (I have a linguistic mind, so words=no problem.  However, I just barely know my phone number and house number, and my friends know to remind me of anything calender-related.)

One of my little tricks is to say it aloud as you are reading it, that way you are engaging your auditory memory; if you say something wrong when you aren’t actually looking at it, it will clang, maybe not with your memory, but your ears.  This is especially important for me, an auditory learner.

So I’m sitting there, reading The Path Not Taken out loud, and the teacher has a problem with the way I’m doing it.  See, I’m pausing at the end of every line.  He believes that poetry should sound natural, just like it is being spoken.  So he hates it when I say, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood (pause) and sorry I could not travel both…” because you would never actually pause there if you were simply talking.

I completely disagree.  It’s a stanza, not a paragraph, and should not be read like one, where you pause only at the periods and commas.  I asked my teacher why then, did the poet move to another line, and he responded, “So it looks like a poem.”  Right.

And I’m not pulling my pausing thing out of the blue either.  I know I was told by a teacher, somewhere, sometime, in elementary school, probably the first time we’ve ever done poetry, that one always pauses at the end of each line.  And I like that too, I think it sounds better; it really brings out the rhyme scheme.  True, it doesn’t sound natural, but natural isn’t the goal of poetry really, that’s the goal of prose.

My teacher did defend his argument though.  He showed me a video of a professional reciting the poem, and he didn’t pause at the end of each line.  And the only thing I could respond with was, “Well, he’s wrong.”  professionals can share the same incorrect information as us average Joes.  The funny thing is, later, he was showing us a movie about another poem we had to work with, (Invictus, which I liked much better,) and in one scene, the actor recited the poem, and he truly did pause at the end of every line, save for one.  So there.

My teacher did have one good point though.  He showed my a poem that you really wouldn’t pause at the end of every line.  It was one of those poems where the lines are very short, under five words, and tend to sound a little random.  Firstly, I don’t especially like those kinds of poems anyway; t00 easy to write and no fun to read.  Secondly, my personal opinions aside, I don’t even feel those poems are meant to be read aloud, only to  be viewed.  Pausing or no pausing, it did sound awkward, though I suppose it looked fine.  This is because it is poetry, not a paragraph, and is under no obligation to sound like natural speaking. 

So, how do you feel?  Am I totally off base?

P.S. My favourite poet is Louis Carrol.

2 thoughts on “Poetry Pausing

  1. Joanne Brown says:

    I have heard poetry is more like painting a picture with words.

  2. Not always. That sounds more like imagist poetry, and it has a partner in prose, the descriptive paragraph. I think proper poetry (I don’t consider any poetry that doesn’t do this real poetry) is basically wordplay, so, it includes rhyme and rhythm, or alliteration, things like that. The poet doesn’t write down the first word that comes to mind, as a prose writer does, but focuses on stringing the words together more like a puzzle than a painting, which are usually more free-flowing and impulsive. But, I suppose good poetry (and good paintings) have aspects of both.

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