What Kind of Music is Your Poetry?

Last week I typed out a frantic post equating poetry and essay in a highly convoluted and not particularly articulate manner.  This week I intend to do the same, but plan to add an extra layer of pretension by suggestion that above all, I’d like my poetry to be the music of Mozart.  I say this knowing full well that my essays (in my belief and for what it’s worth) come out as rock ‘n’ roll: jagged phrasing, subversive language against The Man, and a voice akin to a shotgun’s blast.

There’s an element of formal balance to Mozart’s requiem mass that I’d like to be able to emulate in my  poetry.  He knows all the rules and how to use them but bends them to his will.  There’s subtlety and rolling thunder between each well punctuated cadence.  Each movement advances the theme while simultaneously distinguishing itself from the last.

Each phrase is inventive and actively gorgeous in both rhythm and sound.  The prescribed Latin text of the mass is reflected in the sound, the equivalent of form as an extension of content, I suppose.

I don’t necessarily think that this means I should align myself with “The Tradition,” I think that’s a dangerous game.  The idea of following another dead white guy should, frankly, be avoided.  Any viewing, of Amadeus tells us that the royalty often disregarded performances for having too many notes, for being too radical or obscene. This sort of appeals to me.  The balance of tone, the precision of effects.  The rests and swells and reinvention of something that everyone already knows.

I don’t know if this makes sense to everyone.  I’m not sure that it makes sense to me.  Music and poetry aren’t the same thing, music passes moment to moment as the composer decides.  Poetry can choose words that read a little quicker, but we can choose to re-read lines and read them at our own speed.  Symbols can be misinterpreted and rhythm might be missed by imperfect punctuation. But turn on the record and the sounds sound the same to everyone—even if they might not sound as pleasurable.

It is here that I have to ask, what kind of music is your poetry and what would you like it to be?


One Reply to “What Kind of Music is Your Poetry?”

  1. Reading this, William, you must check out Zukofsky’s “A” and other writings. His poetry is experimental but deeply musical and, indeed, symphonic; you will get far more of the musical references then most, although I will say that Zukofsky is at first a blurred experience.

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