06 April 2011

The shape of meaning

"Is all verse poetry or all poetry verse? - Depends on definitions of both. Poetry is speech framed for contemplation of the mind by the way of hearing or speech framed to be heard for its own sake and interest even over and above its interest of meaning. Some matter and meaning is essential to it but only as an element necessary to support and employ the shape which is contemplated for its own sake."
-Gerard Manley Hopkins, from "Poetry and Verse"

I posted this earlier. I am still divided. Hopkins privileges form over content - a decidedly modernist notion. My ambivalence stems from the fact that unless you speak in a foreign language, the meaning of the language cannot be ignored. Further, even in a foreign language, that meaning is communicated through the tone of the piece. Words are cannot be stripped of the meaning. The form of the poetry reinforces the content. Without the form, it would not be poetry.

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