July 7, 2021

The Poet's Melody

Alice Oswald's poetry has been called "water music." As an example of her work, read the poem linked here: "A Short History of Falling." In an interview with Kit Fan, Oswald reflects about punctuation in poetry. It is actually an opportunity to build sound and rhythm, and in the deconstruction and reconstruction of new phrases and sentences, to see the world in new ways.  

Alice Oswald: I’ve always thought that in poetry, to have no punctuation makes for more punctuation, because it means you really notice the kind of joints and pauses between phrases because you have to. Whereas, I sometimes think that if you put in the punctuation, people will read poems more like novels. They will kind of be searching for the sense rather than hearing the sound of the grammar. And I am more and more interested in the fact that grammar, which sounds like a boring pedantic thing, is really what a poet’s vision is. You know, the way you construct a sentence is the hierarchy that you see in the world. You know, if you have a main clause and a main verb and you know, everything depends on each other, then you’re seeing a sort of a world of causes and effects. If, a bit like Homer, you just have these sentences, the phrases that build in rows, always joined with an and, then you see a different kind of world altogether, and that the grammar itself manifests as a tune. So any poet’s melody is actually the same as how they’re seeing the world, really. And I think that you don’t begin to get that feeling of what grammar is doing, unless you sort of take the props away, take the punctuation away.

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