Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hearing versus Listening

"Come to see the deaf girl dancing here."

         - Song lyric, source unspecified

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #61

    As an experiment, ask any individual or group to write down sentences or phrases from a [prose] speech, lecture or report they've just heard.  Scan them and you may be surprised to see how frequently these fragments scan.  Often perfectly.  Usually as iambic or anapestic.  This shows two tendencies:  when we want to say something memorable and when we remember snippets the text is in perfect or near perfect rhythm.

    Similarly, go to an open mic and watch the audience members closely.  If you can do so inobtrusively, film them.  You will note that their level of attentiveness coincides with the level of rhythm.  The existence of cadence--not necessarily meter but rhythm--is reflected in the listeners' body language. 

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #37
    Thus, repeating patterns, even if we aren't aware of them, will appeal directly to our memory and pleasure sensors--often creeping past our conscious minds in the process.  Every sloganeer understands this.  We all hear like poets.  Our challenge now is to listen like them.

    Do you sit up and notice when you encounter, say, 10 or more consecutive syllables of binary (i.e. iambic or trochaic) or trinary (i.e. anapestic, amphibrachic, dactyllic) rhythm during, say, a newscast?  Suppose you were watching the evening news and heard the commentator eulogize:  "He has gone to his grace, and that leaves so much less of ours."

     Would you hear those four consecutive anapests?

He has gone | to his grace, | and that leaves | so much less | of ours.

     If so, it would be a simple matter of making a few changes...

He has gone | to his grace, | leaving us | so much less | of our own.

     ...and using that paraphrasing as a basis for "Un Drapeau pour Trudeau":

Un Drapeau Pour Trudeau (in English) on Vimeo.

Un Drapeau pour Trudeau

Once again he has made us
accept something better
denied: one more rose
on his breast before infinite moments
alone, one more snowfall to face.
It is just
as old Rex
he has gone
to his grace,
leaving us
so much less
of our own.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #31
    A century ago, when verse was a conspicuous part of our lives, seven syllables was enough for the average person to detect rhythm.  If we develop such an ability ourselves we can take advantage of opportunities in our daily lives.  Virtually any snippet of speech can trigger our consciousness, inspiring us to convert the poetic into poetry.

     To enhance your perception of rhythm, start by watching at least one Shakespearean play a month.  Try scanning speech in real time, first with the Bard's blank verse and, later, with formal and informal [prose] talking.  In due course you'll be able to discern natural, random stresses from patterned cadences as quickly as the source can speak.

     This ability will change your view of poetry in general and of free verse in particular.  Much of the arhythmic typing that passes for free verse nowadays will sound tragicomically clumsy.  On the plus side, you won't be able to step outside, turn on a radio or television, watch a movie or use your telephone without hearing poetry.

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