The Basics

Posted on: March 15th, 2012 by


When we consider poems in performance we realize that each poem exists over time. Like a blue-print for a building or a music score for a song, the text on the page represents what will exist when that poem is performed. When performed, that poem will exist from its first sound to its final syllable and that what exists has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

So a short poem exists but for a few seconds, however long it takes to say the poem out loud.  A longer poem might last for more than a minute, while an epic poem might continue over hours or even days.  In other words, poems in performance are like four-dimensional creations: they have a voice, a rhythm, a syntax, and that fourth dimension, time.

When we hear a poem performed by someone that four-dimensional quality is quite evident. When we perform it for ourselves—in our own mind—we don’t realize that the poem’s first line no longer exists by the time we get to the poem’s conclusion, but that’s why we frequently have to go back to the beginning to recreate how the poem started.

Now, like all four-dimensional creations, a poem’s being changes over time. The poem’s first line presents a state of being that is distinct and unique. As the poem presents new details for the listener to consider, those details change the being of the poem, within the poem itself as well as within the imagination of the listener.  Some details change the poem’s being but a little, while some alter that being a great deal.

The poems under construction or consideration follow.

  1. Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll
  2. Dreams by Edgar Allan Poe
  3. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot
  4. Daddy by Sylvia Plath
  5. Puerto Rican Obituary by Pedro Pietri
  6. A Valediction Forbidding Morning by John Donne
  7. The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats
  8. Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  9. Mother and Poet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning