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Abstract Poetry


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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
English Verse

Abstract Poetry is the term used for a poetic movement introduced by English poet Dame Edith Sitwell (1887-1964) in her book Façade. "The poems in Façade are abstract poems--that is, they are patterns of sound. They are...virtuoso exercises in technique of extreme difficulty, in the same sense as that in which certain studies by Liszt are studies in transcendental technique in music." (Sitwell, 1949) The movement impacted modern literature more through poets who adapted and modified the concept than through poets who literally clung to its precepts.

The poetry is said to mirror Abstract Paintings where by the artist attempts to communicate emotion through the use of color, shape and design rather than recreate images of specific objects, events or landscapes. The poet deliberately attempts to communicate emotion through the auditory texture, rhythm and rhyme of words; the meaning of the words becoming secondary to the sounds they produce. (This is easier said than emulated.) The term should not be confused with "abstract" poetry where the meaning of words and images are primary to defining emotion through their abstract character. The poetry of the genre is also identified by its "dense and bizarre images". e.e. cummings can be said to be an Abstract poet though he described images and events that were more recognizable than a "true" Abstract poet might prefer.

The elements of the Abstract poetry are:

  1. intended to convey emotion rather than a moment in time, event, story or descriptive scene. Some might view it as nonsense.
  2. constructed at the discretion of the poet in length, stanza, meter and or rhyme scheme, however rhyme should be employed .
  3. the defining feature, attempting to communicate through sound and bizarre images.

    Aftermath by Judi Van Gorder

    Came the Great Popinjay by Dame Edith Sitwell

    CAME the great Popinjay
    Smelling his nosegay:
    In cages like grots
    The birds sang gavottes.
    'Herodiade's flea
    Was named sweet Amanda,
    She danced like a lady
    From here to Uganda.

    Oh, what a dance was there!
    Long-haired, the candle
    Salome-like tossed her hair
    To a dance tune by Handel.' . .
    Dance they still? Then came
    Courtier Death,
    Blew out the candle flame
    With civet breath.

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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