Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inaugural Poems

At n+1, a review of inaugural poems, including this critique of Elizabeth Alexander's mastery of "the American poetic singsong": 

the elocutionary convention of delivering verse with preciousness and with rapture, so that the audience can hear how profoundly the poet loves the English language, how badly the poet wants to give the English language a deep tongue-kiss. In the singsong, speech occurs at an even volume, no syllable spoken much more loudly or softly than any other; in the singsong, the only way to emphasize a word is to say it slowly, or to pause after it. The singsong ignores both the syntactic beat of vernacular English and the rhythm of syllabically metered lines, giving every poem the cadence of an automobile engine that (precious thing!) can't quite turn over.


1 comment:

meyermeyer said...

Wow. And I agree.

Do I sound this peevish in critiquing poems? Like the nasal-toned, bespectacled eighth grader who read two Shakespeare plays and considers himself the arbiter of taste for the whole school?

Shoot me if so.