blank verse (Perrine 209; Oliver 60).
Although a seemingly random selection, this list is, as Oliver points out,
is "rich and provocative." Let us adopt these categories of sound preliminarily,
and we will try some experiments in class.
VOWELS -- A, E I, O U, AND sometimes W AND Y
CONSONANTS --> SEMIVOWELS AND MUTES
SEMIVOWELS --> ASPIRATES AND LIQUIDS
ASPIRATES: C, F, G, H, J, S, X
MUTES -->B, D, K, P, Q, T, C (hard), G (hard),
Note how Oliver illustrates the relationship between the felt quality of a sound
and the connotations of the words (p. 23). Pay attention to the way that sound
conveys meaning. What other examples can you think of?
Examine Oliver's examples of alliteration and assonance. How would you
explain her term "sibling sounds" (p. 32)?
Note the role of line length as well as rhythm p. 39. How does each contribute to the
meaning of a poem?
"Rhythm underlies everything" (p. 43).
How does the poet establish a rhythm? Why is constancy important? What
is the relationship between constancy and variation?
Note the "natural" sounds of iambs in your speech -- Also be aware of the variations.
Note the placement of the caesura in lines of poetry. How do they move from line to line?
What is the effect?
Pay attention to the way a poet begins his or her lines. How does he or she end them?
What variations can you find? Does he or she use enjambment? When? How?
Consider Oliver's quotation: "Feminine endings tend to blur the end rhyme.
So does slant rhyme. Masculine and true rhyme endings are forthright.
And masculine true rhymes with words ending in mute sounds are the most emphatic rhymes of all"
Perrine offers us more technical and more carefully broken down discussion of the devices of sound
in poetry. This is true particularly of his discussion of scansion in chapter 12. Take time with
the exercise, and bring your questions and observations to class for discussion.
Perrine is also quite good at describing a poetic device's purpose. The purpose of repetition, for
example, is for pleasure and for creating structure in the poem by creating relationships between
the repeated elements -- in this case, sound elements (181). Find examples of relationships
between repeated elements of sound.
Keep in mind the analogy between a building and the architect's blueprint for the building; this
is roughly like the actual poem and the ideal metrics of the pattern (198).
In the exercise on scansion (pp. 200-209), an important principle related to that of repetition above
emerges: that is, variation in sound or patterns ALSO create meaning or structure to a poem. These
variations signal change or significance in meaning as well. Look for examples like the
trochee with which the fourth stanza opens (205).