Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Shakespeare, poetry, and body-consciousness

I had another topic planned for posting, but I need to think on it more, so I am reposting something from my Google+ page Poetry Tutorials and random thoughts:

Being in touch with the body

In my personal opinion great poetry comes from the soul and the muscles. It is felt in every fiber of your being. So it didn't surprise me in the least to read this article a few months back about William Shakespeare's poetry stating that:

According to Dr Heaton his analysis demonstrates that Shakespeare "was an exceptionally body-conscious writer." He suggests that Shakespeare's used this style of writing to allow his characters to appear more human and stimulate the reader to feel more empathetic or to dramatize his plays and poems.

Let's talk about poetry coming from the body for a few moments. The first example of the body influencing poetry writing is the effects of practice, which is a combination of exercising the mind and the body. When you practice writing poems, the neuron networks that help you write poetry become stronger and work faster. It becomes easier to find the right phrase, the right rhyme, etc. After all these years of writing poetry on an off, I can write syllable-count poetry without really worrying about the count because I usually am right on the button from pure repetition. For the same reason, I will automatically rhyme in my poems if I am very tired and ill. (Sleep deprivation introduces naturally occuring alliteration.) Writing poems on a regular basis also trains your body to enter a state of relaxation, allowing your mind to be freer with its expression.

The second example of writing from the body is the very thing Shakespeare did - using the description of bodily sensation to connect with the audience. In a way, you are achieving a deeper sense of communication through the verbal description of a physical language share by almost all humanity.

The third example is something I discovered while reading The Mythic Path by David Feinstein and Stanley Krippner. It is the act of actually exploring your own body's reaction to a triggering memory and then expressing it in words. To a lesser extent, it's what I use when doing the sensory approach to writing poetry. In the actually exercise, I first focused on a memory of something that represented security to me as a child and described what I was doing and what my body was feeling. Then I drew a personal symbol to represent that experience. After I drew it, I pretended I was the symbol and had it speak. I believe that's where the actual exercise ended before going on to the next memory, but being me, I had to explore it more in verse and write down other insights I had while doing the exercise.

While I am not comfortable sharing my results from those exercises, I can give you another example of describing the body's reaction in a poem:

Sun Song

Warm sand under my feet
Caressing them as I walk
Along the beach--blank as a page
A few pieces of driftwood and shells
Break up its placid smoothness

Gently the waves wash in and out
Removing the marks of those
Who dare this pilgrimage
I sit just out of their reach
Hypnotized by their rhythm

The sun beats upon my shoulders
Forcing muscles to relax
Burning out the daggers in my back
Nothing outside of this beach exists
My mind is as empty as the sky above me
A hunger makes itself known inside me
A hunger to be physically alive
To live in this body
Instead of ignoring its presence

I lay on my back
Nature communes with me
Reminding me that just being
Is cause for celebration
Grateful, I accept this lesson

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