Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Pleasures (and Gratifications) of Rhythm

In Helen Vendler's very useful textbook, Poems, Poets, Poetry, I find a chapter on "Poems as Pleasure." It's a rather dry chapter, actually--schematic, rather than chipper or indulgent--but the scheme it proposes interests me, and I want to play off it for a post or two, adding notes as they come to mind. These will be short posts, slipped in between other work, so you'll forgive me I hope for the choppiness of the format; on the other hand, I hope you'll take the opportunity to sound off in response!

Vendler starts from the general premise that "all artworks appeal to our (apparently inborn) love of patterning," with the sensible proviso that pattern and rhythm are "very closely connected": ways to speak of the same basic phenomenon. "Babies learn by patterned repetition, and the pleasure of learning and recognizing new and old patterns is probably the source of our deepest pleasure in art," she writes. After all, "most of the true and wise things said in artworks have also been said (in less-pattered and unrhythmic ways) in philosophy and letters and newspaper editorials and conversation, where they may also strike us as true and wise, but not as art. " When you find more patterning than is actually needed to get the meaning
across, you're in the world of art, whether visual or musical or literary.

Sounds good to me. Any quarrels from you so far?

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