Re: Poetry in motion

Robert G. Grimes (
Wed, 07 Oct 1998 13:07:34 -0400

Date: Wed, 07 Oct 1998 13:07:34 -0400
From: "Robert G. Grimes" <>
Subject: Re: Poetry in motion

Having just returned from a visit to the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival,
which is held every two years in Waterloo, NJ, I felt the need to express some
of the "intuitive" feelings that I had while experiencing the reading or
recitation of poems from people from all over the world and the "reinforcement"
thus received for some of "our theory," that we memeticists, general
semanticists, yes, even I as a "dilettante," feel when we argue, posit, explore
and cherish our knowledge of words and their effect on our organisms.

One cannot listen to poems celebrating many of the things in life and hear
people discuss the history of poetry, etc., without feeling that ancient
response to what must have been similar messages in pre written history times.
One is almost forced to acknowledge the power of meter and expression,
alliteration, and, originally, rhyme. In fact, one of the things that is
brought to ones attention, almost immediately, in this day of "blank verse" or
non rhymed poetry, is the necessity of line breaks, punctuation, etc., in order
to convey things originally conveyed in a different fashion when oral tradition,
rhyme and music were the primary sources of our wisdom and history. It is an
advancement that does not necessarily replace the prior rhyme but, rather,
expands poetry in new directions.

Thus, one only has to attempt to commit to memory a long poem in blank verse and
a long poem in rhyming verse to see the distinction. It is much easier to
commit to memory in rhyme, and the musicality of established meter and tone, the
words of the message... Add to that the magic of alliteration, metaphor and
onomatopoeia and one's body literally "thrills" to the total experience of

One would tend to assume that the ancient Bards, priests, chieftains, etc., who
must move their flock with words or teach them their history and rules, etc.,
would use the "natural" methods of music and song as was done with the Bards and
the romans (even thought the romans were finally transcribed in the monasteries
and sometimes history rewritten in the process, depending upon who was in power,
using that historic facility from the oral tradition - if it's embarrassing,
change it).

Thus, I felt support for Mario's thesis of the Music Acquisition Device
preceding the Language Acquisition Device which one would presume would closely
be associated with the oral tradition and finally with written language and
printing, etc. Right and Left hemisphere theories seem to be at least partially
substantiated by the phenomena sometimes observed in such things as stutterers
being able to sing or recite poetry without a stutter. Would this not tend to
make one believe in the precedence of music, song and oral tradition prior to
stilted and inhibited speech finally reduced to cryptic symbology?

The very evolution of abstractive processes and the association with music,
song, poetry, speech and written language tends to draw one to certain
conclusions. Our rapid acquisition and utilization of printed material and its
expansion through mechanical and electronic means contrasts with the aboriginal
behavior, their oral traditions and those of the more "advanced" civilizations
which are still noted today.

When even discussing poetic construction and noticing the evolution to
punctuation, line breaks, eventual discard of punctuation, etc., etc., it tends
to make one almost "feel" a "blood line experience" with language and the
organism. I even had the strange feeling of reciting, without an error, poems
that I had memorized many many years in the past and which had normally escaped
my recall in these later years in the intensity of modern schedules and
attention to "wired" activities at the keyboard.

Casually clad and wearing hiking boots we moved from old churches, taverns, lock
stations, barns and tents to various congregations of similar minded folk to
witness expressions of words (and music) that cause the human spirit to soar and
which "connects" people of diverse origins. Poems were read in their original
Chinese, Spanish, Gaelic, Hebrew, etc., and translated to English to enable one
to feel the music of the compositions in the tongue of the original
composition. It all helped the community of feeling of the poets in attendance.

One gentleman (Kurtis Lamkin) played a Kora (an eighteen string calabash "harp"
of ancient African origin, always personally constructed by the poet) and
recited poetry of mixed sources combining both the Black American and African
influences. On the same stage and alternating was a Black American reciting his
compositions of powerful racial and political implications while accompanied by
a jazz saxophone. During intermissions and at other times, throughout the area
of the old township, an Ecuadorian band (Yarina) danced, romped and played
drums, pan pipes and stringed instruments accompanying their playful songs.

All of this prompted in me the very organic feelings of the history of our
species and our evolutionary and societal past. There was sort of a
phylogenetic thread throughout the proceedings that made me feel akin to
generations of those bards, griots, priests and parents who have historically
sung their past histories, beliefs and aspirations to their tribe, associates
and children. The very wholesomeness of the gatherings, the music, the tone,
the stirring words and phrases filled us with a common feeling of joining in a
celebration of our kind, our beauty, our ideals, our future.

So much of our poetry represents true memetic constructs. We tingle, our
neurotransmitters respond with timeless stimulation, our senses are in some way
syncopated, harmonious, and transcend the banal and the orthodox. We share in
our common past and our current being.

I hope that you, too, feel the connection between what we do here with memetics
and discussion and the ancient, timeless past we all share....



Bob Grimes Jacksonville, Florida

Man is not in control, but the man who knows he is not in control is more in control...

Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore....."

=============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see: