Congratulations to P.T. Paul, Alabama poet, who was chosen as 2013-2014 Poet of the Year by the
State Poetry Society and won several prizes in the 2014 Spring Poetry
Competition, including first place in Contest #1, Alabama State Poetry Society
Contest. The contest was limited to members of ASPS. She is also completing her sixth year as President of The Pensters, a writing group in Fairhope, Alabama.
We welcome P.T. to Lyrical Pens again. Her following insights into poetry and Shakespeare are good fodder for a discussion, and we hope you will give her feedback.
She received her B.A. in English from the University
of Montevallo, and her M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of South
Alabama. Her thesis, “Southerner” was chosen to represent the University of
South Alabama in the Coastal States Graduate Schools Master’s Thesis
Competition, and won the USA University-wide competition.
“Southerner” was published as “To Live & Write in Dixie”
by Negative Capability Press, and is available at negativecapabilitypress.org
Busy as always, she is scheduled to teach a poetry writing
class titled “Finding the Poet Within” at Faulkner State Community College in
Fairhope, beginning in the Fall semester, registration for which can be made by
phone with the Center for Professional Development at (251) 990-0445
online at www.faulknerstate.edu/programs/cpd
And if all the above isn't enough, she is a featured poet on "Culturally Speaking with Tod
Jonson, Man About Town, on WABF-AM 1220 in Fairhope, which airs each Thursday
from 10:30am to 11:00am.
Why We Don’t Speak
that you are a peasant in London in 1603, and you’re standing in the mud of the
Globe Theatre on the banks of the Thames River, listening to actors disguised
as various characters declare their undying love or hate or envy for each
other. You’re called a “Groundling” and you have paid a penny to stand in “the
pit” and stare up in wide wonder at the pageantry playing out on the stage
above you. Did I mention that you - and all the other peasants standing in the
mud - are unable to read or write? Did I point out that there was no public
school system, no standardized method of instruction, no public libraries, no
inexpensive system of mass reproduction and distribution of printed materials,
and that only the wealthy and privileged might ever learn to even sign their
own names? Did I mention that there might have been only one handwritten copy
of this particular play, which the actors had to share to memorize their parts?
Oh, and finally, did I mention that the entire play was probably written in
rhyme and iambic pentameter?
would Shakespeare write entire plays as poetry? Was poetry the accepted method
of communication? Did the entire population walk around greeting each other in
rhyming couplets? Did customers in restaurants order in sonnet form? Were court
cases and weddings – as portrayed in Shakespeare’s plays – actually conducted
in meter and rhyme?
accepted method of communication then – as now – was prose.
now, one of the first things we humans are taught is to communicate verbally –
to speak – by repeating what we hear. From the moment we enter school, the
first priority is to expand on those verbal skills to learn to read and write.
We learn to recognize written words, then to write them, we are taught to fit
the written words together to form sentences, to fit the sentences together to
form paragraphs, each step building upon the previous one until we can
effectively communicate, from the shortest note to the longest novel. This
standardization of written - and spoken - language places us, literally, on the
same communication page. And although the average person standing in the mud of
the Globe Theatre may never have progressed beyond learning basic verbal
skills, just like the well educated, they spoke prose.
would Shakespeare disregard prose – the accepted method of communication – and
write his plays as poetry?
to help his actors – and his audience – remember what was said.
the meter Shakespeare typically used: iambic pentameter. The most important
aspects of iambic pentameter are that the length of a line is roughly the
length of a breath, and that the rhythm mimics the beat of a human heart. By
using this length and this meter, Shakespeare was giving his actors enough
words in a line, written in a comfortable, familiar rhythm, to allow them to
speak naturally. By using rhyme, he was helping them remember what came next.
And, in a society where the town crier, not the Press Register, announces
everything from merchants’ advertisements to notice of tax increases to
obituaries of notable citizens, every memory aid is appreciated.
effective were Shakespeare’s methods, and how popular were his plays?
absence of radio, television, and film, Shakespeare’s plays were the hot ticket
in entertainment. And, to his everlasting credit, Shakespeare wrote them in
English, at a time when this “common language” was generally considered too
vulgar for such an exalted art as poetry. Because of this, peasants and gentry
alike walked away quoting lines they had just heard on the stage. Many of his
coined words and phrases actually became part of the spoken language and are
still in common use. He was, simply, one of the most influential writers of his
day – or any day.
aren’t we all speaking poetry?
efficiency, not entertainment, are still the goals of basic communication.
Prose, for the most part, is unambiguous and can be as simple or complex as the
situation requires. Point in fact, you are reading this in prose right now.
does not explain the continued popularity of poetry. Nor does it explain the
fact that Shakespeare’s plays, written in meter and rhyme, are still being
performed all over the world. However, even the illiterate Groundlings crowded
into the pit of the Globe theatre in 1603 realized, from the moment the curtain
was raised, that they were in the presence of something extraordinary, and the
poetry they heard lifted them – if only metaphorically – above the mud of their
everyday existence. So, yes, we speak prose for basic communication – but to
express the magical, the memorable, the uncommon within us, we speak poetry.
And, like the
Groundlings, we even occasionally speak Shakespeare.
To Be or Not? What do you think? Mahala