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Texture


Here is something I think about a lot. Texture in poetry. And here is a working definition of texture in poetry lifted from the Princeton Encyclopedia on Poetry and Poetics.

~ Texture signifies the palpable, tangible details inscribed in the poetic text. It refers to the distinguishing elements in a poem which are separate and independent of its structure, the elements that persist when the argument of a poem has been rendered into a prose paraphrase. The term has close affinities with the concept of surface detail in painting and sculpture. ~

Further down in the article there is this:

~ John Crowe Ransom's theory of poetry, in particular, with its stress on the dense texture of meanings in poetry, priveleges the notion of texture. For Ransom the texture of the poem is specifically related to a 'sense of the real density and contingency of the world.' By definition, then, texture is intended to correct the exxageration of 'logic' in poetry that can cause the colorful local details to disappear into the grayness of systematized abstraction. ~ (italics are mine)

Here is what comes through for me: the devil is in the detail, and in the devil's detail is found the texture of meaning(s) that distinguishes poetry from the logical abstractions of prose. I personally think this is true, both in theory and in practice. It isn't line, rhyme, metrical constructions, syllabic quantifications, or formal forms (what are always environmentally biased) that seperate out poetry from prose. It is texture. It is the tangible, sensual, incidental in which the poet chooses to layer her meanings that distinguishes poetry from prose and that makes of poetry sui generis, of its own kind. I could give so many examples of prose writers who borrow from this property of poetry's to better persuade and engage their readers, from Plato to Virginia Woolf and Anais Nin. But the end result is the same. Texture belongs to poetry. The sensible, sensual, and layered meaning of poetry is what distinguishes it from prose.

The bad news is the extent to which poets become dispossessed of what is rightly theirs, which is texture. They become persuaded through the usual badgering that texture of what is sensible, sensual and incidental makes for bad poetry. In effect, they are constantly told to denature their verse. What an old argument between Classicist and Romantic it amounts to. The Classicist requires the formal purity of logical statement in poetry. The Romantic is inclined to that 'dense manifold of sense' she is persuaded connects poetry to meaning. To the extent that the Classicist looks to kill off texture, and all its incidentals, I figure he is as much a killer of poetry's instinct as were Dryden and Pope. To the extent that poets allow themselves to be intimidated by the Popes and the Drydens of our generation they are f***ed.

Texture. Density of sensible meaning. What is palpable. What is sensual. What is alchemically refined through what is incidental and body-knowing. This is what makes poetry.

Tere
Mar/14/2009, 5:01 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Texture


The other day I was reading an article about George Orwell. Apparently Orwell was the kind of writer who felt (probably he would have said he thought) that meaning comes before the word. The novelist, Anthony Trollope, viewed the matter differently. Quoting from memory he said, "How can I know what I think until I say it?"

I just reread yesterday's post on texture. I guess I have to say I subscribe to Trollope's notion. Interesting question, ne's pas?

Tere
Mar/15/2009, 4:26 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


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