How Alliteration Enhances Poetry, Prose, And Memory

But does it detract or distract from other poetic devices and effects? Is being memorable the beat-all, end-all of a poem’s intent? Not that this should be an either/or question. Sent via Jilly:

How Alliteration Enhances Poetry, Prose, And Memory

03 Aug 2008

From nursery rhymes to Shakespearian sonnets, alliterations have always been an important aspect of poetry whether as an interesting aesthetic touch or just as something fun to read. But a recent study suggests that this literary technique is useful not only for poetry but also for memory.

“In our experiments, concepts presented early in a poem (or prose passage) were more available when alliterative sounds overlapped between lines than when there was no overlap,” the researchers reported.

Continued here.

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Elsewhere:

Poetry: better than texting!

By Patrick Buckridge

'Slimy things did crawl with legs, upon the slimy sea'.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: ‘Slimy things did crawl with legs, upon the slimy sea’.

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It’s a strange thing, but in the current enthusiasm for creative writing courses in Australian universities, poetry – the oldest of the literary art forms – has been left out in the cold.

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From Jubilat:

Peter Gizzi: For me film language is closer to lyric poetry than it is to fiction. Most likely because I’m interested in both modes of expression. Film language is unavoidable—it’s part of our unconscious, our desires, memories, etc., and is very captivating and powerful. I went to NYU in my twenties to study film but quickly changed my major to literature and then ancient literature. Maybe now looking back I can see that the connection to ancient language and film has to do with origins of expression. Film is a relatively new language technology of our recent human history (i.e., we are in its early phases), and if silent film is like cuneiform or hieroglyph, we might say classic film language of the thirties and forties is like Greek and Latin. I don’t know—it’s just something I can see now.

Like poetry, film tells a story by compressing time, and through an emotive, image-based structure. There is a syntax of images, a rhythm. And it works with light—a material light. Not a major observation, but still an endlessly fasinating medium—light I mean. It gives relief to a void or a darkness, opacity of being. In some way it makes a reality out of the darkness. I love the opening to Beckett’s late novel Company, too: “A voice comes to one in the dark. Imagine.” That the book is titled Company but the voice comes to “one.” It’s a wonderful description of how it is to be in a cinema, an inherently public experience—to be alone together connected by images and phantasms of light and shadow, dreams. But it’s also a wonderful correlative to being alone in one’s room, in one’s library, memory, alone together in one’s books, and a voice comes to one, and then a poem begins. A world comes to one. And for a moment you are your self and another becoming another thing, a poem.

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One thought on “How Alliteration Enhances Poetry, Prose, And Memory

  1. I was just in California with my right-wing comrades from my university, and make no mistake, they’re as conservative as they come, and it was just frightening how even they don’t know any poetry, really, not even the literature majors.

    They have to read it for this project called Junior Poet, where lit majors their junior year pick a poet, read everything by him, submit annotated bibliographies, several papers, a term paper and take oral exams. The only person talking about poetry with any competence or reciting lines or saying “maybe this is a thought we should examine, Yeats says it so well, let’s see if it is true” is me.

    I argued with a Biblical fundamentalist about why anything should be in verse – they seemed to be unaware of what the Psalms were.

    The girl I care the most for does not like poetry, although she can spend hours talking about song lyrics (as can I, I like her).

    I don’t know what to say. There’s something about our age that’s beyond poetry, because the apathy is all over, from all sides. It’s like there’s a purposeful ignorance of anything well-said, anything that could be affirming or radical or just interesting because it excited the imagination.

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