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Passions in Poetry

How We Write Poetry

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since 09-18-99
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0 posted 03-28-2000 09:06 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

I was digging through some of my old files the other night and I came across an article that my old high school AP Composition teacher had us read.  The article was actually a chapter in a book written in 1939 by Aaron Copeland called "What to Listen for In Music" and the chapter was "How We Listen".

Copeland suggested that there are three basic planes that represent the ways we listen to music: (1) the sensuous plane, (2) the expressive plane, and (3) the sheerly musical plane.

In the sensuous plane you would be aware of the singers, the sounds (mostly the melody), the beat and maybe some of the words.

The expressive plane would include being moved to pity or sadness, excitement or joy and basically all of the other responses one has as a result of the music's expressiveness.

The third and last he called the sheerly musical plane.  Listeners in this plane would be more aware of the harmony, pitch, and clarity of the musical sound, the way the composer develops the theme.

Copeland suggested that the ideal listener is both inside and outside the music at the same moment, judging it and enjoying it, wishing it would go one way and watching it go another, blending both objective and subjective attitudes in much the same way the composer blended them in writing the piece and allowing himself/herself to be carried away with the music at times.

As I thought about what Copeland wrote it dawned on me that much of the same could be said about how we read poetry.  If the first plane was applied to poetry perhaps you could say that the (1) sensuous plane of reading poetry involved the sheer enjoyment one gets from leasurely reading a poem.  (2) In the expressive plane of reading poetry the reader would me more aware of the emotive responses evoked from reading the poetry itself.  (3) The sheerly musical/poetic plane would include the attention to the mechanics of poetry, the meter, the rhyme, and the development of theme, just to name a few possibilities for such a plane.

Do you think what Copeland suggests is true about listening to music is also true about reading poetry?  Is awareness of the sensuousness, expressiveness, and mechanics all together the key to getting the most out of the poetry we read and the most out of ourselves as poets?  

I know this was a long intro but I hope it is thought provoking to you.


"If I rest, I rust." - Martin Luther

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1 posted 03-30-2000 12:42 AM       View Profile for warmhrt   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for warmhrt

Hi Jim,

My answer is yes, I believe all three "planes" are needed to fully appreciate a poem. No argument here.


 the poet's to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name ~ Shakespeare
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