Just a quick explanation before running off to a long day at work today. Poetry is an audible art; it’s meant to be read out loud. Even when I read in my head I am quietly vocalizing the words. Usually this means it should be read slowly, deliberately, but there are many schools and theories. Sometimes poetry is also a visual art. How it appears on paper (or the screen) is very important. But however it appears, this I know to be true, where a line ends, whether it is to be stressed or rhymed or paused over, where a line ends is extremely important. Otherwise we would just keep tying like I am typing in this little box now, and the word processors (in the old day, typewriters) would sort out where the line breaks.
Again, there are many schools that say how line breaks should be handled when a poem is read. Some say we should take a breath; others say that unless punctuation calls for it, we needn’t pause at all. We can get into this a little more in the future, but for today’s poem, I need you to click on this link to view the words before you and see how May Swenson wanted them to be read. Don’t worry it will open in a new window. Now you can do this before you listen to my interpretation below, or you can read along. If you prefer, just listen before taking a look at the poem. Whatever you do, tell me how you think those line breaks and spacings should be interpreted vocally. Should they be interpreted at all? And if not, why not? Why did she write it the way she did?
Personally I am not sure that I like this video, and I might do another in the future, more with stresses and inflections. Less pausing. I’ll link the two together later, after Poetry Month. For now, for better or worse, here it is. “The Universe,” by May Swenson.
If you’d like, we can talk about meaning in the comments.