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Finding a needle in a haystack

Jerz, ''Poetry is for the Ear'' -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

"These equal syllables alone require, If you say this line aloud, all the words cause your mouth to scrunch up.... Though oft the ear the open vowels tire, ...but if you say this line, your mouth is forced open. (Pope says that the monotony of each line is tiring to the ear.)"

I'm afraid I must echo the sentiment Chera expressed in her blog and ask how the "expletive" do you do this?! Poetry is so so so hard to write, because you have to pay attention to how the words sound in your mouth as well as what they mean! It seems like this could become a very very frustrating verbal Rubik's cube. What if you find one word that expresses exactly what you want to say as far as meaning goes, but the way it sounds is all wrong among the sounds of all the other words in the line? Then you have to go back and try to reword it so it's more aurally pleasing, but what if the words then don't really get across the exact meaning that you wanted?! No wonder Dr. Seuss and Lewis Carroll just invented words when they wrote poetry. It could take years to write How the Grinch Stole Christmas with only conventionally accepted words in the dictionary.

Comments (3)

"verbal Rubik's cube"? That's an awesome image! You don't need to call it "a very frustrating verbal Rubik's cube" because the image "verbal Rubik's cube" already conveys that emotion. And the "r
and "b" sounds in "verbal" and "Rubik" lead into the hard "k" sound of "Rubik" and "cube".

No, Matt, you probably didn't plan that, but something made you come up with that image, and I found those words perfectly helped convey your emotion.

Once you notice that, can you ramp it up?

"scrawny verbal Rubik's cube" (emphasizes that you feel your powers of prosody are weak)

"rebuke my verbal Rubik's cube" (the sounds in "rebuke" and "cube" echo each other, but I don't know what it means).


Yep, definitely a great image and use of the sounds of words! As Dr. Jerz says, you probably don't even need the word frustrating. With the way the words sound together, as Dr. Jerz points out, will convey that meaning. Think about. Just try to say "verbal Rubik's cube" 5 times fast! If that isn't frustrating I don't know what is! You are probably better at writing poetry than you think!

P.S. I posted a somewhat lengthy response to your comment on Chera's blog, so if you get a chance and want to read it check it out at:


I sometimes wonder if meaning or sound should matter more in poetry. I mean, Dr. Seuss and Lewis Carrol both used meaningless words that flowed well, and look how popular they got! On the other hand, I can come up with a lot of sounds that flow nicely, but none of them would be as well-remembered as Alice falling down the rabbit's hole or a great green glob of ooblek (I think that's how you spell it. It was one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books). So I suppose the key is finding a link between the sound and the meaning, like how ooblek already sounds like a vile, nasty substance. (I'd quote Alice if I could, but I don't remember it by heart. Sorry, but you're on your own for that one.)

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