Words used to be experiences. Words still are experiences, but we have lost our mooring to their origin. In times past words were considered all powerful. If someone knew your true name they had power over you. If a person could learn the right words, they could cast a spell. Medieval manuscripts are filled with exquisite illuminations of the word. The book of John even begins, "In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was made flesh."
Words are primal. They began with the breath. I guess you could say, "In the beginning was the breath." And from breath comes sound which is created by breath being shaped in the body—the tongue, the lips, the vocal chords and where the breath comes from in the body cavity. How it's shaped where it is centered how it moves in the body shapes the outcome of gesture, movement, tone rhythm which in turn shapes the outcome of the words. It's a bit of a "sound" robin. I believe all of these components are embedded into words and are inherent in words and when words are spoken out loud from a congruent place they are extremely evocative and potent and can take us either into new experiences or enrich or illuminate experiences we have had.
The reason I am even having this conversation about words is that I feel words have lost their potency in modern times. Printing, typing, the internet, texting have contributed towards words being used for reading and information. Words stay on the page and don't often come off of it with sound. Words have become symbols for exciting expository and exploratory thinking. But more and more they are stopping on the page or stopping with the thought process. They have gotten vitiated. Spoken words by default have traversed this same path. The most juicy word out there now is the "f" bomb and it has it's power since it is forbidden. We've gained from the powerful thinking styles which come from words treated this way, but we're forgetting what they originally gave us: direct links to experience, direct links to connection. These kind of links are taken not only to the mind, but also to the body--the heart, the gut, sensuous enjoyment....
In modern times there are only narrow doors with which sound is acknowledged in words. There's onomatopoetic words: " screech", "wow" , " titillate". But this doesn't make up a large part of our lexicon. And there's phonetics which talk about sound and combination of sounds: consonants, vowels, semi-vowels, mutes and liquids. Readers and poets can use this information. But for readers this information is functional. Poets and songwriter's work with rhythms, arcs, counterpoint. And some eastern religions use the sound of syllables and words to take people into different states of consciousness. But again in the modern western world there is not the attention to the individual sounds in any given word. To me so many words have beautiful "sound" fancy dresses and we should appreciate them, take pleasure in them, and let ourselves be transported by them.
Shakespeare composed his plays with the stuff of sound. He would create anger in a character by choosing combustive sounds and explosive
combinations of words. If a a character was struggling with a decision he would pick
word combinations which were hard to say together. Certain more feminine
characters would speak with more lilting " ssssss's" and " llllll's." The
sounds, the rhythms, the syntax would evoke the moods, the feelings.
All good Shakespearean actors know this. They don't have to go into a
character by themselves. The actual dialogue will take them there. All
they have to do is sink into the language.
Yeats is another sound master. For a treat listen to Yeats reading his poem "Isle of Innisfree" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2FT4_UUa4I He says in this recording that he is emphasizing the rhythms of the poems,> Listen to that but also listen to the care he gives to sounding the resonances of each words. They roll out of the chest, across the tongue and out of the mouth. So much beauty, richness, and depth.
That's what I hope to do in my poetry. Of course I am humbled by these masters. But to me they are pointing to treasure. My goal in many of my poems is to create sounds, rhythms which generate experiences in the audience. And when I sound out my poems to an audience I add the present to include inflections, intonations, and cadences which the words invoke in me on a personal level. That is why I am a poet. I love to create multidimensional and different experiences. So let the words tickle your ears whether you hear them from me or whether you read them out loud. Let your ears hear groups of sounds, rhymes, slant rhymes, changes in pacing, changes in tone. Let your ears hear sound resonances and let the resonances carry you where they will. We need to take the words off the page and into our ears.
Soon I will post "soundings" of some of my poems. You can read poems of mine out loud from past blog posts.
Let me know what takes you. Let me know what doesn't. And let me know other sound treasures you find.