August 28, 2019 25

How Do We Perceive a Poem?

How Do We Perceive a Poem?

Welcome to the Endless Knot! Today we’re going to be exploring the connections
between poetry and our brains — and how we perceive emotions. So, what is poetry, anyway? For something we spend so much time talking
about in English classes, it’s surprisingly hard to define, and there are in fact many
different ways of answering the question. One way is to look at the technical aspects
of poetry that distinguish it from prose — but that’s a subject for another video. In this video we’re going to consider another
kind of answer, by looking at how poetry is a way of filtering, organizing, and communicating
our perceptions of the world around us. Every culture around the world has its own
rich poetic tradition, with many different defining characteristics and social roles,
but for now we’re going to focus on the European, and specifically English literary
tradition. And to understand English poetry, we actually
have to go back to Greek literature — so let’s start with the etymology of the word
poem itself. Poem comes into English, through French and
Latin, from Greek poema, from the verb poiein “to make or do”, which can be traced back
to the Proto-Indo-European root *kwei- “to pile up, build, make”. The sound change at the beginning may seem
a little odd, but it’s perfectly regular: the stem vowels in Proto-Indo-European change
in what’s called ablaut or vowel gradation, so the o-grade form of *kwei- is *kwoi-, and
the /kw/ sound, a labialized voiceless velar stop, regularly becomes a voiceless bilabial
stop /p/ in Greek when occurring before a back vowel. In a somewhat more phonologically direct path,
that root also became Sanskrit kayah with the sense “body”, which was combined with
the Sanskrit word chitra “distinctively marked, variegated, many-coloured, bright,
clear”, from Proto-Indo-European *keit- “bright, shining” probably ultimately
from the root *skai- “gleam” which also gives us the word shine, with the resulting
Sanskrit compound chitraka in the sense “marked or spotted body” used to refer to a leopard
or tiger. This was shortened to simply chita in Hindi,
and from there it was borrowed into English as cheetah. But in the Greek version, poema, a poem is
literally a thing that’s made, and that makes sense when we look at a few historical
definitions of poetry. The Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle theorized
about poetry in his work called The Poetics. He starts off with a basic statement that
the various types of poetry “are all in their general conception modes of imitation”. Now the word he actually uses here is mimesis,
and there has been over the years much disagreement about what he meant by this word. It’s often translated as “imitation”,
but perhaps the best way of thinking about it is as something made, in other words representing
something in another medium. So for instance, what we think of today as
poetry is an imitation of a person, a perception, or an event, using only words. For Aristotle, poetry could also include,
for instance, drama, which contained also music and staging in the Greek world. So poetry then, by this definition, is something
that is perceived and filtered through the human mind and imitated using only words. A tall order, imitating all the complex range
of sensation and emotion using only squiggles on a page. Skipping forward to ancient Rome, the poet
Horace wrote a poem in the form of a letter to a friend all about how to write good poetry,
called the Ars Poetica or Art of Poetry. Horace’s approach is much less theoretical
and more practical than Aristotle’s. In fact it’s kind of a listicle: 10 ways
to write poetry that’ll blow their minds! So things like choosing a subject, using appropriate
diction, using metre and style that fits the topic, the importance of harmony and proportion,
and so forth. He also says that it is not enough for a poem
to be beautiful (pulcher), it must also be sweet (dulcis), so that it transports the
soul of the reader (or actually the hearer). This metaphor of sweetness is key, with Horace
later advising the mixture of the useful with the sweet, basically the honey of the poetry
makes the bitterness of the lesson being taught go down more easily. Skipping forward again to English poetry,
the most famous definition is the one by William Wordsworth in his Preface to The Lyrical Ballads,
a collection of poems written by Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge at the beginning
of the Romantic era. It should be remembered that the Preface was
written by Wordsworth alone and Coleridge didn’t agree with everything he said about
poetry. In any case, for Wordsworth at least, poetry
should be drawn from “incidents and situations from common life”, but then should be modified
by “a certain colouring of imagination” so that they are “presented to the mind
in an unusual way”. Furthermore, most famously, he wrote that
“all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”, but what is often
forgotten is that he qualifies this by stating that the poet must also have “thought long
and deeply” in order to produce that poetry. Sounds contradictory, I know, but the idea
is that the poet has that emotional moment, thinks about it for a while, and then as he
says, the poetry “takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity”. So much for the theoretical definitions, but
what is poetry actually for? Well in addition to reproducing things and
emotions, poetry also has a very practical function, in recording things like history,
myths, or other important information. You see poetry is a much older invention than
writing systems. Though we may now think of a poem as something
written down on a page, originally poetry was an entirely oral thing, recited aloud
from memory to an audience. And that’s one reason poetry is put together
the way it is. Many of the standard elements of poetry help
ease the cognitive load of remembering the poem. For instance, depending on which poetic tradition
you’re talking about, a poem might have a regularly repeating rhythm, or repeated
sounds like rhymes, and sometimes might be very formulaic with repeated words, phrases,
or even whole lines, with the performer half improvising the poem out of formulaic stock
phrases. It’s also why, to the frustration of many
students, poetry can often be very ambiguous and require interpretation to get the meaning. Think of it as information compression, like
a computer compresses a file to make it take up less space. Poetry uses techniques like figurative language
such as metaphors and similes to express complex ideas in few words with layers of meaning. Of course that means the listener or reader
has to decode some of that afterwards, and sometimes that leaves room for ambiguity,
ambiguity which is often intentional to add further complexity to the poetic expression. Now let’s take a look at those early oral
poets for a moment. One of the Old English words for an oral poet
is scop, which may come from Proto-Germanic *skapan “to form, create” from Proto-Indo-European
*(s)kep- “to cut, scrape, hack”, which would make it cognate with the word shape,
thus a close equivalent of the word poet from Greek poietes, literally a “maker”. It might also come from, or at least be influenced
by, Proto-Germanic *skupan “to mock”, which itself might come from Proto-Indo-European
*skeubh- “to shove”, root of the words shove and scoff, and it’s that second cognate
that’s the key here, as one of the uses of poetry in the Germanic tradition was for
dishing out insults, so scoffing or mocking. We can also see this in the Norse word for
a poet, skald, which gives us the English word scold, and comes from the Proto-Indo-European
root *sekw- “to say, utter”. In the hands of a good scop or skald, words
definitely can hurt. In addition to poietes, another Greek word
for an oral poet was rhapsoidos, from which we get the word rhapsody. The word rhapsoidos, or rhapsode in English,
is a compound of the words rhaptein “to sew, stitch” and oide “song, lay, ode”,
so literally a “sewer of songs”, a not uncommon metaphor for poetry because of that
formulaic nature of oral poetry. Now in spite of the etymology of their name,
unlike a poietes, some rhapsodes may not have been composing their poems extemporaneously
according to oral formulae, but instead reciting their poems, mainly the Iliad and Odyssey,
word-for-word exactly as the poet Homer composed them. Of course, Homer himself may have been somewhat
of a fiction, a legendary or mythical poet to whom those poems are ascribed, but in the
western canon of poetry, the figure of Homer, the blind bard who could nevertheless see
clearly into the souls and emotions of people, is the archetype of the poet. As for the English poet Wordsworth, well he
wasn’t blind but he did suffer from anosmia, that is the lack of the sense of smell, so
perhaps a lesser Homer? So these definitions focus on perceiving,
imagining, and feeling — and the history of poetry in English is closely connected
to our attempts to understand what these things actually are, and how they work. This is particularly easy to see in the Romantic
period, so let’s turn to one of the poets from that time to illustrate the connection. William Blake was an early Romantic, or some
would say proto-Romantic, poet and also engraver, so many of his most famous works are accompanied
by his glorious and often dreamlike illustrations, produced with the help of his wife Catherine,
who he taught to read after they were married. As a teenager, Blake was going to be the apprentice
of royal engraver William Ryland, who pioneered the stipple engraving technique, but Blake
didn’t take to him, stating “I do not like the man’s face: it looks as if he will
live to be hanged!”, and so he was instead apprenticed to James Basire. Basire taught Blake a more old fashioned technique
of engraving, likely contributing to lack of recognition of Blake as an engraver in
his own day, though he would later invent a relief etching method that involved using
acid to dissolve the undecorated parts of copper plates, but the inhalation of the fumes
from this likely led to his eventual death. As for Ryland, he was indeed later hanged
for forgery with the intent to defraud the East India Company. Blake was not only a political radical, for
instance doing illustrations for one of Mary Wollstonecraft’s works, but was also a religious
Nonconformist, and had very unusual and idiosyncratic views, which led to many of his contemporaries
believing he was mad. From childhood he was prone to spiritual visions,
and was also interested in perception, making a distinction between seeing with the eye
(in other words sense perception) and seeing through the eye (imaginative perception). In this regard, he is famous for his phrase
“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite”,
pointing out the limitations of human sense perception in comparison to the infinite nature
of reality. This quotation comes from his multimedia work
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which is composed of poetry, prose, and illustration
in the style of biblical prophetic writing. The title of the work was a response to the
theological book Heaven and Hell by Swedish scientist, philosopher, and eventually theologian
and mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg. Blake was influenced by Swedenborg’s writings,
and there is perhaps a connection between the Swedish scientist’s work on the soul
and its connection to the body and Blake’s statement in The Marriage that “Man has
no Body distinct from his Soul”, but Blake was also critical of Swedenborg’s insistence
on the duality and opposition between good and evil. That’s why it’s called The Marriage of
Heaven and Hell. And it’s this relationship that lies behind
The Tyger, a poem from the “experience” part of his double work Songs of Innocence
and of Experience, where it is paired with the “innocence” poem The Lamb, which uses
the standard metaphor of the lamb as Jesus. Blake points out that the “same immortal
hand” that created the lamb also created the tiger, a “fearful symmetry”. And as we saw earlier, a Sanskrit word for
“bright” combined with a word related to poem to mean “tiger” (giving us cheetah),
so it’s fitting that the most famous line from Blake’s poem is “Tiger, tiger, burning
bright”. As for Swedenborg, he was raised a Lutheran
and was the son of bishop Jesper Swedberg (the family name changed to Swedenborg when
Swedberg’s children were ennobled by the king in recognition of the bishop’s contributions
to the country), who had controversial religious views, rejecting the Lutheran doctrine of
salvation through faith alone, a position his son would adopt as well. Swedenborg, however, wished to pursue an education
in the sciences, and attended Uppsala University, where he was keen on presenting his work at
academic sessions in spite of his slight stammer, though later in life he would decline to speak
in public due to his speech impediment. His scientific career was largely successful
and varied, and he was valued for his expertise in mineralogy, metallurgy and mining, holding
the post of assessor-extraordinary on the Swedish Board of Mines, fitting as his father,
mother, and stepmother were all from rich mining families. As I mentioned before, he was particularly
interested in exploring the anatomical foundations of the soul, most importantly in his incomplete
and misleadingly titled Economy of the Animal Kingdom, which he actually intended as the
first scientific look at the soul. His interest in the soul led to his investigation
of the brain, in which he made a number of discoveries that were not appreciated in his
day, including his insistence on the importance of the cerebral cortex in sensory, motor,
and cognitive functions, as opposed to the commonly held belief at the time that it served
no significant functions — the word cortex literally means “rind” or “tree bark”
in Latin. He also had a proto-theory of the neuron well
before its official discovery in the late 19th century. He also correctly predicted the function of
the corpus callosum as a structure that allowed the hemispheres of the brain “to intercommunicate
with each other”. He was way ahead of his time in a number of
other ways too, turning his hand to inventions, many of which would not become a reality until
much later, such as airplanes, submarines, machine guns, and a universal musical instrument
which didn’t require any musical knowledge to play and yet could produce all kinds of
melodies, and he even thought it likely that there was extraterrestrial life on other planets. But at the age of 57, Swedenborg began having
spiritual visions (not unlike the poet Blake), first having a vision of a man sitting in
the corner of the private dining room of the tavern he was having dinner in who said to
him “Do not eat too much!”. Frightened he went home and that night in
a dream, the same man appeared to him and told him he was the Lord, instructing him
to write about the spiritual meaning of the Bible. Swedenborg abandoned his scientific work,
turning instead to theology, which departed significantly from the established views of
Lutheranism, rejecting the concept of the Trinity and stressing the importance of charity
in addition to faith, and describing the Second Coming of Christ, Judgement Day, and the afterlife,
and this eventually led to his banishment from Sweden to live out the rest of his days
in England. His extensive later writings would, after
his death, lead to a new religious movement, the Church of the New Jerusalem, a denomination
which, although rather small, still exists. This concept of the New Jerusalem, which is
a common enough metaphor for heaven, is similar to another of William Blake’s most famous
poems, commonly known as the hymn Jerusalem later set to music by Sir Hubert Parry, originally
from the preface from his epic Milton: A Poem in Two Books, which contains the famous phrases
“dark satanic mills” and “chariot of fire”, and concludes “I will not cease
from Mental Fight, / Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand: / Till we have built Jerusalem,
/ In England’s green & pleasant Land”. Swedenborg was also purported to have clairvoyant
abilities, once, in a sudden outburst, accurately describing a dangerous fire near his house
in Stockholm while dining with a friend 300 miles away. Later in the meal he exclaimed “Thank God! The fire is extinguished, the third door from
my house.” The philosopher Immanuel Kant became quite
interested in Swedenborg’s alleged psychic abilities, and initially praised them, and
began reading Swedenborg’s theological works, but later backpedaled and criticized his work. Now if Blake was one of the proto-Romantic
poets, Kant was one of the proto-Romantic philosophers, contributing much of the intellectual
backbone of the movement. As such, one of his most important contributions
to Romanticism was his work on aesthetics, which for Kant meant “the science of sensory
perception”, particularly in his work Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime,
which examined one of the most important concepts of Romantic poetry, the sublime (and you can
see our video about the sublime for more information on that). For Kant judgement of aesthetics is subjective
though based on the external reality of a work of art. This is connected to his theory of perception,
in which our perceptions of the external world are combined with concepts we already have
in our mind, famously stating “Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions (perceptions)
without concepts are blind”. The word aesthetic, which comes into English
through translations of German scholars like Kant, ultimately comes from Greek aisthanesthai
“to perceive”, from the Proto-Indo-European root *au- “to perceive”, which also gives
us such words as audible, obey, and anaesthesia. Our modern sense of the word aesthetics meaning
“criticism of taste” comes from the German philosopher, and rough contemporary of Kant,
Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten. To settle the confusion over terminology English
scientist and polymath William Whewell, who was a coiner of many scientific terms in English,
suggested the term callesthetics, combining aesthetics with the Greek kallos “beauty”,
but unfortunately Baumgarten’s is the usage that stuck. Whewell, by the way, was taught by the blind
English natural philosopher and polymath John Gough, who published on a wide range of scientific
topics, including the first description of the phenomenon of rubber bands releasing heat
when stretched, and “An investigation of the method whereby men judge by the ear of
the position of sonorous bodies relative to their own persons”. Gough was admired by some of the Romantic
poets of his day and was praised by William Wordsworth in the poem The Excursion and by
Coleridge in The Soul and its Organs of Sense. Another of Gough’s students was John Dalton,
who is today most remembered for introducing atomic theory into chemistry, but also for
his research on colour blindness, which led to this form of visual impairment being sometimes
referred to as Daltonism. Dalton himself was colour blind (as was his
brother, thus suggesting that the condition was hereditary), and so this makes three of
the people involved in our story with some form of visual impairment, the blind bard
Homer, John Gough, and Dalton (not to mention Wordsworth and his impaired sense of smell). Now getting back to Swedenborg and the New
Jerusalem Church which grew up out of his writings, there were a number of significant
figures, besides William Blake, who were adherents of the religion. These include John Chapman, better known as
Johnny Appleseed, who as a missionary spread the writings of Swedenborg along with the
apple tree to many parts of the United States. But for the purposes of our story, we’ll
follow the path of one Henry James Sr., an American theologian from a Presbyterian background
who turned to Swedenborgianism. Henry James Sr. is now most notable for being
the father of the famous novelist Henry James Jr., as well as of philosopher and pioneering
psychologist William James. William had an unusually close relationship
with his sister Alice which some have argued bordered on the erotic. In addition to erotic elements in letters
William wrote to her and in sketches he drew of her, he also wrote mock sonnets and read
them to her in front of the family, and in one such sonnet he even expressed his desire
to marry her. Alice, who was diagnosed at the time with
hysteria, took William’s eventual marriage (to someone else called Alice) badly. As for William James himself, who was also
prone to periods of depression, he is (perhaps ironically) most known for his work on emotion
and perception. In what became known as the James-Lange theory
of emotion because of independent work done on similar lines by Danish physician Carl
Lange, James proposed that the physiological response precedes the feeling of an emotion,
in other words he believed that emotion was the mind’s perception of the physiological
response to a stimulus. The famous, if perhaps somewhat tongue-in-cheek,
example he used to explain it is that we don’t see a bear, fear it, and run, but instead
see a bear, run, and then interpret the situation as fear. Our experience of high levels of adrenaline
and rapid heart rate IS the emotion. Think about that the next time you stumble
upon a bear in the woods—once your heart slows down, you can be like Wordsworth, recollect
that emotion in tranquillity, and write a poem about it! As you might imagine, this could have important
implications for any theory of aesthetics. James had been taught by German physician
and physicist Hermann von Helmholtz, who had also worked on perception, devising theories
of vision, colour vision, and the visual perception of space, rejecting Kant’s argument that
the perception of space followed Euclidean geometry. Helmholtz was also interested in the perception
of sound and how this relates to aesthetics, writing in his book Sensations of Tone about
how and why certain vibrations and tones produced music while others simply produced noise,
though I guess his student William James, who had amusia or tone-deafness, wasn’t
able to fully appreciate that part of his teacher’s work — and you can add that
to our growing list of sensory impairments. Now Helmholtz’s research methods involved
careful measurement and various apparatuses to accumulate experimental data of perception,
and he was inspired in this regard by the work of Gustav Fechner, who essentially invented
the field of psychophysics, the scientific study of the relationship between physical
stimuli and physical sensations and perceptions, thus proving Kant wrong in his belief that
the mind could not be measured and quantified. Fechner, like Swedenborg, was also the son
of a churchman but in later life became an atheist. He rejected the notion of mind-body dualism
and believed that the mind and the body were two aspects of the same existence, again similar
to Swedenborg’s work on the body and soul connection. Therefore he set about trying to define the
relationship between the physical and psychological, so he had to find a way of measuring the intensity
of mental processes, and that’s when he devised, through much experimentation, the
Weber-Fechner law which describes the mathematical relationship between the actual change in
a physical stimulus and the perceived change in a physical stimulus. It’s called the Weber-Fechner law because
Fechner used the work of his teacher Ernst Heinrich Weber in formulating it. Fechner realised that measurement requires
both a zero point to measure from and a measurement unit. He borrowed from the work of Johann Friedrich
Herbart, who was Kant’s successor in his professorship at the University of Königsberg,
who not only worked on aesthetics, but also established the concept of the limen or threshold
of consciousness, which became Fechner’s zero point — and if you want to know more
about Herbart’s connections to Romanticism and the sublime, again watch our video “Sublime”. From Weber, Fechner borrowed the measurement
unit the Just Noticeable Difference, which Weber had been studying by increasing in small
increments the weight being lifted by his experimental subjects, in other words how
much did a weight have to change in order for the subject to notice that difference. Fechner determined that the relationship was
logarithmic, that in order for the perception to increase arithmetically the stimulus had
to increase geometrically, or for those not mathematically inclined, the higher the overall
stimulus the higher the change in stimulus needed to be in order to be noticed. As it turns out, William James reviewed Fechner’s
work, and though he admired his work overall and his contributions to psychology, he was
skeptical of his findings. Fechner also had more literary pursuits, writing
poetry and humorous pieces under a pseudonym. Among Fechner’s other scientific works were
his speculations about the corpus callosum, that bridge between the hemispheres of the
brain that Swedenborg figured allowed the two parts to communicate, correctly predicting
that splitting the corpus callosum would result in two separate minds or streams of consciousness,
though this wouldn’t be proven until well after his time. He also coined the term “stream of consciousness”,
which was later applied to literature. He also worked on vision and colour, making
important contributions in those fields, until, ironically, he developed an eye disorder forcing
him to resign from his professorship at Leipzig. One of his achievement in the study of colour
was some early work on synesthesia, producing the first empirical survey on the synesthetic
relationship between colours and letters. Synesthesia, which comes from the same root
as aesthetics combined with the prefix syn- “together” thus meaning literally “perceiving
together”, is a perceptual phenomenon in which a stimulus on one sense triggers sensation
in another sense, like having the experience of colour when hearing a particular sound. Another early researcher into synesthesia
was Francis Galton, who studied synesthetes who involuntarily picture numbers in physical
space, and was also interested in Fechner’s work on psychophysics, as he was also into
quantification and statistical analysis. Galton, who is also known for developing the
science of fingerprinting, which you can learn more about in our video “Clue”, was obsessed
with measuring people, largely as a result of his belief in eugenics, taking his cousin
Charles Darwin’s ideas to some dark places. Galton wanted to use Fechner’s psychophysics
to measure a person’s mental qualities, and compare them in terms of their relative
strengths and weaknesses. He began experimenting and collecting data,
and came to the conclusion that “women of delicate nerves” do not possess “acute
powers of discrimination”, and yet men “have more delicate powers of discrimination than
women”, and if you find that contradictory, join the club — basically he was saying
that women were too sensitive to be rational, but not sensitive enough to be discriminating. But wait, it gets worse. He believed the same was true of workers,
“idiots”, “savages”, and the blind, all inferior to, surprise surprise, English
gentlemen, and concluded that the most sensitive people were also “intellectually ablest”
and should therefore be the most ideal for reproduction. Thus he used psychophysics as his justification
for eugenics. He also took aim at the deaf, believing that
they shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce, and what’s more wanted to suppress sign
language and rejected “the philanthropic custom of massing the deaf and dumb together
in separate societies, and of making their life as happy as possible in those societies”. Now if you’re getting all riled up about
Galton, you can take some comfort in the knowledge that he got something of a comeuppance, when
he himself began to lose his hearing. Unsurprisingly his attitude shifted, replying
to a letter from Darwin’s son George collecting money for the blind, writing “I fully sympathise
and gladly send £2 to help it. But my strongest sympathy is with the deaf. Had I a fairy godmother, I would petition
that every experimental physicist should be made as deaf as I am, until they had discovered
a good ear trumpet, and then that as many fairy-gifts should be heaped on the discoverer
as should exceed all he could desire, as well as the thanks and gratitude of all whom he
had relieved!” But you know, I think we can all agree that
Francis Galton should never have a fairy godmother. In coping with his hearing loss, Galton turned
again to the research of Fechner and others, believing that faint below the threshold stimuli
might still come into the unconscious mind and might therefore be augmented and brought
to the threshold through the imagination, that buzzword of Romanticism. Indeed he turned to Romantic poets such as
Wordsworth to find evidence of this. Galton figured that we already had a kind
of auditory imagination that we develop when we read silently, recreating the flow and
rhythm of the spoken word. It does make sense when you think about reading
poetry and appreciating its use of sound and metre. Like Kant before him, he concluded that it
was the combination of the mind and the material world that produced sensations. So I suppose in a sense this is not unlike
the phenomenon of synesthesia, with sense perceptions being triggered by another type
of stimulus. And in fact you don’t have to look hard
to find examples of synesthesia in poetry. It was commonly used by many Romantic poets
as an intentional form of figurative language. For instance, Percy Shelley has the lines
“Of music so delicate, soft, and intense / it was felt like an odour within the sense”,
and in Ode to a Nightingale Keats calls for wine “tasting of Flora and the country green,
/ Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth”. And in Coleridge’s response to his erstwhile
partner Wordsworth’s definition of poetry, he points out that the imagination involves
“the balance and reconciliation of opposite or discordant qualities”. And that brings us right back to one possible
definition of poetry: something made imaginatively from our rich perceptions of the world into
a new medium that stimulates the perceptions and emotions of others. Thanks for watching! Depending on when you’re seeing this, there
either is already, or will soon be, a companion video to this in which we talk about the technical
characteristics that define poetry — like metre, genre, and figurative language, so
check that out! If you’ve enjoyed these etymological explorations
and cultural connections, please subscribe, & click the little bell to be notified of
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25 Replies to “How Do We Perceive a Poem?”

  • The Armchair SpacemanTM says:

    we use your eyes.
    did you mean ''comprehend'' perhaps?

  • The Armchair SpacemanTM says:

    yeah. the english word poet comes from greek via french, but that's NOT the English word,
    it's an developed import used solely to set ''ones self'' above the peasantry.
    it's an affectation of intellect and taste.

    ''poet'' is a fake and pretentious upper class way to say the English ''Bard''
    it's the same as ''caviar'' .. a snooty pretense to cover ''fish eggs'' or ''roe'' which is a poor-mans last resort food.

  • The Armchair SpacemanTM says:

    also.. using similes and metaphors is the height of laziness… albeit necessary sometimes.
    but really if you can't say it in verse without hiding it – youre no damned good at it.
    even if you sometimes are . lol.. you know what i mean.

    Half the World is starving,

    while the other half, insane.

    spend half their time complaining,

    over traffic, bugs and rain.

    They whine about their baggage,

    while the other half, in pain.

    Spend half their time in bondage,

    without comfort, hope or gain.

    © CraigThomasMuir
    no interpretation needed.
    no rhyme lost to message, and no message lost to rhyme.

  • Cian Curran says:

    Love your videos. You'll blow up very very soon! Keep it up!

  • Robert Fletcher says:

    Why didn't they teach poetry like that when I went to school? Loved it.

  • Rahul Dhargalkar says:

    138th viewer & 22nd like!

  • OmegaWolf747 says:

    Your video on poetry
    Is very inspirational to me.
    It serves to make me see,
    How creative we all can be.

  • Artur M. says:

    One of my favorite episodes, although I'll admit I was starting to get a bit overwhelmed near the end, maybe that's just me being tired. I'm looking forward to the next part.
    It might be silly but you talking about Blake's "The Tyger" and using its illustration in the thumbnail made me think about a poem "The Tiger" by a certain 6-year-old student named Nael, that got popular recently, after being published in the “You Will Be Able to Say a Thousand Words.” anthology.

    The tiger
    He destroyed his cage
    The tiger is out

    BTW the cerebral cortex is literary called the brain bark in Polish – kora mózgowa and I actually just learned how it's called in English thanks to this video.

  • fugithegreat says:

    Fun shirt and fun video!

  • CraftQueenJr says:

    I want some of those insult poems!

  • CraftQueenJr says:

    Some may I am a fool,
    For standing tall against the cruel,
    But I say it is my right,
    So against you I will now fight.

  • Mara K says:

    Is it possible that “rhapsode” is related to sewing because of a tradition of reciting poetry or telling stories while doing handicrafts? (And might this be related to the metaphor of “spinning a yarn” for telling a story?

  • Seraph says:

    This video went even more all over the place the previous ones.

  • 12tone says:

    13:17 I have… questions about how that device would work.

  • Richard Lightburn says:


  • arcanics1971 says:

    That really went in so many unexpected directions that it has to be my favourite episode so far. What a journey!
    Thank you!

  • Amor Sciendi says:

    Love this one. Can't wait for part 2

  • Andrei Schnittke says:

    Was this made with lucidchart?

  • Sandra Dermark says:

    EXIT ANTIGONUS, PURSUED BY A BEAR… I doubt he would be able to find tranquillity and write a poem on the subject, let alone fear the bear!

  • Sandra Dermark says:

    Ps. You used "dumb" to mean MUTE – how did it change to mean STUPID?

  • Spike Nard says:

    As a poet who has always incorporated scientific exploration into my work (e.g. in my book Dark Galaxies), and who also uses performance poetry (in Geode Music & Poetry) and also wordmusic (in First Draft, spoken poetry in several voices notated as music) — both forms of synethesia, perhaps — this contextualizing of the craft of poetry within a philosophical and scientific nest is both interesting and useful. It accords with my understanding of the form and function of poetry, and offers a clear explanatory frame for certain elements. I look forward to Alliterative's technical video on poetry as well.

  • Daruqe says:

    As a mildly synesthetic person, I get incredibly annoyed by all the obsession over the phenomenon that's out there. It's not magic. Thank you for this comparatively frank discussion.

  • Alex Partridge says:

    Love these videos, keep up the good work!

  • Mary Gebbie says:

    9:33 Is that an engraving of Ryland bleeding out after slitting his own throat???

  • The Flute Channel says:

    Super nice to meet you! Love the video too!

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