A Matter of Perception – Play Time! (Part One)

leopard-wildcat-big-cat-botswana-46254

QUESTION: When do we perceive what we are reading as poetry and when do see consider it to be prose? First look at the following:

Leopards on the Loose

Two leopards escaped from the local zoo today by climbing up a tree that had fallen into their enclosure. It is believed they climbed up the uprooted tree and jumped down from there. One was darted and recaptured. The other is still on the loose. Residents are requested to stay alert. (A short newspaper article.)

Leopards on the Loose

Two leopards escaped

from the local zoo today

by climbing up

a tree that had

fallen

into their enclosure.

It is believed they

climbed up the

uprooted trunk and

jumped

down

from there.

One was darted

and recaptured.

The other is still

on the loose.

Residents are requested to

stay alert.

‘’The eyes see only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.’’ is a useful quote by author Robertson Davies with which to start.  In the context of this discussion it is perhaps more accurate to say the eyes see the way the mind has been trained to perceive. I am limiting this discussion to matters of layout concerning writing and reading when it comes to thoughts and feelings typed or written onto a page. Broadly put, if a writer uses literary conventions pertaining to prose when placing information on a page, it is read as prose. Should a writer employ one of the genres open to poets (lyric, sonnet, narrative, epic, elegy, ballad, haiku), the reader will talk of having read a poem. I have deliberately kept this discussion brief. There is a lot one can find online regarding the inter-workings of the eye, ear and brain. What I am most keen on is encouraging writers to work at putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and getting them to play around; to experiment and explore. Start with turning prose to poetry and then poetry to prose. Then extend this by working within either one and ask how readers are likely to perceive your work if, for example, you alter sentence, paragraph and chapter lengths or use different fonts and page formats. What, if any, paradigm shifts are likely to occur when a form of presentation is altered? See it as a game. You’re likely to have more fun that way. Keep writing and reading.

Andrew Pender-Smith        

Note: Another prose-to-poetry experiment will be posted in a day or two.

 

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