Poetry cannot resemble music—unless it reduces the wealth of words to a few musical words:
For having traffic with thy self alone,
Thou of thy self thy sweet self dost deceive.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enameling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
Why don’t the poets play this music anymore?
Is it the fear of using the same word more than once? Remember that edict, drummed into us in school when we first learned to write good prose? Find another word. Don’t use the same word twice.
This doesn’t mean the edict, Use the same word over and over again, will necessarily work, either.
The poet Ben Mazer is fond of quoting one of his university mentors, the British critic Christopher Ricks: “There are no rules!”
But what if there is one rule: the mirror?
If there are no rules, there are no rules to break.
Some know this to be true: “There are no rules” is not a radical statement, but a conservative one.
Mirroring is done in architecture, song, painting, drama, and nature—and not long ago, in poetry.
Now the poets hardly do it at all.
The double—the reflection—the mirror—repetition—is not an artificial or old-fashioned idea..
“Dying, dying, dying” is less artificial than the most matter-of-fact prose passage in existence.
The error that has smashed the mirror is the error that has brainwashed the prose poets.
In this final first round contest in the North, Ben Mazer delivers the following:
All is urgent, just because it gives, and in the mirror, life to life life gives.
Warsan Shire exploits the idea of the mirror more modestly, but powerfully:
I have my mother’s mouth and my father’s eyes—on my face they are still together.
It doesn’t hurt that “mother” and “father” and “together” mirror each other, sound-wise.
The profundity of this line is as plain as the nose on one’s face—which is the best mirror there is.