Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Jay Besemer : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

Initially I would have said that music is unimportant, because its superficial elements aren't easily recognized in my work, even when I write lyrically. But that ignores the truth of music as context for the work--again, in non-obvious ways. My father & husband are both musicians, as was my mother (lots of musicians in my extended family on both sides, too). I am significantly not a musician, though I did sing until transition & illness sort of mangled my voice. I think the real importance of music to my poetry lies in the connection between a bodily-felt awareness/relationship with rhythm, from having family members & friends practicing, learning pieces of music, giving concerts or recitals, all around me. Perhaps that created a sort of subliminal auditory sense I could apply to my own work, because I am very interested in the "mouthfeel" as well as the sounds of words, what one might call their musicality. I don't necessarily feature this in the work, but it's often present. I also find myself using very loose internal rhyme in some poems or batches of poems. I suppose all of this makes sense in terms of that ambient musical vibration.

Another important connection is with ancient Greek drama, which is a large influence on my writing lately. I have a theatre background that probably enters into this mix. The "sung" quality of Greek drama comes through even on the page in contemporary translation, in a way that is fascinating to me, which is why I was engaging with a lot of it a few years ago when I was writing Theories of Performance. I don't know if that's obvious in that book's poems, though--readers will have to tell me!

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