The Sound of Poetry / The Poetry of Sound

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Sound—one of the central elements of poetry—finds itself all but ignored in the current discourse on lyric forms. The essays collected here by Marjorie Perloff and Craig Dworkin break that critical silence to readdress some of the fundamental connections between poetry and sound—connections that go far beyond traditional metrical studies.

Ranging from medieval Latin lyrics to a cyborg opera, sixteenth-century France to twentieth-century Brazil, romantic ballads to the contemporary avant-garde, the contributors to The Sound of Poetry/The Poetry of Sound explore such subjects as the translatability of lyric sound, the historical and cultural roles of rhyme, the role of sound repetition in novelistic prose, the connections between “sound poetry” and music, between the visual and the auditory, the role of the body in performance, and the impact of recording technologies on the lyric voice. Along the way, the essays take on the “ensemble discords” of Maurice Scève’s Délie, Ezra Pound’s use of “Chinese whispers,” the alchemical theology of Hugo Ball’s Dada performances, Jean Cocteau’s modernist radiophonics, and an intercultural account of the poetry reading as a kind of dubbing.

A genuinely comparatist study, The Sound of Poetry/The Poetry of Sound is designed to challenge current preconceptions about what Susan Howe has called “articulations of sound forms in time” as they have transformed the expanded poetic field of the twenty-first century.

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Editorial Reviews

Peter Middleton

“This collection assembles a brilliant group of scholars, poets, and translators, many of whom qualify in all three fields, to discuss what until recently was a surprisingly neglected topic, the value of sound in the creation of poetic meaning. These writers take a global perspective on the aural complexities of the music of poetry in many languages, histories, modes of performance, and literary experiments. They also practice what they theorize and take care with the sounding of their own language. The result is a highly intelligent, wonderfully readable, and accessible collection that will be essential for anyone interested in what is happening now in literary studies, poetics, and at the sonic edge of articulation.”
Gerald L. Bruns

“This superb collection of essays by poets and scholars provides an original and comprehensive inquiry into the complex relations between sound and poetry. Complexity is the key word. Sound is not just one thing but an array of phenomena (noise, music, voices, echoes) at play in all varieties of poetic experience—innovation, translation, performance, even visual construction. One of the most important contributions to poetics in years.”
Jean-Michel Rabate

“Ta-tum, ta-tum, ta-tum, ta-tum, ta-tum: poetry. TTA TTATTATTA TTA TTATTA TTA TTAAAA SZSZSZSZSZSZS: poetry. My tongue muttering / An unsung lettering: poetry. Come all you, listen to the best experts, a dream team of poets and critics, they will lead you like Orpheus and instruct you in the arts of hearing voices, accents, dialects, chants, refrains, mute alphabets even, when you read, translate or perform poetry. Hoorhay! Ay! Whrrwhee!”
Poetry Project Newsletter - Margarita Shalina

"While it in no way poses a closed and declarative opinion regarding the relationship of poetry to sound, what Sound/Poetry is attempting to relay is that text and sound coexist, embracing one another in a graceful symbiotic ballet of infinite variables where separation is the hallmark of their togetherness."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226657424
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2009
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Marjorie Perloff is professor of English emerita at Stanford University and author of many books, including Wittgenstein’s Ladder and The Futurist Moment, both also from the University of Chicago Press. Craig Dworkin is associate professor of English at the University of Utah and the author of, most recently, Language to Cover a Page: The Early Writings of Vito Acconci.

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Table of Contents


Introduction: The Sound of Poetry / The Poetry of Sound

            Marjorie Perloff and Craig Dworkin

Prelude: Poetry and OralityJacques Roubaud

             (Translated by Jean-Jacques Poucel)

PART I Translating Sound

Rhyme and Freedom Susan Stewart

In the Beginning Was Translation Leevi Lehto

Chinese Whispers Yunte Huang

            Translating the Sound in Poetry: Six Propositions

            Rosmarie Waldrop

“Ensemble discords”: Translating the Music of

Maurice Scève’s Délie Richard Sieburth

            The Poetry of Prose, the Unyielding of Sound

            Gordana P. Crnković

Part II Performing Sound

Sound Poetry and the Musical Avant-Garde:

A Musicologist’s Perspective Nancy Perloff0

            Cacophony, Abstraction, and Potentiality:

The Fate of the Dada Sound Poem Steve McCaffery0

When Cyborgs Versify Christian Bök

Hearing Voices Charles Bernstein

Impossible Reversibilities: Jackson Mac Low Hélène Aji

The Stutter of Form Craig Dworkin

The Art of Being Nonsynchronous Yoko Tawada

(Translated by Susan Bernofsky)

Part III Sounding the Visual          

Writing Articulation of Sound Forms in Time Susan Howe

Jean Cocteau’s Radio Poetry Rubén Gallo

Sound as Subject: Augusto de Campos’s Poetamenos

Antonio Sergio Bessa

Not Sound Johanna Drucker

The Sound Shape of the Visual: Toward a Phenomenology

of an Interface Ming-Qian Ma

Visual Experiment and Oral Performance Brian M. Reed

Postlude: I Love Speech Kenneth Goldsmith

List of Contributors


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