2/13/12

Appoggiatura, Adele, and Don Paterson


Appoggiatura is a musical term which metrical poets may not be familiar with, but make use of all the time. I would equate it loosely with the elision, though I have tended to call it the rhythmic element of surprise, or the de-emphasis, or the emotion's edge. But appoggiatura is a much more beautiful expression, and I'm always happy when poets borrow from music, the sister art, when describing the tools of the trade. It's defined as a vocal dip, change, or grace note, often discordant or unexpected: an ornament consisting of a nonharmonic note (short or long), preceding a harmonic one either before or on the stress. It comes to us from the Latin, to lean (into the next note). The Oxford Companion to Music describes the use of the appoggiatura as such: ‘...it is as important both melodically and harmocially as the note on which it leans, from which it takes normally half the time-value ...its exact interpretation varies greatly in different periods and contexts; but it always steals the emphasis from the main note, which follows softly like the resolution of a discord. ‘Clearly,’ says , Tim Wood in The Poetics of the Limit, ‘this definition shows that the appoggiatura usurps the emphasis, or the centraility of the main melody. The ‘grace note’ effects a displacement of the central text, thereby recentering the peripheral text.'

In poetry, the effect is subtle, and when done well, utterly exquisite.

I suspect a true master calls up such things deliberately, while the average working poet like myself simply stumbles across such things during composition, revels in the physical effect, and knows intuitively the heart of the poem resides there. And of course whatever we call it, the result is as much contextul as it is sonic. Who was it said, nobody steps in the same word twice...Don Paterson ? Anyway, I think this is why I insist on using words like 'intuition' and 'instinct' when I'm pretending to teach. Go ahead and try to get my shift, so quietly coos the elusive drift inside the poem.

But to return to the blood of it all, of course it's all about the dopamine:


Next week, the mis-appplications and misunderstandings of the under-appreciated caesura.
Or not.





owl in flight, necole cooper camerson