On October 31st, we were graced by Stefano Colangelo’s lecture “Voice and Verse: At the Origins of Contemporary Poetry”. In this lecture, Colangelo included many powerful excerpts, highlighting the importance of the language in each line. The major takeaway I took from Colangelo was that, unlike many of our previous lectures, this one doesn’t have an origin.
This lack of an origin was argued through multiple textual examples. Each example that was given had both the original Italian version next to the translated English one. These examples when read at face value, to me, didn’t seem particularly meaningful. However, as Colangelo further explained, poetry isn’t just about putting some pretty words on a page–poetry is a state of mind, a state of being and existence. It is for this reason that poetry doesn’t have an origin. With this in mind, almost anything can be poetry. Poetry is the silence, the breaths between stanzas, the punctuation dotting the lines. Poetry goes beyond rhyming words or counted syllables.
Going a step beyond this understanding of poetry is realizing that a comprehension or knowledge being a poem or art is laced with preconceived notions and experience. To this extent, Colangelo brought up that it is impossible to hear a poem without projecting your own ideas behind the meaning of it. I think this means that we are only able to understand poems as more than just a compilation of sounds based off of previous knowledge about the language. We use what we know about specific words (when they’re used, if they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’, who normally says them, what I expect to come next, etc.) in order to parse together an image or message trying to get through the contrived veil of the poet who is attempting to hide their true meaning from us. To explain this, Colangelo told a story about a person going from country to country with no background on how to speak the language nor their culture and experiencing these places in this way.
I thought this example was quite beautiful. Imagine going some place for the first time with no expectations nor ideas about how things should look or behave, and grasping that experience with those new eyes. I feel as though I have been taught most of my life that not preparing myself for what may happen or knowing what’s going on before I do something is irresponsible or even rude, but how much more amazing would it be to land from an airplane in a country you have no idea what it may look like. I buy into this unpreparedness and the poetic nature of experiences that come with it. It is like imagining how to describe something you have no way of knowing how to describe it, like a color without using other colors as reference.
Over winter break, I have the absolute privilege of traveling to Armenia, a country I have very little background knowledge of nor experience with. I think in the light of this lecture, I will go into it without doing my research as normal, where I usually look up major landmarks, history, holidays, geography, etc. before I travel someplace new, and just experiencing it…well…blind. I think that an experience like this will allow me to be awed and amazed in a way that researching something ahead of time will never allow, and will let you know how it goes.