Saturday, August 27, 2011

Let It Be Chords: Or, Thoughts on the Petrified Paragraph

I think in paragraphs. I would like to think differently.

Paragraphs are singular, linear thoughts. They begin and end with hard returns. They're completely self-contained and, certainly in the case of nonfiction, they're generally intended to isolate and direct the thinking of the reader.

Meanwhile . . .

Poets think in lines, in syllables, in phonetics.

Musicians assign tones to words, so that "G" is for "When I find my" and "A" is for "self" and "E" is for "in" and "G" is for "times of" and "C+D" is for "trou+ble."

Programmers think in code--sequences of characters that make no linear sense but create something vibrant and utterly different.

Filmographers and cartoonists think in scenes which words then embellish. Painters think in scenes which words only obscure and diminish.

Writers and editors, like me, think in paragraphs--a steady, unrelenting progression of letters and spaces and punctuation marks that demand coherence and linearity. Each word matters but only in relation to the whole; a misplaced word, meanwhile, unsettles the whole bunch.

I think in paragraphs. I would like to think differently--at least on occasion. I would like to write, at least now and then, like a poet, like a musician, like a programmer, like a filmographer or cartoonist, like a painter.

Ah, but allowing myself to write in these ways, even and perhaps especially only now and then, is to extract myself from the swirling eddy of the paragraph, and how does one do that? And how--and even why--would one then return?

***

Sorry, feeling a bit hippy-trippy today. Apparently I've been listening to too much late-sixties Beatles music lately.

2 comments:

Jeannine Grady said...

Perhaps what you need is someone to tell you how brilliantly you think in paragraphs. Some of us would like to do so half as well as you. Maybe it's frustrating sometimes for the poet to not be able to just say what s/he means without being, well, poetic. (Clearly that's not a problem for me!)

Oh, and according to my early 90's born daughters, there is apparently no such thing as too much late-sixties Beatles music.

David A. Zimmerman said...

Well, that's sweet of you to say. I was listening to The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway this morning (first time in about twenty years!) and thinking what a product of its era it was. As good as he is, Peter Gabriel was at least then trapped in his own milieu. He was making great music, but still trapped--"in a cage," I suppose you could say.