01 January 2016

Borges on poetry

I found the following quotation in a book I received for Christmas:
"Truly fine poetry must be read aloud.  A good poem does not allow itself to be read in a low voice or silently.  If we can read it silently, it is not a valid poem: a poem demands pronunciation.  Poetry always remembers that it was an oral art before it was a written art.  It remembers that it was first song."
---from "The Divine Comedy", the first chapter of Seven Nights.
I'm not a big fan of poetry, but Borges' viewpoint does apply to most of my favorite poems - Prufrock, The Raven, Robert Frost, Dr. Seuss, nonsense poetry, et al (though not to E.E. Cummings).


  1. Sadly, a lot of people who love poetry will recite aloud to any hostage audience. At tedious length. Good poetry may need to be read aloud. Bad poetry too often gets the honor, though.

    Yeah, Christmas with my FIL. Cowboy poetry in particular. (sigh)

  2. I find I prefer poems to be read silently, without audible vocalisation. I love poetry. And I have been much disappointed by hearing poets read their own poems aloud, W.B. Yeats, Dylan Thomas, spring to mind.


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