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The Sound of Poetry / The Poetry of Sound

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 Dworkinbreak that critical silence to readdress some of thefundamental 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, theconnections 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 essaystake 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.

352 pages | 30 halftones, 5 line drawings, 1 table | 6 x 9 | © 2009

Art: Art--General Studies

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory


“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.”

Peter Middleton, University of Southampton

“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.”

Gerald L. Bruns, University of Notre Dame

“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!”

Jean-Michel Rabate, University of Pennsylvania

"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."

Margarita Shalina | Poetry Project Newsletter

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 FreedomSusan Stewart

In the Beginning Was TranslationLeevi Lehto

Chinese WhispersYunte Huang

            Translating the Sound in Poetry: Six Propositions

            Rosmarie Waldrop

“Ensemble discords”: Translating the Music of

Maurice Scève’s DélieRichard 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 PerspectiveNancy Perloff0

            Cacophony, Abstraction, and Potentiality:

The Fate of the Dada Sound PoemSteve McCaffery0

When Cyborgs VersifyChristian Bök

Hearing VoicesCharles Bernstein

Impossible Reversibilities: Jackson Mac LowHélène Aji

The Stutter of FormCraig Dworkin

The Art of Being NonsynchronousYoko Tawada

(Translated by Susan Bernofsky)

Part III Sounding the Visual          

Writing Articulation of Sound Forms in TimeSusan Howe

Jean Cocteau’s Radio PoetryRubén Gallo

Sound as Subject: Augusto de Campos’s Poetamenos

Antonio Sergio Bessa

Not SoundJohanna Drucker

The Sound Shape of the Visual: Toward a Phenomenology

of an InterfaceMing-Qian Ma

Visual Experiment and Oral PerformanceBrian M. Reed

Postlude: I Love SpeechKenneth Goldsmith

List of Contributors


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