The Function of Tone

  • Stephen Dobyns

Abstract

one of our first questions when we pick up a poem is: What brought this poem into being? This is not nosiness on our part. Most poetry written over the past 200 years has tried to give the impression that it was driven into existence by forces impossible for the poet to resist. Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in a letter to his wife (June 24, 1907), “Works of art are indeed always products of having-been-in-danger, or having-gone-to-the-very-end in an experience, to where one can go no further … and the work of art, finally, is the … most valid possible expression of this uniqueness.”1 And Philip Larkin described the first stage of writing a poem as “when a man becomes obsessed with an emotional concept to such a degree that he is compelled to do something about it.”2 What he does is write a poem that attempts to re-create that same emotional concept in the reader.

Keywords

Burning Metaphor Verse Hate Drone 

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Philip Larkin, “The Pleasure Principle,” in Required Writing (London, 1983), p. 80.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, Alex Preminger and T. V. F. Brogan, eds., (Princeton, NJ, 1993), p. 1293.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Suzanne Langer, “Imitation and Transformation in the Arts,” in Problems of Art (New York, 1957), p. 91.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Anton Chekhov’s Short Stories, selected and ed. Ralph Matlaw (New York, 1979), p. 273.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    Raymond Chandler, “Red Wind,” in The Simple Art of Murder (New York, 1968), p. 333.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    P. G. Wodehouse, Uncle Fred in the Springtime (London, 1939), p. 5.Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    Franz Kafka, “The Metamorphosis” in The Complete Stories, ed. Nahum N. Glatzer (New York, 1983), p. 89.Google Scholar
  8. 13.
    Charles Simic, Selected Poems, 1963–1983, rev. and expanded (New York, 1990), p. 229.Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    William Stafford, “B.C.,” in Traveling through the Dark (New York, 1962), p. 11.Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    Rainer Maria Rilka, “From a Childhood,” in The Book of Images, tran. Edward Snow (San Francisco, 1991), p. 45.Google Scholar
  11. 16.
    W B. Yeats, “Leda and the Swan,” in The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (London, 1963), p. 241.Google Scholar
  12. 17.
    Roger Fanning, “Flirt,” in The Island Itself (New York, 1991 ), p. 23.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Stephen Dobyns 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Dobyns

There are no affiliations available

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