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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Poetic Technic with examples from EMINEM

Roses are red, violets are blue;
Sugar is sweet, and I love you.
-- Anonymous

This tiny, tiny poem displays assonant end rhyme. The 'oo' vowel sounds of 'blue' and 'you' rhyme at the end of the two lines, linking them together with a nice little effect that thrills the brain and can be much more memorable than just plain language.

We are all familiar with assonant or 'perfect' end-rhyming couplets. Indeed, this is where many people (think highschool) stop writing poetry, because they know of few alternatives to the end rhyme. It's a very basic technique, and it's easy to get bored with the restrictions of rhyming couplets (predictability, also having to contort your language to achieve the rhyme)...

Eminem is a poetical genius. I would like to use some examples from his exuberant, profane oeuvre to illustrate some of the more interesting poetic structures that are out there.

Internal Rhyme
Internal rhyme is when rhyme takes place within the line, or rhymes at the ends of lines are echoed internally:

"Mr. Dre? Mr. N.W.A.?
Mr. AK, 'comin' straight outta Compton, y'all better make way'??"
-- Guilty Conscience

Dre, A, AK, straight, make and way are all assonant rhymes with the majority of those being internal, as I have rendered it.

Eminem's use of internal rhyme in this relentless way actually cracks me up when I hear it, because it's so clever and so striking. Dude's a f$%ing genius. But don't take my word for it! Check out another ancient technique he uses...

Anaphora is simply starting a series of lines with the same few words.

I'm tired of being white trash, broke and always poor.
I'm tired of taking pop bottles back to the party store.
I'm tired of not having a phone.
I'm tired of not having a home to have one in, if I did have one on...
-- If I Had

Anaphora is good for all sorts of things, like lists working towards a generalized emotion or idea, as above. One more before I have to go...

Enjambment is when a sentence spills over more than one line. It allows you to break a lot of the rules of end rhyme and still use it, by accommodating phrasing past where the rhyme has to go. Or you can just use it to write more naturally, like naturally powerful speech that isn't bent into an artificial, restrictive form:

Pull up to the club in a Pinto like it's a Porsche.
Garbage bag for one of the windows, spraypainted doors with the
Flames on 'em. Michigan plates and my name's on them, baby,
Shady's here, come and get him if you dames want him.
-- WTP

It's difficult to classify where Eminem's enjambments are because he uses so many of them ('flow'). I hope the above example will suffice.

I think if there were a hope in hell of being allowed to use current examples like Eminem in English class, it would be a lot easier for kids to engage with literature. The illustrating examples would be familiar from contemporary culture, and I even think identifying the objective technical worth in something that is so popular today, would help students feel like they are part of a valid and worthy culture that stretches back for thousands of years... which they are.

1 comment:

  1. I would agree that Eminem is a brilliant rap artist and that his facility in the genre is remarkable. I find his ability to weave his lyrics with and against the beat of the music fascinating.

    That said, I am not certain that I would credit Eminem with poetic brilliance outside his genre. I think that his words are limited by their context in the same way that a sonnet is limited by its. Still, I agree that introducing him as a contemporary poet might intrigue otherwise disinterested minds and serve as an introduction to the poetic masters. I would not be surprised if he was already appearing on some syllabi in such a capacity.

    But what do I know? As Nietzsche says in the Birth of Tragedy, "we talk so abstractly about poetry because we are all bad poets".

    Touche, mad genius.