“Parry and Lord discovered that the epic form was well-suited to the singer’s need for fluency and flexibility, for composition as well as memorization. The singers composed poems orally by calling upon a rich storehouse of ready-made building blocks (traditional patterns), which moved well beyond phrasing.”—Edward Hirsch on this week’s Poet’s Glossary term.
“tanka: Also called uta or waka. The character for ka means ‘poem.’ Wa means ‘Japanese.’ Therefore, a waka is a Japanese poem. Tan means ‘short,’ and so a tanka is a short poem, thirty-one syllables long. It is unrhymed and has units of five, seven, five, seven, and seven syllables, which were traditionally printed as one unbroken line.”—
“The elegy does what Freud calls ‘the work of mourning.’ It ritualizes grief into language and thereby makes it more bearable. The great elegy touches the unfathomable and originates in the unspeakable, in unacceptable loss. It allows us to experience mortality.”—Edward Hirsch on this week’s poetic term: Elegy
“The natural world has been one of the recurring subjects of poetry, frequently the primary one, in every age and every country. Yet we cannot easily define nature, which, as Gary Snyder points out in his preface to No Nature (1992), ‘will not fulfill our conceptions or assumptions’ and ‘will dodge our expectations and theoretical models.’”—Edward Hirsch on this week’s poetic term: Nature Poetry
“stanza: The natural unit of the lyric: a group or sequence of lines arranged in a pattern…The word stanza means ‘room’ in Italian— ’a station,’ ‘a stopping place’—and each stanza in a poem is like a room in a house, a lyric dwelling place.”—Edward Hirsch on this week’s poetic term: Stanza.