This post responds to Michael Myshack’s post ‘What is this Called?’

Firstly, yes, I agree with Michael’s calling my label ‘digitally produced audio poetry’ long-winded. That label is a kind of ‘anti-poetic’, technical-information-conveyor, and made purposefully so, because at the moment so many poets haven’t even heard any of this kind of stuff, and so I wanted a description that would describe to those wholly uninitiated what it is I’m trying to interest them in. It would be splendid if at some point in the future this (perhaps ugly) technical-information-download-of-a-label mouthful could become transmogrified: re-breathed out through a few smooth gasps into something poetically compressed and beautiful. But before that can happen it might be best to continue carrying the label purely as a functional tool.

But, I am ready to start suggesting some poetic names, perhaps names that could replace the ‘toolish’ label in the future. Before I do my own suggesting, though, I’ll mention others first.

I’m struck by two of Mythryn’s suggestions: ‘Auracular Poetry’ and ‘Audiocanvassed Poem’ (in comments below ‘What is this called?’) . I’ve looked up ‘auracular’ and have got to the word ‘auricular’; I think Mythryn’s spelling is unique, and that might be intended, and if not, then it might be a useful accident. But, ‘auricular’ means simply that something is audible, and so in the technical sense only describes spoken poetry. ‘Audiocanvassed’ is really good, conjures painting with sounds. The word ‘audio’, although in its first meaning again refers simply to what can be heard, by now it is almost always related to electronic/digital recording, and so I think works for us. But, you do have to be so careful with all the baggage that comes with naming and labels and how others can pick up baggage you didn’t even know you were carrying and then run away from you with it, for better or worse! So, the word ‘canvassed’: ‘The action or process of personally soliciting votes before an election.’ (Oxford Shorter). It’s a shame, cuz I really like the painterly image, but unfortunately the politically charged baggage is something I would not want the name of an art to carry.

(And talking of baggage, I’m afraid the acronym for ‘digitally produced audio poetry’ DPAP has in its last syllable unfortunate connotations of the dumbed-down, or depending on your bent, the more nourishing suggestion of ‘teat’ or ‘breast’!)

David MacCooey refers to his distinctive and excellent work as ‘poetry soundtracks’. (Although it is interesting and surprising to me that on SoundCloud he labels his poetry soundtracks as ‘Electronic’. ) I think the label ‘poetry soundtrack’ very much fits David’s work, and in good ways, connecting to cinematic aesthetics, as alluded to by Michael Myshack in his ‘What is this called?’ post. In correspondence with David (via SoundCloud) he wrote to me: ‘I guess my term, ‘poetry soundtracks’ (which took me some time to arrive at), is a subset of digitally produced audio poetry.’ And I agree with him on that, but as I will mention shortly, I think DPAP itself might actually be a subset!

David Stevens  sometimes collaborates with poet Heather A Taylor to produce astounding work. He calls this collaboration ‘Electrocoustic poesetics’. The ‘electrocoustic’ portion gets across ‘digitally produced’ and in a more elegant manner than my label; and the ‘poesetics’ portion obviously gets across ‘poetry’, but in an interesting, surprising and not wholly clear way. Which is perfect for poetics, although not so good for conveying direct technical info to the uninitiated. I’m pretty sure David has invented ‘poesetics’, and I find the word intriguing. The ‘poes’ part of the word, largely because of the letter ‘s’ conjures for me the word ‘poiesis’ (from the Greek for ‘creation’/’to make’; the route meaning of poetry). The ‘etic’ part connects with ‘aesthetic’, and ‘synthetic’. And get this: if one splits out from the word ‘POEseTIC’ the word ‘poetic’, we come to the word ‘se’. Now, I really don’t know if David intended this, but I do like the fact the Oxford Shorter defines the noun ‘se’ thus: ‘A Chinese twenty-five-stringed plucked musical instrument, being a form of zither.’ So, there’s a lot of poetic flux going on here that I find pleasurable, and poetically useful. But again, it’s not direct enough to transmit information to the uninitiated, and also, although not as technically ugly as my label, it is still rather a mouthful and not easily gasped-out smoothly.

Michael Myshack’s (Swampmessiah’s) title for this blog-website is rather brilliant and beautiful, in its simplicity. This could work as an excellent label. ‘Poetry and other sounds’ is essentially what we are talking about. Poetry is of course a sound once it is spoken, and vocalised poetry has to take its place in the world of sounds, alongside all the world’s other sounds, and I think that is what our new(ish) artform is very much about. It is not a great title for conveying to the uninitiated (but as I’ve said, we are now thinking about the future when the function-label can be dropped). Besides, I’m sure a sensitive and interested uninitiated person would probably get much of the artform from Michael’s phrase; it would simply require a little thought, and inquisitiveness about what ‘other sounds’ might be.

Michael’s phrase led me on to thinking of this: ‘sound-enhanced poetry’. It does not have quite the same poetic grace as ‘poetry and other sounds’, but it does compress phrase into label. And it is quite clear about what it is, although it does not emphasise the digital. But I think that can only be a good thing, as ‘sound-enhanced poetry’ can actually range from simply spoken poetry (simply because once poetry is not being read silent in the mind, once it is lifted off the page and spoken into air to hear, it is being enhanced by sound, or being enhanced by its truest ‘self’) through to a live recording of a poet next to a waterfall accompanied by intermittent blackbird and electric-guitar three hundred yards away, through to the utterly digitally produced: that spoken into a computer and electrified through various digital devices and filters.

So, at this point I think ‘sound-enhanced poetry’ might do the job. (And I now rather think that ‘digitally produced audio poetry’ is actually a sub-genre of ‘sound-enhanced poetry’.) ‘Sound-enhanced poetry’ doesn’t ‘sound’ too cumbersome either, and it’s half way between poetic name and functional label. But …

… I’m still after something which can be more simply breathed out in one go, with no gaps (gasps) between words. And so I suppose I’m after a single word. A word as easily said as ‘poetry’. Yes, how splendid it would be, for there to be a time when there was a single word for this artform that many people would instantly recognise. Poets are such dreamers! But we can also be quite practical when it comes to constructing with words. So, here goes. I’ve got on my poetry-overalls and I’m about to open up that glorious tool-box so full of well-oiled & glistening syllables:

The main words: Poetry. Sound. Sonance. Poiesis. Sonus.

Very nice bunch of sounds! Lets play at placing them and bits of them side by side:


All of the above have some appeal, and all of them work in their own ways (some better than others).

I’m going with ‘poesonus’, although ‘poesonance’ is following close. What I like about ‘poesonance’ is how closely it associates with the word ‘assonance’ (‘Resemblance or correspondence of sound between two syllables.’ –Shorter Oxford). Poetry is full of assonance and correspondences, and we are talking about the sound of poetry coming into relationship with the world of other sounds, of poetry and other sounds corresponding, so yes, I like what the word conjures. But, it is not nearly so easily breathed out as ‘poesonus’. For me, the ‘n’ close to the end of ‘poesonance’ snags a little bit too much. Not that consonantal snagging is bad, in fact the rub and grit of such snagging is what makes much of poetry, but for this word I want the noise to be much more breathy, much more of vowels and sibilance, to fit more the ‘air’ it describes. So, ‘poesonus’ flows smooth. I also like its purity. It takes the first bit of ‘poetry’ and connects it directly with the Latin word for sound, ‘sonus’. It’s pure in that it simply meshes ‘poetry’ and ‘sound’ into one. There is also an attractive faint chime with the gorgeous word ‘song’.

If poetry gives us poems, then perhaps ‘poesonus’ gives us ‘poesons’. We have ‘poetic’; is there something other than this, is there ‘poesonetic’?

I think I might start labelling some of my tracks thus: POESONUS (sound-enhanced poetry). Sometimes I might put inside the brackets ‘poetry & other sounds’. Perhaps one day the phrase in brackets will go. Perhaps one day the label will go, and there will be a name there instead. Perhaps us ‘poet-sound-makers’ will one day know our ‘calling’.

Some of my tracks to come will still clang out ‘digitally produced audio poetry’, well perhaps … but I suspect I might use POESONUS more and more … or perhaps better words will emerge … ? We shall see, or should I say: HEAR?


4 thoughts on “Calling

  1. Thank you, Mark. That was excellent. I’m envious of your layout abilities, too—going from Poesound to Poesonus. Nicely done. Let’s see if Poesonus sticks. I suspect we’ll first notice a ripple on

    • I strongly suspect ‘poesonus’ will not stick. It is extremely hard to coin words. I think your phrase ‘poetry & other sounds’ and my label ‘sound-enhanced poetry’ stand a much better chance. As for my layout abilities online – not nearly as colourful as my accompanying cussing! But thank you for the compliment.

    • ‘Poesynth’ certainly gets across an amalgamation of poetry and electronic music. I think as a very specialised label, perhaps focusing on collaborations between the likes of Coleridge & Kraftwerk, well, I think it does the job admirable. Some of Bryant 0’Hara’s work might fit the ‘poesynth’ category … ?

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