Sunday, June 16, 2013

In Defense (of Parentheses)

Because I seem to be turning back to the parentheses (which I don't seem to use when writing prose stanzas), I thought I'd look back at my remarks on ( ) at the time of my thesis:

In Defense (of Parentheses)
            What is the objection to the parentheses? That it interrupts the clean flow of the narrative or the sentence or the movement in the poem? That it’s a gimmick rather than useful? That it is a shoddy substitute for what the poem should be doing like an exclamation mark where words alone aren’t equaling intensity?
            Against these three points, I would argue first that it is always my intention to interrupt, that I’m against the idea of one line or narrative because life is shivery and multiple and refracting.
I think of the parentheses working with the line in a kind of point/counterpoint way—they are very necessary. The parentheses do not always work the same exactly, but they are always OTHER in relationship to the particular moment of the poem. It’s not just the information that is contained by the parentheses—which might be reminder, caution, correction, added detail, commentary, but the change in pressure, or relief of tone and/or intensity; the sense of pause from the main line, therefore functioning as white space; the introduction of a different, suppressed speaker (although this is rare); the opposition of dictions for a pleasurable contrast, the opportunity to ease a transition.
            If I use “What I Might Be with Wings” (p. 20) as an example, I could say the first parentheses in line 3-4 is a reminder as far as information goes, but it also yanks the reader away from the tendency to the ecstatic that the poem is doing in the main line. The second in line 5-6 is the second in a series of 3 jokey kind of statements, but in terms of information is the most sensory of the three. The third parentheses in line 9 is again very sensory and also sound-oriented and seems to be pushing back toward the ecstatic where the main line is not. The 4th and 5th instances which occur next to each other in the 10th line are offering alternate choices in terms of information but also indicating by the blocky stoppedness of their placement in the middle of the line, the turmoil of the main line of the poem.
            When an exclamation point or a capitalized word is employed because of a failure of intensity or interest, it has a single job, kind of like an adverb, to pump up the volume of the spindly word-display. I hope I’ve demonstrated clearly that the parentheses is much more multi-faceted in use and transcends a single aspect of poetry, being useful in terms of at least space, sound, meaning, and tone.
            The parentheses makes the poem appear more approachable—pulling the reader closer as if to say “for your ears only”—as well as making it more meaningful and complex. It replicates that push/pull tendency the poems develop around ecstasy.

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