UNITY SAS 602 Barnet 2014

Syllabus in html

The Sonnet Form

May 1 field trip

2014 Apr 4 draft
Syllabus  SAS 602
3 Credits CEUs
2014 March 27-May 29, Thursdays, 1-5pm, Room 204

Motto: Today, in a secular world, it is almost wholly through the arts that we have a living reminder of the terror and nobility of what we are. 
—J Robert Oppenheimer,  “Address,” New York City, 1963.

Guest faculty member: The Rev Vern Barnet, DMn 
Office Hours as arranged
Telephones: Desk 816 753 1633,  Cell 816 679 1633,  E-Mail: vern@cres.org
Required Reading:  Handouts 
Recommended Reading: 
     W H Auden: The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays
     Vintage Books/Random House, 1962/1990

Course Business Card -- front

Questions Guiding This Course
2014 Unity Institute and Seminary SAS 602 Barnet
architecture, dance, film, literature (especially poetry), music, opera, painting, sculpture, theater, video, worship, and other arts 

¶ What is religion, what is art, and what is their relationship? 
¶ How can the arts deepen my own spiritual formation?
¶ How can ministry grow out of the arts and arts grow from my ministry?

CRES, Box 45414, Kansas City, MO 64171

Course Business Card -- back

Questions on Encountering Art

SURFACE — What elements (color, shape, character, scene, event, object, dialog, texture. rhythm, dynamic, instrument, background, lighting, movement, etc) and methods (structure, development, contrast, parallels, irony, references, etc) do you find?

HERMENEUTIC — What objects, emotions, moods, themes symbolize larger meaning? What is the work of art about? What is its message or function? What would aliens learn about humanity from it? 

RESULT — How would you title or summarize this work of art, or identify  its metaphysical lesson? What did you learn about the artist and the work’s tradition and influences? What experiences in your own life does it prompt? How does it influence your future? 

Inspired by The Human Agenda 

Course Description

"Religion and the Arts" is an experiential course requiring intense classroom participation and some field encounters as the student develops one's own understandings of how and why the arts and religion express and affect each other. An initial assessment of students' backgrounds will guide the development, sequence, and structure of the course which will deal with arts such as music, dance, painting, sculpture, architecture, literature (especially poetry), theatre, opera, film, video, and worship arts. 

For example, the topic dance includes comparing and contrasting the spiritual meanings of classical ballet, American Indian tribal dance, modern dance, Bharatnatyam, kabuki, and liturgical dance. 

Students with special competence in certain fields will be expected to contribute their expertise; for example, if a student has been a professional actor, he or she may help select a scene from a play for class enactment and study.

 This is not a homiletics course. It is not an arts appreciation course or a philosophical study of aesthetics.. It is not a theology course. It is not a worship arts practicum. But it does give the student an opportunity to join artistic experience with one's theory of ministry and self-care. 

 Kansas City is now known nationally for excellence in many of the arts, and the course aims to acquaint the students with arts organizations and leaders to understand the spiritual dimensions of their arts. The sequence of topics will also be determined largely by the availability of these leaders.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

1. Outline the historical development of the relationship between religion and the arts.

2. Demonstrate the value and the place of the arts in the student's personal spiritual life.

3. Develop a theoretical statement about the intimacy between religion and the arts.

4. Evaluate opportunities to employ the arts in ministry. 

Pedagogy and Requirements

There are, some say, two kinds of learning: learning CONTENT (Beethoven was born in 1770) and learning SKILLS (how to play the piano). We'll do both kinds of learning in this class, with the most important skills being learning to access the sacred in art and learning how to enrich our personal and professional lives with the sacred in art. 

0. During our first class period, we'll introduce ourselves by talking about 
     (1) why we elected this course, 
     (2) what we would like to accomplish in these ten weeks, and 
     (3) one work of art that is important to us and why.

¶ Session routine

1. Attend and participate each class session and/or substitute field trip, with preparation by reading any handouts or other assigned material or activities.

2. At the beginning of each session, report on what you have done with something from the last time we met. EXAM-PLES: I wrote a cantata, I had a fantasy, I talked with a friend, I went to Wikipedia, I viewed a film . . . .

3. At the end of each session, report on 
     (a) something during the session you found of special note (interesting, troubling, . . . ) SUCH AS I really liked that excerpt from Tennessee Williams because it helps me understand the Crucifixion in a deeper way.
     (b) a direction for your further study or experience such as I am going to read that whole play and have actors in my congregation present an excerpt just before I gave my Easter sermon.

¶  Weekly Journals

4. After each session, prepare and email me at vern@cres.org — RE: SAS602 —

     a) one “journal” entry commenting on what you found of value from the session, perhaps expanding on your end-of-class comment or the remark or remarks of others, and
     (b) one entry on your independent study before the next class session, focused on either past or anticipated material. 

Please include your text in the body of the email, not as an attachment. If you wish, the two entries can be combined, but they should be emailed no later than Wednesday 9 am. One well-written paragraph may be worth a dozen that need editing; less is more, and no more than about 500 words each. Preparing (a) shortly after class preserves freshness.

(b) AN EXAMPLE OF INDEPENDENT STUDY would be, say, if you liked John Donne's “Batter My Heart” sonnet, you could learn what a sonnet is, or about John Donne's erotic poetry, or about his career as an Anglican priest as Dean of St Paul’s in London, or you could learn why he and other early 17th Century poets were called “metaphysical,” or you could listen to the way John Adams put the sonnet to music in his opera, Dr Atomic and explain whether its is appropriate for a poem from the 1600s to be a part of a story of J Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atom bomb,” or if you are dancer, you might choreograph and perform a dance interpreting the poem for the class . . . .
     ANOTHER WAY of fulfilling this requirement is to encounter art, such as attending a musical performance, and writing about it.

¶  Term Paper or Project

 5. Prepare a term paper or project answering these questions, citing class and other life experiences, your journal entries, and other study:

     (1) What is religion, what is art, and what is the relationship between religion and the arts?
     (2) How can I appropriate the arts to deepen my own spiritual formation?
     (3) How can I use the arts in my ministry?

The paper or project should reflect and summarize the experiences and materials the student has encountered in the course (this is not a philosophy course on aesthetics) and integrate them into one’s own spiritual perspective for self-care and professional outlook for one’s ministry.

Since this course focuses on experiences from which the student develops one’s own practical and theoretical approaches, rather than studying other people’s theories, unless scholarly material is cited, footnotes are not required. 

The paper should  be as long as it takes to answer the questions but, please, no longer. A sermon-length paper might suffice. With advance approval, a project could be a short play or oratorio, a slide show or painting, a cell phone app, or other creative fulfillment of the three questions above.

The paper or project should reflect the course as a team exploration of what awakens, moves, and transforms the soul through artistic media.

Sequence of topics for 2014 Spring term

1. Mar 27: Intros, Syllabus, Patterns, Art Form Guide, Theater (Night of the Iguana scene), Renaissance v. Chinese Song Dynastasy handscoll landscapes, Handout poems 1-4

2. Apr 3: Field trip: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and private home / painting, sculpture, architecture
Review at http://www.cres.org/art

3. Apr 10: 3-Ps:Pattern, Play, Plot; Juan Diego Florez: Daughter of the Regiment; CSNY: Judy Blue Eyes; John Adams: Batter My Heart. 2-sided business cards. W H Auden

4. Apr 17: Complete Shostakovitch Symphony #5. Discuss Opera, Marriage of Figaro; Frost and Blake poems; Blake etchings; liturgical arts.

5. Apr 24: Architecture (GHTC) and worship arts, models of worship, Myth and ritual, sacred  / model stories (Gilgamesh), fragment of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra; Musical Eras, musical forms. Liturgical year/ calendar. More about patterns; "minor" arts.

6.Apr 25: Field trip: Friends of Chamber Music presentation of Benjamin Grosvenor, piano, Folly Theater, preceded by Dr Bill Everett's lecture (replaces May 29 class).

7. May 1: Field trip: Trapp Florists, Unicorn Theater, Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, St Mary's Episcopal

8. May 8: Review of field trip. Discuss "Art is the Body Language of the Soul" and "Art and the Spirit." Sharing Orders of Service from student experiences. Worship arts: Four-part "Pilgrimage" model of liturgy; Worship Arts--Ritual for People who Hate Ritual..

9. May 15:Poetry, Dance (modern dance, modern ballet, Flamenco, Pilobolus, Kathak and Bharatanatyam; ballroom dancing).

10. May 22: Architecture and sacred spaces; whether the "celebrant" is the sacrament; whether art in a secular age is truly separate from the sacred.. Student sharing of ideas for term paper or project.

May 29: class replaced by Apr 25 field trip.


The student will be graded equally on (a) the quality of classroom participation including the journals and (b) the term paper or project.

A= Excellent graduate level work
B=Graduate level work
C=Undergraduate level work
D=High school level work
F=Absence/no submission
93 -100 A
90--92% A- 
87--89% B+ 
83--86% B 
80--82% B- 
77--79% C+ 
73--76% C 
70--72% C- 
67--69% D+ 
63--66% D 
60--62% D- 
<60% F 
Procedure for field trips:

The instructor and/or class will prepare and submit a written statement about students’ transportation off campus, where and when they are traveling, and who is in each vehicle, with license identification, to satisfy the Unity Institute procedure guidelines. If any field trips are arranged for other than class times, the length of the regular class session will be adjusted or dismissed. Arrival time at destinations will be calculated on the basis of starting at Unity Village at 1 pm, with similar negotiations for dismissal. Cell phones should be on in case of emergency until all class members have arrived. Since car pool time is class time, students will report on their fascinating conversations when the entire class assembles at the destination.

Instructor Bio Sketch

     Honored by Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and other groups, Vern Barnet has taught world religions and related courses at several universities and seminaries including the Unity Institute, and served on the faculty of the nation’s first “Interfaith Academies” sponsored by Harvard University’s Pluralism Project and Religions for Peace-USA. He has been featured in national media, including a half-hour CBS-TV special in 2002.
     His civic activities also have  been recognized with local and national awards, and a “Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award” is given to a distinguished Kansas Citian each year. He was the professional weekly religion columnist for The Kansas City Star from 1994 to 2012; and his articles, reviews, and poems have appeared in many publications. With three others, he wrote and edited the 740-page Essential Guide to Religious Traditions and Spirituality for Health Care Providers, published by Radcliffe in 2013. 
     He completed his doctoral work in 1970 at the Meadville-Lombard Theological School and the University of Chicago, where he studied with historian of religion Mircea Eliade. Ordained a Unitarian Universalist minister, he served parishes in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Kansas before dedicating his career to interfaith understanding in the Kansas City area. 
     Now minister emeritus of the Center for Religious Experience and Study (CRES), which he founded in 1982, he is an active Episcopalian layman. Harvard’s Pluralism Project profiles him on its website: http://pluralism.org/interfaith/kansas_city/leaders/barnet.  A full biography appears at http://www.cres.org/team/vern.htm

Opening / Closing Report

¶  Opening: From our last class session — What I thought about, created, researched, talked to a friend about, composed an opera about, had a dream about . . . .

¶   Closing: As the class session ends — this particularly intrigues me, annoys me, provokes me to learn  more about, inspires me to . . . .

My brilliant contribution to the class:

Brilliant contributions from my classmates:

Selected Optional Bibliography: 
**** John Hospers: “Aesthetics, Problems of” in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Macmillan, 1967, pp 35-56.
**** Susanne Langer: Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art, Harvard, 1942/1979.
**** Robert M. Platt: The I-Opener, Prentice-Hall, 1976 -- “Aesthetics: Beauty, Value, and Life,” chapter 8, pp 183-207.
**** Charles Rosen: The Classical Style, W. W. Norton & Company, 1998.


(c) 2014 Vern Barnet, Kansas City, MO

The poetic form does not merely contain a sentiment as a glass contains water. Rather speak of the grail containing wine; the meaning of each is intensified by the other. In poetry the form and the sentiment are as intimately related as the body and the soul. 
      In the famous Rubin illustration of figure-ground reversal, one may perceive the goblet or the two faces; but they create each other, as yearning and fulfillment, body and soul, the form and the meaning, create each other, as God and the Creation find each other to know and be known, and, transcending these categories, are propelled toward the Infinite. Poetry should do this. 
      William Blake and, as my teacher, Mircea Eliade, has shown, Zarathustra and Suhrawardi, among others, understood that Creative Imagination gives us access to the Reality we co-create.
      As a Friendship is created by each partner discovering holy images of how to be with each other, love within the mundane and even flawed characters they present to each other, so poetry spells forth the higher reality implicit in the appearance each creates of himself and of the Friend, just as, for Ibn Arabi, God is pronounced by the gift of Imagination. Christians say Christ is the Word made flesh. 
     The words we use create or mask Reality, and when humans speak to each other, their creative interchange transforms them as they cannot transform themselves — which is how my teacher, Henry Nelson Wieman, described God. Giving these sonnets to the reader is my oblation.

¶ 12. THE FORM.— Strict, riming verse is sometimes resented as unnatural, not suited to our age. To me such form is beautiful. Traditional form may use surprising, archaic, technical, slang, and vulgar language, and strained and ambiguous phrasing, for an effect that cannot be achieved in conversational verse. W H Auden insists that “A poem is a rite; hence its formal and ritualistic character. Its use of language is deliberately and ostentatiously different from talk.”
     In “An Essay on Criticism,” Alexander Pope wrote “True Ease in Writing comes from Art, not Chance, | As those move easiest who have learn’d to dance”; in “Natur und Kunst,” Goethe writes, In der Beschränkung zeigt sich erst der Meister, | Und das Gesetz nur kann uns Freiheit geben — “A master reveals himself through restraint, | and only law can provide freedom.” 
     Freedom is not the absence of form, but the mastery of form. Humans thrive not by abandoning or rejecting structure, but by fulfilling it in such a way as to transcend it. Similarly, genuine love is not desire whose origins are formless; rather love is the urge to behold and in some sense to unite with the Beloved, an ardor which can mature into a decision to surrender control to a Larger Process. The purpose becomes purposelessness, sheer delight, bliss. Perhaps one reason the love sonnet has endured for over five hundred years is that its asymmetrical balance expresses this mystery: that mastery and surrender are one. 
    Knowing a bit about the form’s history, how the form is used, and how some of the technical devices are employed, can enhance their meaning. Hence this propaedeutic.
      * The sonnet is often used dramatically. The poet addresses a particular person in a particular situation. 
      * through the sonnet’s characteristic logical examination, an underlying emotion is discovered and explored. 
      * The original theme of the sonnet sequence was the revelation, through physical beauty, of spiritual love. Affection for friends of the same sex was often expressed incidentally. Many of Shakespeare’s sonnets seem to be as much about art, and particularly poetry, as about his relationships.

¶ 13. EARLY HISTORY.— The sonnet developed in Italy in the Thirteenth Century and was perfected by Petrarch in the Fourteenth. (It was the first poetic form prepared for the printed page.) Englishmen adopted it in the Sixteenth Century. William Shakespeare (1564-1616) transformed the sonnet from what had become conventional sentiment to reveal its secret powers. While subsequent English poets have used the sonnet to write about many subjects and often used the Italian style, still love, for which the sonnet is the perfect vehicle, is the single topic most often associated with this poetic form. 
      Sir Philip Sidney (1544-1586) could write a sonnet like a torso of earned muscles, posing:

   Thou blind man’s mark, thou fool’s self-chosen snare,
   Fond fancy’s scum, and dregs of scattered thought;
   Band of all evils, cradle of causeless care;
   Thou web of will, whose end is never wrought;
   Desire! Desire! I have too dearly bought,
   With price of mangled mind, thy worthless ware;
   Too long, too long, asleep thou hast me brought,
   Who should my mind to higher things prepare.

   But yet in vain thou hast my ruin sought;
   In vain thou madest me to vain things aspire; 
   In vain thou kindlest all thy smoky fire;
   For virtue hath this better lesson taught,–
      Within myself to seek my only hire, 
      Desiring naught but how to kill desire.

¶ 14. ENGLISH AND ITALIAN SONNETS.— The scaffolding of the Shakespearean sonnet is simple: a poem of fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, with a rime scheme of  abab.cdcd-efef.gg, often interpretd as three quatrains (four-line stanzas) and a couplet (two-line stanza), or as an octave (eight-line stanza), a quatrain, and a couplet. One of Shakespeare’s sonnets, 99, is fifteen lines, another twelve lines, 126 (with riming couplets only), and his rime and rhythm patterns are not rigid throughout the corpus. An iamb is a group of two syllables, the first unaccented, the second stressed, as in the word desire. A line of five groups of syllables, or “feet,” is called pentameter. The concluding couplet often provides an epigrammatic whiplash to the Shakespearean sonnet. 
      On the other hand the Petrarchan sonnet opens with an octave with a rime scheme of abbaabba and concludes with a sestet (six lines) often either cdecde or cdcdcd. This form  swells and ebbs, avoiding the Shakespearean climax. Another way of viewing some Petrarchan sonnets is two quatrains followed by two tercets (three-line stanzas). 
      Spencer developed a hybrid: ababbcbccdcdee. Other poets have tried many variations and irregularities.
      Since English has fewer riming words than Italian, the seven riming sounds in the English sonnet may conform more to the nature of the language, and thus seem more natural, than repeating four or five riming sounds in the Italian pattern, though Milton, Wordsworth, Keats, Hopkins, Frost, and cummings, among many others, have done it.
      The sonnet often has a volta, a turn of thought, often initiated with “But” or “Yet.” In the Italian sonnet, the volta, marked by the onset of new end rimes, occurs between the octave and the sestet; in the English sonnet it may occur there (as in Sidney, quoted above, Shakespeare’s 29 below, Donne’s below, or as late as the concluding couplet (as in Shakespeare’s 130), or even the very last line (as in Shakespeare’s 66).

¶ 15. INTERIOR PATTERNS.— The interior principle varies. One order consists of three quatrains, each presenting the sonnet’s theme in a different metaphor, and a concluding couplet. A perfect example, embodying  concerns with youth, age, death, and love, is Shakespeare’s 73:

   That time of year thou mayst in me behold
   When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
   Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
   Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang.

   In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
   As after sunset fadeth in the west,
   Which by and by black night doth take away,
   Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.

   In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
   That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
   As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
   Consumed with that which it is nourished by.

   This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
   To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

      A second pattern sets forth a theme in the octet, summarizes it in the next quatrain, and encapsulates it in the couplet: eight lines condensed to four, and then condensed again into two, as in Shakespeare’s 55 (see also 33 and 87):

   Not marble nor the gilded monuments
   Of princes shall outlive this powerful rime;
   But you shall shine more bright in these contents
   Than unswept stone besmeared with sluttish time.
   When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
   And broils root out the work of masonry,
   Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn
   The living record of your memory.

   ’Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
   Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
   Even in the eyes of all posterity
   That wear this world out to the ending doom.

   So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
   You live in this, and dwell in lover’s eyes.

      Thirdly, perhaps the most distinctive interior consists of an octave presenting one mood or view and, with the volta, a contrasting or resolving sestet, as Shakespeare’s 29 (see also 2, 18, and 106):

   When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes
   I all alone beweep my outcast state
   And trouble dead heaven with my bootless cries
   And look upon myself and curse my fate,
   Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
   Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
   Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
   With what I most enjoy contented least;

   Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, 
   Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
   Like to a lark at break of day arising
   From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
     For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
     That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

      A fourth interior principle is meandering, with no particular separation of thought within the external edifice. Sometimes the progression of the thought works against, or ignores, the scaffolding. Some of Milton’s best sonnets gain power by enjambment, the spilling over of sense from one line to the next. 
      Each inner structure within the external form has its own effect, and gives the poet a way of conveying the message beyond the words, the sounds, the images; the inner structure is like the tone of voice or the posture we use when we speak. The form itself can become a dimension of the meaning. 

¶ 16. DONNE AND HOPKINS.— In addition to Shakespeare, two other sonneteers may help introduce my own efforts because they are especially concerned with spiritual themes. 
      “Metaphysical” poet John Donne (1573-1631), Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, often used sexual metaphors in hispoems of faith, sometimes almost blasphemously, and made religion as important a topic for the sonnet as love. Another cleric-poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889, published in 1918), also wrote sonnets with an explosive power displaying the spirit in sensual celebration. Both are interested in creation as the images of the spirit. Donne uses the vocabulary of science and Hopkins glories in the outdoors. 
     No poet more effectively than Donne uses the device of paradox. Akin is the “conceit,” an elaborate, exaggerated comparison. The ingenuity and intellectual challenge of the conceit make us think afresh to feel deeply. The conceit finds the edges of reality around deep, otherwise formless, sentiment.
     Observe the conceit in one of Donne’s “Holy Sonnets,” 14, its torment typical. God is Trinity, blacksmith, glass-blower, battle chief, rapist. Donne, in the octave, is a city under siege (twisting a Petrarchan convention of the beloved’s heart as a fortress); in the sestet (beginning with “Yet”) he is a sexual partner desiring a different lover. The final tercet (which ends with a couplet) unites the two metaphors and brings the conceits to a climax all the more shocking because it seems irresistible.

    Batter my heart, three-personed God; for You
    As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
    That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
    Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
    I, like an usurped town, to another due, 
    Labor to admit You, but O, to no end;
    Reason, Your viceroy in me, me should defend,
    But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.

    Yet dearly I love You, and would be loved fain,
    But I am betrothed unto Your enemy.
    Divorce me, untie or break that knot again;
    Take me to You, imprison me, for I,
    Except You enthrall me, never shall be free,
    Nor ever chaste, except You ravish me.

Hopkins uses archaic forms of words and terms in their original senses, in concentrated alliteration and assonance, in internal rimes, puns and energy-twisted syntax. Most poets vary meter from the expected pattern to enhance the meaning. Here is “The Windhover: To Christ Our Lord,” a much anthologized example of the Hopkins sonnet:

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
     dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon in his riding
     Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
     As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
     Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,–the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
     Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

     No wonder of it; sheer plod makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
     Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

The ministry in the sonnets of Donne and Hopkins points to directions for a spiritual healing of today’s fragmented secularity. By polluting the environment, we are divorced from nature. By compartmentalizing our lives, we split body from spirit. By tolerating special interests in the political realm, we abuse each other for ends broken off from the covenant with the Infinite.

¶ 17. MUSIC IN VERSE.— Poetry may be as much music as idea: poems must be heard, not just read with the eye. (“Voi ch’ascoltate in rime sparse il suono, . . ” wrote Petrarch in The Canzoniere, “You who hear the sound in scattered rimes, . .” not “you who read . . . .” The very term “sonnet” derives from the same linguistic root as “sonic,” “sonata,” “resonate,” and the word “sound” itself. Most sonnets need repeated hearings. Even one that may seem obvious the first time through can become a calamity if the music is any good.
      Here is «Ad Astra», varying the theme of Shakespeare’s 55, to illustrate common ways of talking about the music from the flow and repetition of sound: 

   In my frail frame immortal love doth dwell;
   and in these lines with borrowed breath you live.
   No skill can keep my body from death’s spell;
   what skill I have doth life forever give
   to you and me conjoined in sounds that they
   shall speak who never knew us, though they gaze
   long through the window of this page, and say
   with wonder how we loved, in our brute age.

   And yet no words I write can e’er be true;
   they all fumble, flunk, fall, deform, and fail
   the infinite mystery that is you
   and me, like calling minnow what is whale.

   No lay can list to others what is ours
    though yet these rimes might reach as far as stars.

Here are some of the technical devices the sonnet employs. Many of them may be found in other forms of poetry.
      *  cadence or rhythm (including pause and pacing as well as stress or length of sound, and variation of the meter): “infinite mystery,” “fumble, flunk, fall, deform”
      *  alliteration (repetition of consonantal sounds at the beginning of words): “borrowed breath . . . body,” “what . . . whale”
      *  consonance (repetition of consonantal sounds at the end or within words): “frame immortal,” “have . . . forever give”
      *  dissonance or half-rime (repetition of consonantal sounds around a changed vowel, usually in a stressed syllable): “fall . . . fail,” “window . . . wonder” 
      *  assonance or vowel rime (repetition of vowel sounds with different consonantal sounds before and after the vowel, usually in a stressed syllable): “death’s spell,” “gaze . . . age”
      * rimes:  ?end rimes (at the end of lines): “true . . . you”  ?leonine rimes (one word ending a pause within a line with a word ending a line): “page . . . age”  ?internal (rimes elsewhere): “all . . . fall,” “you . . . knew” 
      End rimes may or may not be important. The end of the line may make a natural break in the thought, or internal rimes or other effects may be more important and the end rimes will be “hidden” to the ear as the poem is read. 
     *   the stanza (described by my teacher, Karl Shapiro, as “a kind of larger rhythm” within the body of a poem, like a paragraph in prose); in the sonnet, a stanza can be a quatrain, the octave, the sestet, the couplet, even a tercet.
  *   the sequence (a series of related poems). This book is a sequence of sonnet sequences. The poem above is the first of a pair, and part of the larger sequence. The reader will discover references and resonances by comparing the individual poems, even separated by chapters, though I have been able to place closely several poems which reflect on each other. This book is not a corona, an ingenious sequence with linked rimes as well as content.

¶ 18. THE CHOREOGRAPHY OF THOUGHT.— A good poem’s sounds and images are riveted together into thought. These images become examples or symbols through which meaning is evoked, as a temple creates a space in which the holy can be manifested. . . .
      With the strict limits of the sonnet, every word counts, sometimes with several meanings, as a beam or pillar may be both decorative and structural.
     While onomatopoeia is an elementary way of making the sounds of words imitate that to which they point, a more subtle and difficult form of mimesis is the performatory use of language, where the words enact the thing itself. For example, when I as a clergyman pronounce to a couple, “you are now husband and wife,” or “you are now united in marriage,” the very words effect the thing spoken. Similarly, a person is not "guilty" in law until the jury announces its finding. When I apologize for my error, the very words, “I apologize . . . ,” constitute the act. {I welcome you . . . I advise you . . . I baptize you . . . I curse you . . . I warn you . . . I order you . . . I promise you that . . .} are examples where the utterance is the action itself. In the most extended sense all of Virgil’s Aeneid is performatory, for all follows his opening: “Cano, arma que virum . . . ” (I sing of arms and of the man . . . ).
     Much of the Mass employs performatory language. For example, in “Holy Eucharist Rite II Eucharistic Prayer B” (The Book of Common Prayer, p371), the priest says, “Remembering now his [Christ’s] work of redemption, and offering to you [God] this sacrifice of thanksgiving,” which the people continue, “we celebrate his death and resurrection, as we await the day of his coming.” The speech effects or performs the event itself.
     Shakespeare comes close to performatory magic in his Sonnet 55, when he demonstrates with his words — spoken by today’s reader — the persistence of the memory of his young friend: “You live in this [sonnet], and dwell in lovers’ eyes.” It is by the readers’ reading the sonnet that the content of the words are enacted. While «Ad Astra» is obviously inferior, its octave reaches toward a similar effect. The poem is, in part, self-referential, about the recitation of the words being recited. 
     The notion of performatory language is not well known; but because it is a curious function in Shakespeare’s sonnets,  I mention it so that the reader may find some pleasure in being aware of its workings. And beyond, into other poems, for Archibald MacLeish, in his “Ars Poetica,” suggests all poems should be performatory in the sense that “A poem should not mean | but be.”
     Shakespeare may structure his argument, sometimes unresolved except rhetorically, by contrast or contradiction or contradistinction, or by similarity or time or analogy or rank or intensity, by foreground or background, by parody, by chiasm (crossing of what would otherwise be parallel expressions), prolepsis (responding to an anticipated argument) or palinode (retracting an earlier statement) or by any number of modes. His metaphors come from an amazing variety of cultural forms and scientific disciplines and freely employs catachresis (mixed metaphors). The language itself intensifies and deepens the experience by requiring the reader to notice archaic terms and etymological hints (he skillfully contrasts words derived from Anglo-Saxon with Latinate constructions). With sonic, sense, syntactical, or logical juxtapositions like hysteron proteron (cart before the horse), old words and themes are  made afresh. If attention is a prerequisite for love, noticing how Shakespeare works his wordy wonders heightens their thrill, and makes even despair a melody of ironic praise. This is possible because in Shakespeare, as in the succeeding 17th Century “metaphysical poets,” thought and feeling are the same.
     Asking questions about the selection of words, the sequence of images, and the flow of the sound is like scaling an edifice to show the uniqueness of each poem and the individual way it must be read.
     Sometimes a poem says several things, perhaps even a contradiction, at once. Reading the whole compass of feelings leads to that inscrutable Process which enriches the experience . . . . 

¶ 19. THE CONTEXT.— Poetry, like life, is trouble. A poem can be a virus and upset your life. I believe it was Housman who made it a rule never to think of poetry while he was shaving because when he did, he cut himself. . . It can be a bother just trying to “get” a poem. 
     Even with the techniques outlined above, it is better to understand a poem as a sound video rather than a block of print on a page. The image of language in print is not the poem; the page markings can be compared to a musical score which gives directions for sound moving through time. A good poem’s sound is more than make-up on a corpse;  it is the breath that delivers life. Insofar as a poem can be paraphrased, it is not a poem. . . . 
     Summarizing the message of a poem is like watching someone walk across the room; but the poem itself is like a dancer exploring the same space; the first is, well, pedestrian; the second, art. If one is only interested in traversing the room, the art is an obstruction to one’s goal. More than a psychological, social, political, or theological experience . . . 
     Living religiously means noticing the glory and the horror of existence, and especially noticing what at first seems, in secular sight, ordinary. Art can help us notice.



Our May 1 field trip plan is confirmed as follows. Please carpool as much as possible as it helps us stay on schedule. I'll meet you at our first stop.

    1:30-1:50 Bob Trapp at Trapp and Company Florists, 4110 Main St, Kansas City, MO 64111 -- Westport map and relation to Plaza and Nelson-Atkins: http://www.cres.org/pubs/map_westport.htm

    2:00-2:50 Cythia Levin at the Unicorn Theatre, 3828 Main St, Kansas City, MO 64111, just north three blocks on Main Street;

    3:00-3:40 Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral,  415 W 13th St at Broadway, Kansas City, MO 64105, with Sacristan Janet Sweeting and perhaps Deacon, the Rev Jerry Grabher. Map: http://www.cres.org/pubs/ghtc.htm; if the weather permits, I want you to see the small but interesting courtyard between the Cathedral and the diocesan center,

    3:50-4:30 St Mary's Episcopal, 1307 Holmes Street, ten blocks east (four blocks east of the Sprint Center), Kansas City, MO 64106, with the organist, Barbara Adler.  Jerry will go with us.