Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Monday, 2 January 2017

Possible rapprochement with poetry

I've always found poetry a bit irritating. Probably my feelings about it stem from school English lessons in which we were encouraged to consider "what the poet was really trying to say" which made me wonder "why couldn't they just say it that way then?"

My particular peeve is with poems that don't scan and which have lines where the poet has pressed 'enter' too soon (it's called enjambment). The poem continues on the next line but you read the line as if it's continuous. Why? Why would anyone do that? Technically I know because I've read that Wikipedia article on enjambment that I just linked to. It seems like it wouldn't work with limericks as you need a bit of breathing space between the lines for the rhythm to work, though of course now I can think of examples where I'm wrong ;)

I'm interested in science communication generally and specifically in health communication in which complex medical information is explained to non-specialists, with some significant effort made to reduce ambiguity in the explanation (see the terms that have different meanings for scientists and the public here). Scientists and non-scientists may understand quite different things by 'model', or 'protein' or 'theory' so precision is required. This might also have coloured my view of poetry, which I acknowledge can be precise, but still poems seem to go out of their way to be oblique. Either the meaning has to be teased out (what inefficient communication!) or it appears to be incomprehensible gibberish. And said in a special intoning poetry voice.

I had a bit of epiphany yesterday though, and it's thanks to my love of film music. Music used in films can sneak up on you without you necessarily being aware of it, or the feelings it creates. It can create all sorts of moods and underscore what's happening on screen, or it can hint that something on-screen is not actually as it appears. It manages to do this without words and I'm gradually coming round to the idea that the rhythm / meter in poetry might be vaguely analogous to the pace of the music. Presumably the words themselves are meant to evoke something rather than actually making their meaning clear, perhaps a bit like those lovely Uilleann pipes always evoke Irish / celtic associations, or certain types of drum rhythms evoke the US military in films. That's about as far as I've got with mulling this over, but I might have to try and rethink my irritation with poetry.

Poems should still rhyme though, and preferably be funny :)

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