Poem Spark Nov. 27 – Dec. 4 – Synesthesia

Greetings fellow poets. Several days ago I read an article in LiveScience about synesthesia: in poetry, the use of language that fuses imagery from one sense to another, from the Greek words for “joined feelings.” Some examples are: loud hands, bitter colors, a cold voice.

This technique has been used in poetry to great effect because it opens up a world of connotation that cannot otherwise be stated so simply. From academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu comes this explanation of how Keats used synesthesia in his poetry:

Keats’s imagery ranges among all our physical sensations: sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, temperature, weight, pressure, hunger, thirst, sexuality, and movement. Keats repeatedly combines different senses in one image, that is, he attributes the trait(s) of one sense to another, a practice called synaesthesia. His synaesthetic imagery performs two major functions in his poems: it is part of their sensual effect, and the combining of senses normally experienced as separate suggests an underlying unity of dissimilar happenings, the oneness of all forms of life. Richard H. Fogle calls these images the product of his “unrivaled ability to absorb, sympathize with, and humanize natural objects.”

Keats’ poem, Ode to a Nightingale, uses synesthesia—for example:

“In some melodious plot / Of beechen green” (stanza I), combines sound (“melodious”) and sight (“beechen green”).

Here are some other examples of poems that use synesthesia:

Arthur Rimbaud The Seekers of Lice and Vowels, one of the more famous synesthesia poems. According to answers.com:

In addition to drawing concerted scientific interest, the phenomenon of synesthesia started arousing interest in the salons of fin de siecle Europe. The French Romantic poets Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire wrote poems which focused on synesthetic experience. Baudelaire’s Correspondances (1857) (full text available here) introduced the Romantic notion that the senses can and should intermingle.

More poetic synesthesia examples:

Ann Stafford Listening to Color

Jim Harrison Birds Again

This week’s spark: write a poem that uses synesthesia. Good luck, be creative!

4 thoughts on “Poem Spark Nov. 27 – Dec. 4 – Synesthesia

  1. This was an excellent informative post. I love etmyology especially regarding poetic devices. Although I have taught poetry and English, I have much to learn and re-learn. I use this technique in some of my poetry. I will take you up on this challenge.I particularly enjoyed your examples using the poetic giants.

  2. If I may as bold as to post one of my poems, where I think I felt the senses joining:To taste the wine of speechMy desirious mouth quivers and trembles; hungrily savouring the words I tastea sublime ensemble of divertimento fragranced bouquet of dialoguestanzas imbued in assonancemethaphoric allusions of song, lyrical as sun and shadowgliding and soaring, swift, beyond shores of measureless watermy moist mouth opens to the feel of dark liquid amber;wine of languagesoliloquy’s intoxication, the fragrancedflower of speech…S Walker

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