Of the many different kinds of writers, poets seem most interested in the ‘material’ realities of language. They relish the shapes of words themselves, not to mention the ways in which language can be sculpted into lines and stanzas. They also cherish the musicality of language — its physical properties as sound waves in oral performance and aural reception. As products of visual culture, poems are ‘formed’ and ‘structured’ pieces of language, whereas prose is fundamentally ‘shapeless’ (it simply takes the standard block shape of the page on which it is printed, with necessary margins for readability). As artefacts of oral and aural culture, poems place enormous emphasis on ‘bodying forth’ sound — metre, rhythm, rhyme, assonance, alliteration, and so on. In short, poetry forms language into visibly distinctive shapes and carefully structures words into orchestrated sounds.
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