Alliteration and Then Some

Alliteration has more or less always been my favorite device in poetry. After studying linguistics and learning about different types of sounds, I expanded my use to include “slant alliteration,” using sounds which are articulatorily similar, but not actually the same, such as w and y, which are both glides.

Plenty of poets use alliteration in their work, but I chose to feature Gerard Manley Hopkins, whose use makes his poems bouncy and joyous–fitting as they are praises to God (the early works at least.) I first ran into him in the same class which I mentioned in my Big Poetry Giveaway, and fell in love with him instantly. I am particularly fond of “Pied Beauty” because he uses every synonym in the book for “spotted,” including “dappled,” which has long been one of my favorite words, though I have never used it in a poem myself. Check it out:

Pied Beauty
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.
You can also hear it on Poetry Out Loud’s site, read by Kay Ryan, another one of my favorite poets, due to her use of sound, who I am unfortunately not including this month due to lack of days. But she says everything about this poem that I would.
My poem today features neither the alliteration nor the joy of Hopkins’s verse, though it does actually stem from a beautiful dream I had of my friend, Simon:
I dreamed of you last night
We hitchhiked on a magic carpet
and flew to a city
we’ve only seen in postcards
but you knew all the sites
and when our feet grew sore
we returned to the castle you’d procured for us
to stay and play hide-and-seek in
but beyond all this, you were
inexplicably, unbelievably, happy.
We drove to a famous restaurant
and dined in style, pesto pasta and chocolate crepes
when we left, you jumped
into the passenger’s seat with the biggest grin
like a kitten with a new ball of string
and when I said I couldn’t drive stick, you
never. stopped. grinning.
I’ve never seen you so happy, and why not?
We can dream away the war, the gunshots,
poverty, hunger, hatred, misunderstanding,
hands that hurt, eyes that don’t look.
We can dream away the distance.
But when we wake, the nightmare
still surrounds us, and the magic
carpet unravels.
So today I performed in the street
of some small town not worth
a postcard.
I spoke a magic spell to carve
out my slice of happy.
But my knife slipped and cut
into someone else’s.
I left with nothing
but a nasty sunburn.
At least it hides the embarassment
running deeper than when I first said
‘I love you.’
Because at least in that forbidden love
your unhappiness canceled out my own
and like two oysters in the mud
we forged a pearl
of friendship. And that made us happy
for a little while, at least.
Now, when I think of you,
I get a little sad.
because your sleeves
are supersaturated with tears
Building a relationship in a broken world
is almost as embarrassing
as performing in the street, as stupid
as getting into fight over a poem, as silly
as my purposeful pretention against condescending critics
But I still dream
of forgetting
all those other embarrassing, stupid, silly things I’ve done
and sitting in that car with you,
undeniably, unendingly, unerringly, happy.

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