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Language in Poetry by Adelere Adesina


Poetry and its audience are joined by a thread made of different, interdependent forms of cotton, one of which is language. The poet communicates his mind ー factual, judgemental, ‘opinionistic’ or personal thoughts ー to the world through the use of selective (consciously or subconsciously) words. This time language sets in is when diction takes a turn in the process of communication. Pre-diction are awareness of a thing to write about and the peak (imbalance) of emotion ー either positively or negatively. Post-diction are metrical arrangements, structure ー which is another thing that can, and is used efficiently by some poets to, pass across a message ー and the manipulation of the perspective of the audience by the linear organisation of events, as it is done with prose and drama, to sense what the poet wants ー relief, satisfaction, shock, to put in few words, tragedy, comedy or tragicomedy. Now, language is a part of this whole process, and not all of it. It has its dominance and limitations as a tool, able to serve only specific functions.

The fact that language is public property, and not an asset of poetry, true as it is, does not infer that poetry, who has borrowed it, cannot alter its operation for as long as the borrowed item remains with him. It is, in fact, the simplicity of literature to borrow language, manipulate it and make from it what its previous possessor has never tried to, and may never try to, make. Language is like a shelf in a house which only skilled literature can break down into bits and reconstruct into what he wants. In the family members of literature, only poetry is then endowed with the supreme, highest, power to majestically and magically transform language. The limit of poetry's manipulations is not the manipulations themselves, but their end, the audience. Hence, the poet has only to care how his manipulations are done because of the audience ー for the way of arranging books in the shelf depends on the structure of the shelf.

This grace, to the poet given, this licence is due to the need for metrical balances, lyrical and aesthetic arrangements, 'inword' (unwritten, unseen) metaphorical representations ー the first two causes being the common justification.

Linguistic Essence and Determination in Poetry

The essence of language in poetry, noticeably, is to communicate the mind of the poet to the audience. Hence, as a medium, its efficiency depends on the sender and the receiver. The poet and the audience share equally the responsibility of choosing the language and the properties of it that are best used. On the part of the poet, his message, and the feeling he wants to give the audience, determines his language. On the other hand, the ability of the audience to understand his piece, the comprehension without dilution of the poet's message limits his exaggerated constructions, his artistic gap. That way, the audience dictates the language.

Language itself has the sole essence of passing information, and is most subjective in poetry. In my daily expressions, I cannot refer to the sun as a human being who is able to open his eyes in the morning and shut them in the evening because he is scared of the evils that trespass at night if I am not being literary. However, if the audience is boys of five years old, they cannot understand what I have implied. I must then use the language they understand to express my mind.

Poetry has all magnificence that play and prose do not have, and can, for that reason, simply manipulate language. Then, a good poet knows language is given to him for a very short time by the audience to construct what the audience cannot naturally make; to refurbish, refine and recast their imagination, perspective and mind; to sharpen their thoughts by a new blade.

Thank you.


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For Ikeoluwa.

I have sailed in the ocean — on
your body's warm drenched spot axis,
and i have felt the touch of your
freezing burning hands and cold words:
you said some soft words gently in
my ear on a cold night. and my
body is a tree, it rustles
when winds beat. winds like your mutters.

I have a whirling desire
that we are over the 9th edge;
grabbing, rocking, licking, tasting —
and the passion flows 'n' action shows.
your whole body defines a lot
even when i see nothing but
the voluptuous pillows of a
tired bed, calling me to sleep.

Slowly, this pace beats rapidly
like a running fire. and i'm
burning coldly on a meet with
your whitish round thorax muscle.
glorious! your body is a bike
and i'm good at riding roughly.
slide and glide, make a symphony
of our salvation on this cold night.

Akinwale Peace AkindayoPhilip Peace