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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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Allah has answered the prayer of the weaker animals
None think that you will survive such attack
By those big lions
For whatever they chase,
They make sure is no longer breathing
on earth
You are a rabbit that survived harassments by
Those dark dogs
Inside that forest
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It is the protection of Allah
We are all animals
But of higher class
Not those that live in the forest
Of which some are weak
While some are strong
The weak is always threaten by the strong
Let's all learn how to live in peace
With one another


Muhammad Auwal Ibrahim is a young Nigerian writer, playwright and poet. He was born in the year 2001. He attended Gombe Children School for his nursery and primary school education. He is a final year student at Gombe High School. He is a member of Poets In Nigeria, Gombe Connect Center. Some of his works have been published in Tuck online magazine. He started writing at sixteen. He believes that writing will bring change in o…