I listen to Adam’s burbles, his hiccups, gasps, moans, and something that is a sort of pure vibration of his vocal chords, and I think of these things as being creatures on the threshold of that great thing, language, peering into it, pondering the leap, although in the end all of this phonological hamming up will still be intact, in the interstices of sense, so to speak. These are elements in the Shakespearian sense – half atom, half fairy. Nobody is taught them. Who among us teaches his child to say um, to use my friend Michael Erard’s favorite example? Hein being, I suppose, the French equivalent. Nobody, that is who.
However, I’ve been thinking about phonemes and sense lately in terms of rhyme. In terms of the cognitive devise that rhyme is.
A few days ago, I was taking a picture and I said to my friends, who were composing themselves to be the foci of my field of vision – I said, throw your hands in the air like you just d
Since then, I’ve been thinking about Chubby Checker’s couplet. The meeting of air and car in – well, in what? The meeting is staged in a number of spaces – phonological, semantic, mental, musical. I’m not sure where these verbal cosmonauts actually dock. I do know that they pull with them the hands in the air, and the curious meaning of those hands. When your hands are thrown into the air, usually you care a lot. You are being robbed, or the police are training their guns on you, or you are catching a ball. You are, in other words, under stress. Thus, to be told to throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care puts you slightly off balance. How do you do that?
There’s a tradition that sees in rhyme a memory technique. In one of the drawers of the memory palace, you pull out rhyme. And it is true that rhyme becomes memorable. In the revolt against rhyme, which for some critics, like Donald Wesling (In The Chances of Rhyme), is the parameter that signalsf modernity in literature (that is, the revolt against it – not unrhymed verse itself, but the way unrhymed verse attacks rhyme), the fundamental objection to rhyme is that it is not natural, or sincere. Wesling thinks modernity is the era haunted by authenticity as both norm and impossibility. But of course rhyme never went away. It did become something to be justified. Myself, the thing I like about rhyme is that that side of it that is a cognitive trouvaille – something we don’t expect, since we assume our semantics are going to lead us to the higher sense. That rhyme might – well, that is uncanny.
Now I am going to throw my hands in the air like I just don’t care.