Preface to pulse–another one for the word geeks

In the spring of 2005 I published pulse, a poetry chapbook that ran about 50 pages. It contained some work I’m proud to have done, but not much I’ve been more pleased with than this preface. This preface is the foundation of my writings on music as the poetry of our time. Others have opined on this I’m sure, but that doesn’t mean I can’t I can’t weigh in too.

Hope you’re well.


Dear friends,

I’d say that there is great debate these days over whether poetry should be written with a rhyme scheme or not, but there isn’t. The debate is over. Contemporary poetry is to be written in free verse, without the use of rhyme or like-rhyme. This stylistic and theoretical approach to poetry was adopted sometime in the last thirty to forty years. As such, many critics during this period have simply denounced out of hand any poetry that utilizes rhyme. That’s fine; artistic forms have to evolve through different periods.


It may have been this shift in the nature of poetry that caused Jim Morrison, among others, to call rock and roll music the poetry of our time. He may have been thinking that if poetry no longer rhymed, then rock and roll, with its rhyme scheme, was the new poetry, for those who wanted to write in a rhyme scheme. Maybe not, but possibly. Whether or not that is what Mr. Morrison meant, it would seem that if anyone did want to write rhyming verse during those past forty years or so, and be taken seriously as a writer, then he or she had to put there verse to music. As rock and roll has been the dominating form of music throughout those years, and was the style of music Mr. Morrison played, he said that it was the poetry of our time; however, all forms of music, popular or otherwise, have been outlets for those who wished to write in rhyme.


Since the world of contemporary music is where rhyming poetry has fit during these years, it seems apropos that the world of music has helped to bring the rhyme scheme back to poetry. It has done so as rap music evolved into a form of spoken poetry called “Slam.”


It began in the late 70s, and the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” from 1979, is today considered the first hit rap music single, although that title might also be bestowed on Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” which was released in 1966. If Mr. Dylan’s effort was a rap song, the style didn’t catch on as a musical movement until more than a decade later.


In the early-90s rap music spawned freestyle rap and slam poetry, both forms of spoken word. Poetry with a rhyme scheme had two new homes.


Some of the pieces in this book have been written as poems, their primary relationship being that which they share with the page. Like all poems, the reader gains by reading them aloud; however, they are not primarily spoken word pieces. Other pieces are primarily spoken word pieces. These are the “slams.” Most of these employ rhyming devices, while most of the actual poems do not. Some were initially written as poems only to evolve into slams through the repeated readings with which I’ve bored friends and family. I haven’t delineated the individual poems from the slams. If you think a piece reads poorly as a poem, or if it comes off to your contemporary poetry tuned ears as being too sing-songy, reading it aloud may help with comprehension, and even appreciation. Who knows, it may still suck after that. Odds are that this will be the case a lot of times.


I will make a preface concerning one of the slams. This piece sounds and reads good to me, but it comes off a little obscure and confusing on the page. The slam titled “In Movement, ‘though it Be Still” or “Ode to Bambino’s Clubhouse” tells of the sensation that I sometimes get when writing in public. I get the feeling that I devour myself and become invisible to passersby; that the act of writing becomes bigger than me in their eyes, and I, the person, cease to exist. The occurrence of this sensation, which the poem details, took place in my friend Carlos Torres’s bar, Bambino’s Clubhouse. If that still doesn’t help you get the piece, then we’ll just have to write that one off as one of the ones you just don’t get. Other than that, I think the pieces and themes are pretty self-explanatory.


I have also seen questions about profanity raised in literary circles. I would like to be able to release this collection without the use of profanity; however, I think that, were I to omit the few such instances that do exist, I would risk being truthful to the subject matter. There are ugly things in this collection, and at times ugly words fit, if we are going to be true to the spirit of the age. My apologies to anyone who is embarrassed or offended.


Thanks for meeting me here.




Paul Keenan

28 December 2004


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