Of Poetry and Echoes

“ECHO!”

Do you recall the first time you called out that word, eagerly anticipating hearing your voice’s return? Maybe it was at summer camp, or while hiking with friends, or visiting a cottage by a lake. There is something magical about an echo. There is something arresting in hearing my own voice’s arrival, not from within, but from afar. In that first moment, when I encounter me outside of myself, I am ecstatic – I stand (from stasis “to stand”) outside (from ek “outside of”) myself.

Echoes are magical, not only because they are a low tech – and so a more satisfying – form of replication, but because an echo is a replication with a difference. My voice returns to me having been shaped by hills that soften, by cliffs that sharpen, by the lake that lilts my voice with sound waves that wash back to cochlear shores. Echoes introduce me to me with a difference. Unlike parrots, who mock me with their parody, and unlike an mp3 which freezes me with its cryogenic clarity; echoes inform me. They allow me the opportunity to meet myself anew.

Poems are echoes. Poetry echoes me by allowing me to hear my voice with a difference. Words wind their way through my body when I write a poem, when I hear a poet. The world comes to me in a different key when I hear this, for example. Poetry is language’s echo. It takes speech and twists it. Poetry rebounds words off the world. Poetry allows me to see from the perspective of a tree. It allows me to feel with a street’s point of view. Poetry takes the familiar and drops it off a cliff, so it bounces back to me shattered and true. I am left asunder in the wonder that words do what I cannot imagine. I cry out, and words echo back to me strangely familiar: strange in their refracted nature and familiar in their refusal to remain strange. Claiming me poetry names a new world for me. Echoes become me because I am beholden to the fact that even my words come back to me differently than I imagined they would.

Word makes its way as it leaves home;
It sounds the world as flesh and bone.
Word works love’s sway, it echoes true;
It marvels me with coloured hues.

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10 thoughts on “Of Poetry and Echoes

  1. There is so much truth in these words. And “Pelt” is such a powerful poem. For me sometimes poetry is like an echo that tells me the words I didn’t even know I was saying. Thank-you, Allen.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Thanks again for forwarding pelt to me. I used it in class on Friday, and the students found it to be so powerful… I really find it to be an inspiration. Yes, there is something mystical about hearing your words come back.

  2. shoreacres says:

    The best line in “Pelt” is “I tried it on, of course. But, no.”

    This is an interesting meditation on language and poetry as echo. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if the effect you describe may extend beyond poetry, existing as a part of all speaking, all writing – all externalizing of our Word.

    An example: in the comment section of my blog, now and then someone will quote back to me something I wrote in the piece. It’s always just slightly strange to read my words in that different context, to have them come back to me in that way.

    One thing’s for sure – echoing isn’t equivalent to parroting. That’s why speaking of conservative or liberal political “echo chambers” are so off the mark. But your post made me happy, so I’m going to end that thought right there.

    Really, a lovely and evocative post.

  3. agjorgenson says:

    Hi Linda, I’m so glad I brought some joy to your day! Yes, i always find it odd to hear my words spoken by others. It is as if I am meeting a me that i don’t quite know. It is a bit… haunting, but that isn’t quite the right word. I’ll need to think on that. As for Pelt, I completely agree. That line nails it.

  4. Marie Taylor says:

    Allen, thanks for the follow on my new blog. I hope we have some great discussions. Marie

  5. agjorgenson says:

    No problem! I’m sure we will have many great conversations.

  6. Denise Hisey says:

    I really like the echo analogy for poetry. Very intriguing…

  7. agjorgenson says:

    Thanks Denise. It is an idea I am still thinking through.

  8. jannatwrites says:

    I like the idea that poetry is an echo of ourselves. I hadn’t thought about it before, but it works. Thanks for the thought-provoking post. I’m sure to remember it the next time I write a poem 🙂

  9. agjorgenson says:

    I’m glad you found it helpful, and I look forward to reading your next poem!

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