Oral or written poetry?

by Bob Spoo

Some writers and other verbally talented people have an ability to speak beautifully, in cascading phrases and sentences that seem perfect and perfectly formed, though in fact they are unrehearsed. Oscar Wilde was one such person. Those who had heard him hold forth at dinners and parties said that the sensation was astonishing. He seemed to have pre-composed his bons mots and flights of fancy. Some were, in fact, prepared and polished over time, but others were extemporaneous, the products of a gift for talking beautifully, in spontaneous prose poetry. Wilde's talk seems like Bix's music in this creative respect. In fact, people who knew Wilde said his writing was not as daring and stunning as his conversation--a little like the old claim that the recorded Bix never fully captured the thrill of hearing Bix play live. So, for me, the comparison between Bix's music and composed, written poetry is faulty. It is the spontaneous gift of spoken poetry and wit, granted to some people, that is the more apt analogy.

Posted on Aug 15, 2017, 9:56 PM

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