February 2012

Sung Poetry

The Ancient Tradition


Calum Ruadh Nicholson was a Gaelic poet, who lived on the Isle of Skye and composed in the ancient bardic tradition. You can hear his songs on volume 7 of the School of Scottish Studies' “Scottish Tradition” series. Gaelic poetry in the twentieth century moved beyond the confines of the bardic heritage, as poets like Sorley MacLean began to compose Gaelic poetry in the modern literary format in which poems and songs are two separate things.

Poetry Party

A New-Old Way To Get Drunk

Poetry in the West is almost always a solo composition, but poetry in Eastern traditions was often collaborative. One example of this is the Renga, a long form with highly specific rules governing everything from the number of syllables per line to what kind of emotional tone each stanza should have. People would get together to have Renga parties, and each person had to add a stanza whenever it was his turn. Of course, it wasn't all about the poetry- as I understand it, sake and courtesans were also factors, so the Renga party was a genuine party. But it was certainly a little more on the artistic/intellectual side than what we usually think of as a party.


Most modern poets would not be too thrilled with the strict rules of a classical Renga, and many of them probably wouldn't be able to follow those rules if they wanted to, as they take a lot of experience. But doesn't a “poetry party” sound like fun?

Three Hundred Poems of the T'ang Dynasty

Read These, And Become A Poet!

“Whoever reads three hundred poems of the T'ang Dynasty will be able to write poetry without a teacher.” So goes an ancient Chinese proverb, which actually led to the compilation of more than one anthology. At various points in Chinese literary history, scholars were inspired by the proverb to try to make their own selection of the three hundred best (or most defining) T'ang poems. Some of these anthologies were very popular books. One of them is presented in its entirety in the link given below.