Poetry and its linguistic characteristics

From Telepathy to Poetry

By Lingyan Song

Tr./ Qi Fengyan


The aesthetic experience of poetry is a process from “nothing” to “being”. Poets inadvertently accumulate emotional reserves and image reserves from the external world. The long accumulation has made a poet develop in some respects a particularly acute perception of poetic beauty. By chance a poet “senses things and is moved”, thus his subjective heart and the objective world meet, and inspirations burst. So he “has” the poem of the heart. This is what many a budding poet thinks of as poetry, while in fact it is only the embryo of it.

To express this “being”, a poet is faced with embarrassment. The essence of the beauty of poetry is silence, as what’s said in the expression that “when mouth is closed, poetry is alive, when mouth open, poetry dead”. How do you do that? The outmost meaning is conveyed by no words. Once poetry beauty is pointed out, it will lose its life. Very often common language leads to plain presentation which is not poetry. However, it is impossible for limited language to perfectly express the infinite implication outside words.

For a poet, the nature of poetry that its outmost meaning is conveyed by no words brings both infinite problems and infinite opportunities. The poet should have the capability of changing “being” to “nothing”, so the poet must learn poetic presentation, which is the general process of poetic creation. The essence of “depicting without images and playing without instruments” leads the reader to the world of poetry, to find poetry beyond words, meanings, lines and images. This is the use of image language. Today’s poets use imagery instead of metaphor, use exaggeration instead of description, and they do not use lyrics.

When we create the artistic conception, we must first make clear that the artistic conception is an artistic image brought by the full play of the metaphor and symbol of the artistic image, which itself is a broader and far-reaching artistic conception.

In this artistic conception, the ideas and interests of our creation, as well as the useless words and images in our hearts, are the feelings, experiences and understandings that are expressed concretely, and can be more fully presented than the content of the artistic image itself. Secondly, we should make clear that the artistic conception is the beauty of the combination of the real situation and the virtual environment. The “reality” in reality is the “truth” of art, the typified “reality” extracted through careful study, analysis, and generalization, rather than what any real sight or emotion can do. Only when we grasp the most typical picture of the real life in the real life and make a real and vivid description of it, can we combine “reality” with “virtual environment” to form an artistic conception. It should be clearly understood that the achievement of artistic conception is to use typical scenes to express unique emotions. Only when scenes are scenes of emotion, can vivid artistic conception be created, which leads to the beauty of painting in poetry. The ordinary way of reading poetry in philosophy sense is often very mediocre, poetry is not philosophy.

Here the scene itself is a metaphor, and metaphor is the most common type of image. We often say a poem is picturesque. Since ancient times, there are scenes in poetic language, namely painting in poetry, such as the poems of Wang Wei of the Tang Dynasty. In fact, imagery has been in use for a very long time, the key is still in the application of poetic language. When writing a poem whether to describe objects, to express emotions or to voice thoughts and wills, a poet’s observation of the world and revelation of the mind are all transmitted and revealed through language. Many students of poetry do not realize the position of language in poetry, and they use language casually and carelessly, and take it as granted that it is the real poetry.

In the use of language, there are four problems. One is the use of ready-made, old, boring words, phrases or sentences; the second is the use of girly-girly and irrelevant words; the third is the confusing expression in name of the so-called de-familiarization; and the fourth is the use of network buzzwords in poetry which is a kind of destruction to the traditional civilization.

The rampant use of mad words in poetry, which is noble, should be prohibited, so should the so-called pursuit of formal de-familiarization, strange alienation, and erotic words to appealing readers. In such poems there are awkwardly constructed words, willfully fabricated grammar, destroyed text by deconstruction. De-familiarization is not a new thing at all, and in fact it is a kind of innovation, while some poets confuse concepts so that stones are mistaken as jades.

Innovation is getting a new understanding and new feeling in the life experience, not making irresponsible remarks or writing blindly. So some so-called poems are inhuman, obscure and even incomprehensible. How can such a poem have an artistic conception? How can it be touching or beautiful? It should be understood that the innovation of poetry language results from a deep perception of life and the world. Only when a poet goes deep into life, can he have a deep perception of life and a good language. Of course, the image language itself is not very complicated and unfamiliar, it is simpler, but this simplicity is no longer the original thing, it is in a higher level.

Poetry language uses modern images to realize de-familiarization and poetic beauty. It is the poet’s duty to show his feelings towards things more vividly and delicately. The famous Chinese story of word choosing is also the most exemplary example of how to treat poetic language. A good language expresses its connotation better by means of metaphor, expresses deeper meaning with concise and accurate language, and even has the effect of 3D or even 4D. This is turning plain language into poetry full of connotation and charm.