Some aspects of poetic rhythm: An essay in cognitive metrics

Eva Lilja


Rhythm should be regarded as a perceptional category rather than as a property of the work of art. Rhythm might be classified according to three principles, serial rhythm, sequential rhythm and dynamic rhythm, three basic sets of gestalt qualities that lay the foundation for versification systems.
Two schemas decide the rhythm of a poem: direction and balance. 'Direction' refers to rising and falling movements in the line. 'Balance' refers to repetitions in a play between symmetry and asymmetry as well as a moment of rest.
Rhythms produce meaning, probably due to the fact that rhythms activate internalized bodily experiences as well as conventional meaning patterns. This is demonstrated on the basis of a poem by Sylvia Plath.

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SIGN SYSTEMS STUDIES. ISSN 1406-4243 (print), 1736-7409 (online). E-mail: Postal address: Sign Systems Studies, Dept. of Semiotics, University of Tartu, Jakobi St. 2, 51014 Tartu, Estonia