How to break patterns like Shakespeare?

William Shakespeare

We are doomed to repeat history if we do not study it and understand those who walked before us. If we want to destroy the cliché to renew and find better ways to express ourselves, we must have exhausted the artful management of poetic language. We must detect our patterns and learn languages to break those patterns. It is not an easy task if you simply believe it can be done through a particular language alone.

We must embrace clichés if we aren’t prepared to detect those patterns. You might feel you are above clichés, you aren’t. We aren’t. If you believe you are above clichés, those who judge just haven’t seen the repetitive pattern. Thus, they are not bored enough to say it’s a cliché quite yet. There’s a double standard, but few dare to denounce it. I wrote an exploratory poem called: The Artful Management to denounce how those who believe are the greatest are not that great.

Greatness is only achieved until you are no longer alive to continue overcoming yourself. The poem ends by cautioning the postmodernist, the I in the poem, that it is time to shift back to the past in order to hear the glass floor cracking before it hurts our barefooted path.

I would like to extend what I meant by going back to the past. We want to revolutionize language by avoiding clichés, but is that sufficient? Generation after generation we have tried to be more aesthetically innovative, but we’ve encountered roadblocks. Have we collectively as a society seen the roadblocks? Some might have… This post is for those who can see we need to backtrack and retrace our steps. I believe we can and must dismantle the postmodernist by going back to the past. We need to find what works for us from the past even if that means we need to rethink how we got here. We can’t stay in this limbo where the truth is being vandalized by irrational thinkers. As a poet, who values irrationality even playful nonsense, can see that we can’t go too far into irrationality. It’s dangerous.

The postmodernist has allowed us to revolutionize to the point that the post modernization of language leads to nonsense. The nonsense has extended to our culture. We have learned to value nonsense. Is this good for us as a culture? I don’t know. While this nonsensical language has some value even if there’s no hidden message, I would like to offer an alternative to the post-structuralist (which comes from the work of Ferdinand de Saussure) tradition that placed us in this uncomfortable socio-political position.

If we can’t argue with irrational people to arrive at the truth. We can redesign the way we think. What better way than to change the way language is used? We could probably agree that Shakespeare is one of the few English authors that has revolutionized language in a monumental manner. How did Shakespeare do such an impossible task? Shakespeare broke established English language patterns. If we can understand these patterns, we can create new patterns of our own. The past is our ally, not our foe. Let’s go back and learn what language patterns did Shakespeare mostly break:

    1. The use of compound epithets: An epithet is an adjective or descriptive phrase. In german, compound words are very common. In this sense, we could create compound words to create new expressions.

    2. By adding prefixes or suffixes to form compound verbs as well as compound adjectives: For example, we can add the prefix un- to words that we aren’t supposed to, e.g. unbeat rather than saying not beat. Shakespeare added the prefix dis- to the words candy and limn.

    3. By converting substantives into verbs or verbs into substantives: For example, the hear I see. I shirt his bareness instead of saying I cover the bareness.

    4. By using active verbs neutrally or neutral verbs actively: The neutral verb is one that has not yet become a passive sentence. It remains intransitive. I believe that a neutral verb is a verb using a middle voice, which is generally not used in English. The interplay of voices, transitivity, and valency in different languages is an opportunity for us poets to learn new ways to express ourselves in English or in any language we decide to write. These are examples of ways to play with verbs: Be taken by the soliloquy of birds. As for me loved, sobering into being.

    5. By converting adjectives into substantives: The blue never thought it could color blood. The red never thought it could color cold. Silence upon the blankings of time.

    6. By converting participles into substantives: May these sunrisings reach your saddening horizon. The robbings of a meadow leave us despaired.

    7. By turning participles into adverbs: Run poweringly after a rain! He denyingly said,” you musn’t.”

    8. By using figurative terms where they are uncommonly used. These terms may be common in plain language, but uncommon in a figurative context.

    9. By using plain words if they are commonly used in a figurative context but uncommon in the literal sense.

    10. By transposition of words: It means that you can be free to make an unauthorized use of terms and follow an ungrammatical construction. We could learn foreign grammatical structures and employ them freely in our poetic discourse. By doing so, there would be rigor behind our ungrammaticalities instead of nonsense.

    11. By foreign idioms. Richard Hurd in the Notes to Ars Poetica tells us that foreign idioms are not found a lot in Shakespeare. However, it is a valid way to expand our ways of thinking. There are already certain poetic styles that frequently do this, e.g. Chicano Poetry. However, there could be an art to it that we could develop as we learn to poetically include more than just a dance between two languages.[1]These eleven language patterns can be found in the Notes to Ars Poetica by Horace added by Richard Hurd, p. 50-60. You can find Shakespeare’s examples below each pattern.

Here lies, I believe, the widest opportunity to grow poetic expressions and language beyond Shakespeare’s talent. Shakespeare has already helped us expand the English language, but there’s a limit to what he could have done due to his historical context. He didn’t have the freedom we have today.

However, the constrained nature of his historical context forced him to reach a high level of mastery. It wasn’t just about breaking the rules but about how he broke those rules in a constrained manner. He followed syllabic rules, e.g. iambic pentameter, and used that constraint in his favor. We need to understand that constraint (following or creating new forms) is not something that wants to stir us away from our creative potential. To be constrained means to have control over the poetic piece, but that can be counterbalanced with an abundant creativity in what is being said or how it is being said. We shouldn’t forget poetry is firstly about what is being said and then about how it is being said.

Of course, the postmodernist would most probably disagree with me but I think it is time to go back to the past and turn our heads away from the poststructuralist view. In the future, it might be necessary to fully disagree with me. However for now, due to our socio-political and cultural context, I believe we need to value meaning over form without rejecting poetic form the outright. If you can do both, a perfect balance between meaning and form… You might be the next Shakespeare. May a healthy and balanced self-worth sit beside your humility.

Dream humongous, yet strive to be as humble as the size of your accomplishments and dreams are. Don’t ever compare yourself to Shakespeare even if you are compared by others to him! You are not the greatest even if you win the most important prizes. As I said, the greatest of the greatest can only be achieved until you cannot overcome yourself any longer and the last breath has left your body. You must accept that only after many lifetimes after yours can your name be uttered in honest praise.

History might even be unfair to you, but don’t work for other’s praise. Work because you feel that you have something inside of you that must be said. Find the best way to say it. Explore your piece. You don’t need to commit.[2]I suggested the creation of a new poetic form called the Exploratory to give us space to be ourselves while yet trying to be rigorous, but free, in our poetic form.We are not static but live beings in a process of growth.

Let’s grow and try to succeed the greatest greatness, not for a lifetime of recognition and praise, but for the transcendence of humanity that goes beyond one’s lifetime. This kind of thinking that extends beyond a lifetime is what we need to save our planet from pollution, apathy, ignorance, and greed. We need to retrace the way we think, so we can learn to move toward truth even in poetic fiction. However, let’s not dumb down our language to nonsense nor become so elitist that no one understands. It’s up to each one of us where will we place the line between chaos&complexity and order&simplicity.

Image Source: William Shakespeare from WikiImages

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