speech proud in sound

Music—“speech proud in sound”—is central to her work. Barbara Howes has said of Louise Bogan that she was “so finely honed by her writing and sensitivity and lifetime of addiction to reading that she was almost a musical instrument.” The poem “Musician,” in both substance and form, speaks eloquently of what Louise Bogan calls elsewhere “the ordered strings”:

      Where have these hands been,
      By what delayed,
      That so long stayed
      Apart from the thin

      Strings which they now grace
      With their lonely skill?
      Music and their cool will
      At last interlace.

      Now with great ease, and slow,
      The thumb, the finger, the strong
      Delicate hand plucks the long
      String it was born to know.

      And, under the palm, the string
      Sings as it wished to sing.

This poem represents one of the most extraordinary achievements of sound that I know in modern poetry. Note the vowels—the short i sounds throughout; and the rhythm hovering between two and three beats to the line; and then the final sense of the actual plucking of the strings. It is a poem about resonance that resounds in the mind long after it is read. And, of course, the poem is much more than just music about music; it is about the artistic process itself, which Louise Bogan examines in so many of her poems, and about the artist who has waited to return to his craft.

—William Jay Smith, Louise Bogan: A Woman’s Words (Library of Congress, 1971, pamphlet), lecture delivered at Library of Congress, May 4, 1970.

n.b.: That phrase “speech proud in sound” comes from another Bogan poem, "Baroque Comment."

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