Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
DU PLOOY, Heilna. Die deurskynende kelk: Oor vorm en inhoud in die poësie. The transparent chalice: The relation between form and content in poetry (T T Cloete-erelesing, gelewer op 5 November 2009 te Potchefstroom / Paper read in honour of T T Cloete, Potchefstroom on 5 November 2009). Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2009, vol.49, n.4, pp. 596-621. ISSN 2224-7912.
In this article the relation between form and content, one of the classic issues of the theory of poetry, is examined. The point is made that concrete poetry can be regarded as an extreme form of iconic poetry, but iconicity in poetry can assume many other and more subtle forms. The issue of iconicity in language and literature is introduced by referring to the theories of Charles Sanders Peirce and Ferdinand de Saussure which form the basis of the arbitrary view of language. The opposing Platonic paradigm, however, still seems to elicit much interest as is proved by research on iconicity by linguists and literary theorists alike. Reference is made to the peripheral fields of phonosemantics or sound symbolism and the results presented by lexicographers on the almost uncanny regularities in the sound systems of words and their meanings. Antoly Liberman's view that language is motivated and/or iconic in its inception and origin but arbitrary in its history and development is then taken as a point of departure to examine iconic features of various poems by the Afrikaans poet, T T Cloete. A number of poems by T T Cloete are analysed to indicate how form and content are blended and merged to generate meaning and to prove the statement that Cloete is a poet who, par excellence, succeeds in superimposing various codes and modelling systems to create complex meaning in poems. He also succeeds in enhancing the density of meaning in seemingly simple poems by his versatility as a technician. After emphasising the importance of form in poetry the article then focusses on the importance of content. Some poets have both the ability and inclination of concerning themselves with noteworthy and profound content, taking up and extending the classic cultural and aesthetic issues of the tradition in which they work. In some of his poems T T Cloete manages to create a discourse between some of the classic texts of Western thought and his personal view of matters such as female beauty and beauty in general. The emphasis on form is always present in his poems, even when he interprets one of the red photographs of Marilyn Monroe and compares and contrasts her beauty to the role played by Beatrice in Dante's Vita Nuova. In the course of the argument issues such as the connection between the creative aspects of scientific and aesthetic thinking and the relation between intuition and intellectual activity in writing poetry are also addressed. Poetry is described as a form of philosophy on account of the fact that it entails the creative exploration of reality in an attempt to find something new, or even "non-existent", or a new perspective on well-known aspects of ordinary life. The "love of wisdom" which is etymologically implied in the word philosophy, inspires the writing of poetry for some poets but on account of the aesthetic and quicksilver qualities of poetry, poetry could, in my opinion, be identified as "liquified philosophy". The article concludes with the view that in its quest for insight in the human condition, poetry helps to keep alive the sense of wonder which is essential in enabling human beings to overcome the brutalizing conformity of the mass societies in which they live. Poetry can therefore be seen as a constructive force, which helps to connect societies to their past, their present and their future.
Keywords : Iconicity in language and poetry; poetic technique; intertextuality; line; beauty; form and function; cultural content of poetry; intellectual poetry; creativity in science and art; T T Cloete; Marilyn Monroe; Dante.