Thursday, May 7, 2015

To the Lighthouse: A Rhetorical Device, Parallelism

Parallelsim is using phrases which are grammatically the same or similar in structure, sound, meaning or meter. It's usually used to reinforce the message by setting up patterns, and this  adds balance and rhythm to sentences that give ideas a smoother flow; thus it can be very persuasive because repetition is one of the best ways to convince someone of something. In political speeches, especially the ones that get a crowd excited, parallelism is one of the most used rhetorical devices. For example, in Barry Goldwater's injunction:

Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. ...
Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

In haiku, the use of parallelism would be difficult because of its incisive brevity, but it's still possible if done well. For example:

going over a bump
the car ahead
going over a bump

The Haiku Anthology, 3rd ed.

William J. Higginson

Comment: William's use of syntactical parallelism gives readers the concrete description of a residential street, a private sideway, or most likely, a parking lot. Aesthetically speaking, it enhances the "hai" aspect of the poem.

it could be nothing
it could be something
winter darkness

First Place, 2013 Porad Haiku Award

Peggy Heinrich

Comment: Peggy's emotionally effective use of syntactic parallelism in Ls 1&2 foregrounds the thematic concern (a sense of uncertainty) while L3 enhances the tone and mood of the poem.

Stop counting syllables,
start counting the dead.

Past All Traps, 2011

Don Wentworth

Comment: The combined use of syntactic parallelism and a perspectival shift makes this poem sociopolitically powerful and emotionally effective. And it reminds me of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s vision of poetry: Poetry as Insurgent Art.

What is the "use" of poetry? Does or can poetry matter to Everyman? More than 50 years ago, American poet William Carlos Williams answered these questions in his then-famous lines: "It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there." His lines claim that poetry really matter to the health of the soul.

Don's powerful poem makes me to rethink: that "the poetical is the political."

In tanka, parallelism could serve to bring a certain unity to juxtaposed parts of a poem.  The following is a good example:

The abbey bell rings
Tolling life’s passing moments
Of joy and sorrow,
Of time for meditation
And to say the rosary

Shining Moments

Neal Henry Lawrence

Jim Wilson's Comment: Lines 3 and 4 are a typical parallel structure; two prepositional phrases, similarly structured, but varying in line length.  There is also variety in the internal structure of each line.  Line 3 uses a conjunction, while Line 4 follows the opening prepositional phrase with a responding prepositional phrase.  I really like the way Lawrence’s usage of parallelism in this tanka reflects the solemn nature of the activities he mentions.  I think this is a good example of how parallelism can be used in shorter syllabic forms.  (As an aside, Line 5 is almost another parallel, maybe a semi-parallel.  ‘To say the rosary’ would be a good standard parallel, but by adding the conjunction ‘and’ Laurence signals to us a poetic shift.  In this case he’s going to close the poem with this clause.  The near parallel structure of Line 5 is a gentle shift while still retaining some of the nature of Lines 3 and 4.
-- excerpted from "Lineation for English Syllabic Verse: Part 1 -- Parallelism"

Below are two examples in which parallelism is employed in an emotionally effective manner:

waking half way
through the day
half the sunshine
half the pain
-- still time for a poem

Little Purple Universes, 2011

Helen Buckingham

Comment: In the upper verse, Helen skillfully uses syntactic parallelism to convey conflicting feelings (sunshine vs pain) while in the lower verse, the thematic and tonal shift adds depth, psychological and spiritual, to the poem.

crossing over
the Bridge of Sighs
I felt you
folding into me
folding into prayer

Gusts, 19, Spring/Summer 2014

Debbie Strange

Comment: The implied contrasts (the physical scene vs the mental image; the symbol of separation from the world vs the religious significance of relational intimacy...etc) between Ls 1-2 and Ls3-5 are emotionally powerful. And the use of syntactic parallelism adds spiritual depth to the poem.

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