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Writings based on Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand's most popular novels are Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, which present her philosophy, Objectivism, in vivid characterizations.

  Metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, esthetics, and  politics are the five main branches of philosophy that she identifies. Utilizing her methodology, one can be rational about all aspects of life. These essays present my understanding of Objectivism.

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Freedom of Speech -- a Sacred Right

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Ayn Rand as a Moral Hero

Moral Integrity

On Dualism

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The Objectivist Trilogy

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Date: Mon, 9 Mar 1998
Towards an Aesthetics of Poetry
Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

[Modified from an essay written in 1993]

Subject: Towards and Aesthetics of Poetry

Topic: A Rhyme is Logic Sure Enough
With Scan as Reason Evident
To Overcome the Modern Guff.

Poetry is a unique form of literature. Unlike a novel -- which
has theme, plot, characterization, and style -- a poem has only
theme and style. This characteristic necessitates the
differences between poetry and prose.
In a novel, the theme is integrated by means of the characters
and their actions (plot). Since a poem has no such vehicles, it
needs some other means of integrating its abstract meaning. This
unifying aspect of poetry is accomplished by means of rhyme and
scan -- where rhyme is parallel to logic, and scan is parallel
to reasoning.
By "rhyme," I mean ending the lines in words that have the same
sound. This is not to discount other uses of rhyme, such as
internal rhymes. By "scan," I mean the lines have a predictable
pattern of tonal emphasis and rhythm.
Rhyme, when at its best, can be used to highlight a similarity
between two usually unrelated concretes. For instance, "nose"
and "rose" in common usage are not integrated with one another,
since their similarities are not readily evident. However,
consider these lines:

She had a pleasant upturned nose
Which blush reminds me of a rose.

Notice how the rhyme is used to concretize the beauty of a
woman's nose. One can readily picture in ones own mind the
gentle texture of the skin, its coloration, and even the
pleasure resulting from the use of that nose to smell a rose. By
ending the lines in this specific rhyme, and by choosing the
appropriate scanning words for the lines, the poet is able to
convey the exact attributes of the nose and the rose to
integrate ("blush" is the clue that the poet is talking about a
pink rose instead of a yellow or white rose).
Let's break the rhyme and see what happens:

She had a pleasant upturned nose
Which blush reminds me of a peach.

Though both "rose" and "peach" have romantic connotations,
"peach" doesn't work nearly as well as "rose." Since there is no
perceptual similarity between the sounds "nose" and "peach," the
non-rhyme breaks the desired integration of the two concretes.
A similar result would occur if the rhyme was still there, but
the two concretes were unrelated:

She had a pleasant upturned nose
Which blush reminds me of a hose.

*This* becomes complete and utter non-sense! "Nose" and "hose"
simply can not be integrated in this context, though the mind
wants to do so merely because of the rhyme (are they both long
and green -- or what?).
Scan is another poetic tool. Once the reader has heard the
first line, he expects the related lines to have a similar
cadence. If it does not, the poetic integration is not accomplished:

She had a pleasant upturned nose
Which blush reminds me of a Redoute rose.

Though this conveys the meaning of the first poem, there is
something missing -- the rhythm of the lines are not
sufficiently similar in sound to aid integration.
A temporary break in the rhyme and/or scan is used to integrate
additional information, by uniting the lines subsumed by the rhyme:

She had a pleasant upturned nose
With sculpted features shaped in flesh
Which blush reminds me of a rose.

If the cadence of the second line did not match the first or
third, the integration of the poem -- as a whole -- would be
much more difficult. However, an added rhyme coupled with
varying scan, such as used in limericks, can cure even that:

There once was a girl with a nose
Which blushed like a healthy young rose,
But when she did sneeze
It made such a breeze;
I'd rather convey it in prose.

Notice the first and second lines integrate quite well. The
change in cadence of the third and fourth lines indicates a
different integration is being presented. By adding the fifth
line, the whole poem becomes a unit.
The cadence of related lines uses rhythm as a basic structure.
Rhythm can be thought of as a type of rhyme, though the rhyme is
more abstract, since it encompasses the entire line. By
utilizing scan, a poet makes it easier for the reader to delimit
his attention to the specific focus intended by the artist. In
effect, it says, "Pay attention to these two (or more) lines for
these are similar in structure."
Modern nihilists who dismiss rhyme and scan are destroying the
mind as readily as their soul mates who disregard logic and
reason. In effect, rhyme is to logic as scan is to reasoning.
A poet uses non-contradictory identification when he makes use
of rhyme; and he uses proper methodology when he utilizes scan.
Rhyme is the more fundamental of the two, just as logic is
fundamental to reason. It is much easier (more perceptually
self-evident) to hear a similarity of sounds between two (or
more) words than it is to hear a similarity between two (or
more) lines.
In short, a poet uses the *perceptual* aspects of words to
accomplish integration.

Date: Tue, 17 Mar 1998 04:36:17 -0500 (EST)
Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

I think some definitions of "poetry" presented in this forum [HBL] are
too broad. Since words are a visual/auditory concrete
representing a concept, there is no getting around the fact that
*anything* spoken or written will have a certain auditory flow
to it. Great orators, such as Cicero and Lincoln, knew this
quite well and wrote beautiful speeches -- but it isn't poetry.
In the writing of my novel, I am aware of how the words sound,
and change them, when necessary, to make them flow according to
how I think the scene should be depicted to further concretize
the abstractions -- but it isn't poetry. Any written or spoken
work, if done correctly, will not ignore the auditory quality of
that which is written or spoken -- but this doesn't make it
poetry. The concept "poetry" must be more delimited, without
taking away anything from those works which don't fit into the
concept -- and I do think both rhyme *and* scan are the
defining characteristics of poetry, and it is those aspects
which make the integration possible.

In this regard, I do not place the "Iliad," the "Odyssey", the
"Aeneid," "Beowulf," the "Inferno," or "Paradise Lost" into the
concept "poetry." Rather, I consider this works to be "epic
verse." I am well aware that the dictionary says "verse" is a
part of poetry, and that "epic" is a type of poem, but I am
challenging these premises. Note that each of these is a
*story*, and it is the *story line* that integrates the whole,
not the meter or verse, which is poetic in *style*, to varying

And speaking of meter and verse, does anyone else have
difficulty reading the passage from "Paradise Lost" presented
earlier? The end of a line in any type of verse style has a
specific meaning -- there is supposed to be a brief pause. Yet,
if one pauses at the end of the line in that stanza, Milton
sounds like he's stuttering. Milton was against sensuality, and
that passage shows this quite clearly. Instead of illustrating
his view that rhyme and scan are not crucial to poetry, he
proves the exact opposite.

As to "free verse," it suffers the same fate. Pausing at the end
of a line makes the words sound choppy, at best. I am well aware
that some orators can read such works with meaning without
sounding choppy, but this doesn't make it poetry. What they do
is make the pauses significant in themselves, and one is
supposed to focus on the meaning of the line just spoken before
moving on to the next line. It is an auditory effect; but the
same effect can be had -- with punctuation marks in prose.

Since a poem relies most heavily on the perceptual aspects of
words, the best poems are usually short -- less than a few
pages, and that would be a long poem. To be able to achieve
integration with anything longer would require the addition of
some other integrating factor, such as characterization or plot
-- or something similar to these -- or even music, which was
used in the presentation of ancient epic verse.

It ought to be kept in mind that the novel (or the short story)
is a recent invention. The ancients didn't have it, and their
stories were generally presented orally, not in written form.
Having the stories in oral form meant the sound of the words
took on a more crucial role than they do in the novel -- which
is a type of prose. A metered verse is much easier to remember
than the same meaning done in prose, because if one is stuck on
a passage, one knows at least that the next line or passage has
an auditory association with what has just been spoken. When
reading and writing became more common place, writers were able
to break free of the restraints of verse -- and it is a
restraint, if you have ever tried to write poetry.

Again, I am not trying to take anything away from works that do
not use rhyme and scan, but do take the auditory components of
words into account.

I simply don't calls these poems.

Matt Sissel Fine Art

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