Via Prufrock, I looked at these wonderful Chladni-plate sand pictures. Description from Colossal: Youtube user Brusspup . . . who often explores the intersection between art and science just released this new video featuring the Chladni plate experiment. First a black metal plate is attached to a tone generator and then sand is poured on the plate. As the speaker is cycled through various frequencies the sand naturally gravitates to the area where the least amount of vibration occurs causing fascinating geometric patterns to emerge. There’s actually a mathematical law that determines how each shape will form, the higher the frequency the more complex the pattern.I often think about the ways that art--poetry and narrative in particular--intersects with other fields. And the quote from the brilliant madman Tesla is running through my brain, and like water seeking new paths for entrance. I often think of the rush of poetry and certain passages of prose in terms of energy. (Here my husband reminds me that there is a statue of Tesla at Niagara Falls, that fount of energy.) But what about frequency and vibration?
To be strict about "frequency" in poetry, the most obvious links are to refrain, to repetition of words as in a sestina, to rhyme frequency, and to repetitive metrical structures... These devices create elaborate patterns and, if read, lead to new structures of vibration in the air. We could even find analogues to cycles and oscillation or waves in established formal designs and nonce poems that use recurring patterns and variable but set line length structures.
Could we talk about the idea of vibration within a poem? (Here I am trying to channel Tesla-esque madness.) Yes, we can talk about a poem as a kind of system. Could we talk about oscillation around some sort of equilibrium point? If we look at Old English poetry, there's definitely an equilibrium point, a rest, a still place in the midst of activity. And that occurs between every Anglo-Saxon half-line. But there's a similar tendency in the iambic pentameter line as well.
I've barely started pondering the idea, and whether it is sense or nonsense, or maybe some helpful-to-a-writer combination. And there's a limit to how far we can take such analogies. But now I must go put my day in order. Enjoy the video, and be sure your sound is on!