How is rhythm contrasted with rhyme and meter in poetic expressions with respect to African oral poetry in particular?

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Any attempt to study the literary devices of African poetry must begin with the understanding that the poetry itself is based on African traditions and political and social realities, not European literary traditions. This concept is expressed in Tanure Ojaide’s work Poetic Imagination in Black Africa: Essays on African Poetry ...

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Any attempt to study the literary devices of African poetry must begin with the understanding that the poetry itself is based on African traditions and political and social realities, not European literary traditions. This concept is expressed in Tanure Ojaide’s work Poetic Imagination in Black Africa: Essays on African Poetry as follows:

Modern African poetic aesthetics are unique in possessing a repertory of authentic African features. This authenticity manifests itself in the use of concrete images derived from the fauna and flora, proverbs, indigenous rhythms, verbal tropes, and concepts of space and time to establish a poetic form. Besides (and unlike in the West), content is more important than form and images do not aim to reflect the senses. Content is not perceived by poet and audience as extra-literary. The mere fact that foreign languages are used could occasionally create discord in discourse but modern African poetry attempts to reflect indigenous rhythms. In fact, an authentic African world forms the backdrop of modern African poetry.

Rhythm is the pattern of language in poetry. It is comprised of stressed and unstressed syllables in the words of each line in a stanza. Regular rhythm reflects movements of the human body and adds aesthetic and emotional qualities to poetry. The regularity of rhythm in a poem forms a sound pattern, which traditionally is smooth and is identified as “meter.”

Rhyme is the repetition of sounds and syllables often appearing at the end of lines in a stanza. Rhyme within the same line is called “internal.” Rhyme at the end of lines or recurring at the end of lines throughout a poem is called “external.” The patterns formed by rhymes are referred to as “schemes.”

As implied in the quote above, African poetry is unique. It reflects “indigenous rhythms.” Whereas the rhythmic flow in Western poetry aims at creating a sound that is pleasing to the ear, African poetry is a much more abrupt, jarring, and harsh discordant mixture of sounds. The cacophony is more disturbing. This is especially evident during an analysis of African oral poetry.

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