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Synesthesia

In description, a blending or intermingling of different sense modalities. While synesthesia appears in ancient literatures, including both the Iliad and Odyssey, it became especially popular in the 19th century through the work of poets such as Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud and the symbolist movement. Examples of synesthesia include Baudelaire’s “The Ragpickers’ Wine,” where he writes of “the dazzling, deafening debauch / of bugles.” In her heavily synesthetic poem “Aubade,” Dame Edith Sitwell describes the “dull blunt wooden stalactite / Of rain creaks, hardened by the light.” In George Meredith’s “Modern Love: I,” a woman’s heart is made to “drink the pale drug of silence.” Synesthetic effects include textual amplification, complication, and richness. Some poets, notably Percy Bysshe Shelley, have used synesthesia to suggest visionary states.


Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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