This study focuses on Opland’s (1993) argument that praise poetry must have a particular structure. He argues that a traditional praise poetry needs to have a structure similar to that of poetry written in one of the languages of the West, such as English. According to Opland, the various theorists who have looked at praise poetry have not yet solved the problem of structure in a praise poem. A related problem mentioned by Opland is the use of formula in poetry. The formula that Opland mentions is related to the concept of parallelism. His main concern is that if there is no parallelism, there can be no meter. This is a very important point, because in Setswana poerty, parallelism helps to facilitate the performance of a poem, where the poet’s actions and tone are part of the content of the poem. Some Setswana praise poems take the form of a narrative poem, for example, ‘Motata’ written by Serobatse (1987), and published in the anthology Motswako wa Puo. Other authors write metrical poems, such as ‘Masupatsela’ by Raditladi (1975) which appears in the Sefalana sa Menate. When one scrutinizes these two poems, one notes that they differ in terms of structure and style. This causes problems for the reader who may not be able to tell which one of the two is the real poem. He/she does not know whether a poem should take the form of a narrative or of a metrical poem. This leads to problems regarding the classification of these genres. In order to solve this problems three strategies have been used: (a) the description, (b) the interpretation and (c) the comparison of poems according to an adapted narratological model. Western poetry, African poetry, modern poetry, narrative poetry, performance and meter are described, interpreted and compared. Groenewald (1993) suggests that, because traditional African poetry is not written, listeners have to be able to identify meter simply by listening when the poet recites a poem. Essential metrical features are arranged in terms of sound, rhythm and ending. There are two metrical laws that govern this arrangement, and meter is discussed on the basis of these two rules. The first law is called the law of separation, which describes the separation of the clauses of a sentence. The second law is called the law of agreement, which has to do with the repetition of the stems. This shows a distinction between Western poetry and African poetry, in that African poetical meter relies on these two laws, while Western poetry does not. African poems also have an element of performance, which Opland (1998: 5-6) maintains is another distinguishing characteristic. Metrical principles might therefore be an aspect of performance that an examination of the written text alone cannot reveal. These two points help to distinguish between Western poetry and traditional Setswana poetry. This investigation has shown that a well-planned Setswana poem has a meter which differs from that of an English poem. Opland’s problems concerning the arrangement of praise poetry have been solved by showing a differnce between meter in Western poetry and meter in African poetry.
Thesis (DLitt (African Languages))--University of Pretoria, 2006.