Cold Mountain is poetry in prose, and the examples of this are infinite. Every character met is described down to the last hair on their head; the war-torn countryside still lives on for Inman to relive and Ada to discover. The field burning, the sunrises and sunsets, the rivers flowing and the eternal rocks and trees that make up the landscape are all characters in themselves.
The definition of the word ‘poetry’ is allusive to say the least. Those in dictionaries run in circles from defining a poet as ‘one who writes poetry’ to defining a poetry as ‘the work of a poet’. It is more conclusive therefore, to describe what the poets themselves are aspiring to create: Coleridge distinguishes between prose – ‘the best words’- and poetry – ‘the best words in the best order’ – while Wordsworth said that poetry is ‘the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge.’ Therefore it is difficult to distinguish between the exact difference between prose and poetry. In some instances, such as translating foreign poetry, it has proved more satisfying to convert the poetry into prose to convey the meaning without worrying about the metre, which is often lost in translation anyway. However, ‘Cold Mountain’ is clearly one of the chosen few novels written in prose with poetic style. By describing scenes, be they uplifting or disturbing, in an innovative, different, detailed style, Frazier succeeds in surpassing other novels in library brilliance and ingenuity.
From the first few words of the first chapter, the reader is captured. Different, or unusual words are used to describe what they do not usually do – morning ‘gesturing’, for instance, morning is not normally thought of as a gesture, b...
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...head; the war-torn countryside still lives on for Inman to relive and Ada to discover. The field burning, the sunrises and sunsets, the rivers flowing and the eternal rocks and trees that make up the landscape are all characters in themselves. Frazier conveys his love of the land through every word of ‘Cold Mountain’ and uses unusual adjectives or verbs to explain his sight from a different angle. (This is illustrated on page 215 as Inman is wedded to Lila; she ‘described little delighted circles in the dirt’.) Matthew Arnold states that ‘genuine poetry is conceived and composed in the soul’, and Frazier has simply shared this genuine classic to give a hauntingly true-to-life insight in to the search for the American Dream, based on his own experience of the Appalachian Mountains.
Frazier, Charles. Cold Mountain. New York: Vintage Books, 1998.
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