In this passage from Joan Acocella's review, she is describing the fine relationship between chanting—providing narration and dialogue—and puppetry in the Japanese cultural form known as awaji.
As for the characters’ words, those, too, are displaced—to a chanter. This person, considered the star of the puppetry team, sits to the side of the stage, where he tells the story and, when necessary, speaks the dialogue. The characters’ lines are not always interesting. (In “The Miracle at Tsubosaka Temple,” the cliff-jumping couple is restored to life, and the husband is given back his sight. He greets his wife as follows: “You are my wife? What a surprise! It’s very nice to meet you. Oh, I am so happy.”) But, as with many equally unstirring scripts in Western opera, the crux is not the words but the singing. The chanter sobs; he gasps; he calls on Heaven to witness his grief. (And he does so in male and female, old and young, high-status and low-status voices.) When the woman in the ferry-crossing scene from “Hidakagawa” describes her jealousy, the chanter runs the gamut of vocal expressiveness: head notes and belly notes, squeals and grunts, trills and runs without end. Meanwhile, the lady for whom he is speaking stands there with an unmoving face, white and lustrous, like a pearl. We seem, here, to get everything that art can give: the abstemious and the unleashed, the Gothic and the Baroque. The logic is not logical; it is lyrical, musical.
In poetry, the writer creates figures much like puppets and animates them with a poem, providing the narrative, dialogue, and commentary. Sometimes, depending on the path the poem takes, the narrator-actor-commentator will alternate voices; or the poet will insert a stanza or section break, ending one part and beginning another with a caesura, or pause.
The poet attempts to play the elements of restraint and power—power being restraint's diametrical opposite—against each other to heighten the reader's emotions and thoughts as he or she is guided to the conclusion. Restraint is manifested as the sparing use of words, and power as the meaning, which is sublimated at the start of the poem and is all-encompassing by the end.
The parallels between Acocella's analysis and my thoughts about poetry were so strong I couldn't help but comment on them. Of course, the main difference between awaji and poetry lies in the text, that is, the choice of words. As John Gardner says, a choice of words is a moral choice, and it is the strength of that morality that determines the quality of a work. Not moral in the sense defined by religion or the Bible, but in the sense of being critical to life.
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there.
—William Carlos Williams