Poetry 101 From A Non-Poet Poetry Lover

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Poetry is so subjective.  There are so many styles and kinds.  So many formats and images.  But I truly believe that being knowledgeable about poetry can help you in any other field of writing!
Down To The Basics

There are just a few things that you should definitely know.

1. Meter - This is the rhythm of a line.

Example: Iambic Pentameter:

da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM

but SOFT what LIGHT through YON - der WIN - dow BREAKS

It reads like a heartbeat.  Unstressed, stressed.  Unstressed, stressed.

2. Rhyme - Poetry doesn't have to rhyme, but it can and often does.

Example: Stopping By The Woods On A Snowy Evening, Robert Frost

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep. 

The Sonnet:

Think Shakespeare.  These poems are strictly formatted with 14 lines ending in couplets, which are two lines that rhyme.

Example: Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? 
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date: 
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd; 
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st; 
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. 

Just for fun, here I am in Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's home town. This is the cottage of his wife, Anne Hathaway.

The Spoken-Word:

The kick-butt Indie style of poetry that I really wish I was good at.

This one might just take the cake for being my favorite spoken word video to date. Check out this fantastic piece of cultural poetry.

The Persona:

The Persona Poem is when you get to step into the voice of someone other than yourself.  Emily Dickinson famously said that often the speaker of the poem was not her — it's dangerous to assume that the poet is always the speaker of the poem.  What's fun is that you as the writer can use fiction skills and tell someone else's story in your piece.

The Prose:

The poetry that wants to be prose, but it is cooler than prose.  It's a hybrid form that borrows from its cousin in the fiction/nonfiction department but still has the elevated language, tone and mood of poetry.

The Narrative:

Narrative poetry tells a linear story.  This kind of poetry is more focused on a narrative story arc.  This style does not have to follow traditional rhythmic patterns.

The Organic:

Organic (also called free-verse) is poetry that doesn't have to rhyme or have specific meter. This is what many students and young writers think of when they think about poetry.  It's free, it's elastic, there's room for interpretation.  Think more modern poetry here — Ginsberg, Denise Levertov, Adrienne Rich.

There are just so many options!
Do you like poetry, yes or no?

If so, do you like structured or free verse?

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  1. I'm actually not a big fan of poetry... I enjoy just reading hymns and analyzing them without the music, but that's about it. I wish I liked poetry more, but it just doesn't resonate with me all that much. When I do read it, though, I definitely prefer structure. :)


    1. Hymns are always beautiful! One thing I learned recently was that you can sing Emily Dickinson's poetry to Amazing Grace because she wrote with hymn meter... 'Success is counted sweetest / By those who ne'er succeed / To comprehend a nectar / Requires sorest need'... :)

  2. Hmmm I used to dislike poetry very much aside from the occasional poem I'd find interesting, but now I'm starting to fiddle with it more. It's interesting.

    1. I think poetry is really interesting, too - I'm a big fan of Robert Frost and Matthew Arnold especially.

  3. I didn't always care for poetry, but around my junior year of high school, I fell completely in love with it. John Milton's sonnets are what finally won me over, along with some poems by G. K. Chesterton and others by W. H. Auden.

    I usually prefer formal verse, but I do like a good free verse poem every now and then, or even spoken word poetry. This is one of my favorite spoken word poems right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFrFRfhtRTk

    1. Oh Milton. We read Paradise Lost for class this summer...which I have mixed feelings about...but he is a beautiful poet. And I went and watched the poem - oh how beautiful! Jackie Hill has such a powerful testimony.

  4. Depends. I like some poetry, dislike others. My favorites, though, are always the ones that sound beautiful and, perhaps most importantly, make sense to me. :)

    BTW, I tagged you for something! I'm not sure if you do tags anymore, so obviously, no obligation. :) But if you want to do it, here's the link: http://thessalexa.blogspot.com/2015/10/tag-week-writers-life-for-me.html


    1. Thanks Alexa! I haven't done a few recently because I've been swamped, but I do still love tags, so thank you for tagging me! I'll be sure to do this one and give you a link back! ;)