SOME GIVEN FORMS
VERSE THAT IS FREE
DICTION, TONE, VOICE
Apparently, “poets are born and not made in school.” I might as well give up. Unless, of course, I was born a poet. There is the evidence as I enjoyed writing in school and have always had a yearning to write a novel; but that is no poetry. However, Oliver does go on to say that “whatever can’t be taught, there is a great deal that can, and must, be learned.” That makes me feel better.
All books I have read on how to write say you must read and Oliver is no different. She has a chapter on Reading Poems. She goes on to say that the choice can be overwhelming. She says to be careful not to only read the present poems but read the past too. That is many poems. I have bought five poetry books from different eras: current, Victorian, and further back. Oliver recommends imitating the poets that we enjoy in order to learn from them.
Poetry from the past was written in metric form and with full rhymes. Current poetry is written in free form. Its form comes from imagery, language, alliteration, and assonance.
Oliver tells us about the “Families of Sound.”
Vowels and consonants.
Consonants divided into semivowels and mutes.
Semivowels are consonants that can be imperfectly sounded without a vowels so that at the end of a syllable its sounds may be protracted as l, n, z, in al, an, az.
Semivowels are f, h, j, l, m, n, r, s, v, w, x, y, x, and c and g soft. But w. or y at the end of a syllable is a vowel. C, f, g, h, j, s, or x is only protracted as an aspirate, or on a strong breath.
Four of the semivowels – l, m, n, r, – are termed liquids because of the fluency of their sounds.
Four others – v, w, y, and z, are more vocal that the aspirates.
A mute is a consonant that cannot be sounded at all without a vowel and stops the breath at the end of a syllable – k, p, t, in ak, ap, at.
Mutes are: b, d, k, p, q, t, and c and g hard (k, g, c, hard sound the same). B, d, g, hard stop the voice less suddenly than the rest.
This all sounds really boring until you realize how it makes the poems sound.
Oliver gives the examples of Hush! Please be quiet! And Shut up! They all mean the same but sound different.
So a poem can sound angry just with the words we use.
More Devices of Sound
Alliteration – repetition of the initial sound of words in a line or verse “The bear’s tongue, pink as a baby’s.” It also includes the repetition of initial and internal sounds “blueberry”.
Assonance – repetition of vowel sounds within a line or verse. “and land so lightly”.
Onomatopoeia – word that sounds like what it means “buzz” “belched”.
Where the line turns is and should be meaningful.
Length and Rhythm – each line divided into feet – each foot into stresses. An iambic foot is one light stress followed by one heavy stress “upon”. Five iambic feet in one line is an iambic pentameter line
Page 37 – list of metrical line names and metrical feet names and symbols.
“Put one world on a line by itself in a poem of otherwise longish lines and it becomes a critical word” 43
“Lines of good poetry are apt to be a little irregular.” 44
She talks a lot about the different metres and how they are used.
Most poems start with iambic meter. The mood is relaxed. If you begin with a heavy stress (spondee, trochee, or dactyl) it signals that something dramatic is at hand. 52
Ending lines with rhyme gives pleasure. That can either be true rhyme (spears/tears) or off rhyme if they almost rhyme (down/noon). Feminie Rhyme uses words of more than one syllable that end with a light stress (buckle/knuckle). Femine and off rhyme blur end rhyme where true rhyme (masculine) are forthright.
Repetition of lines is s source of enjoyment.
Turning the line – using a sentence or full meaning works so that the reader is invited to pause and weigh the information. If enjambment occurs (the meaning is cut over two or more lines) the reader hurries up to read the rest and so is pulled along. This can make that part of the poem faster.
Forms – Stanza (verse)
On page 59 Oliver gives examples of rhyming patters – couplet aa bb cc dd etc.
Any change from an established pattern indicates that the poet wants the reader to feel something different at that point. 61
Syllablic verse – a good example of that is on 65 The Fish – shows how different sized lines (by syllables) can add rhythm and pull the reader along.
Free verse is not quite so free. It still has some sort of pleasant form, or if it changes that form, it points to the reason in the words and sound – the change highlights that something of import is happening.
The initial premise is made up of everything the old metrical premise is composed of – sound, line length, and rhythm patters, but in this case they are not strict, they are not metrical. Refrain and repetition are still effective. Alliteration and assonance are used. 68
Free verse poems are more friendly and less “teacherly” than the metrical form poems. Less formal. Probably came about because of a more classless society.
Enjambment can be serious, disruptive, almost painful. In the Red Wheelbarrow it is not 75
The Red Wheelbarrow – Williams
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
Diction, Tone, Voice
Diction – word choice
Tone – choice of subject imagery design of the poem
Voice – Agent who is speaking through the poem 76
Diction – sound, accuracy and connotation of word (connotation – idea or feeling invoked by a word)
Atmosphere created by word choice
Modern poetry mostly written in language that belies a friendly and natural intimacy
Modern poems – words placed in order you would use yourself – accessible
This tone of intimacy did not just happen but it is created by the poet.
Past poems – voice took role of professor
Modern poems – voice takes role of friend and intimacy
Negative Capability– where you step back ad the poem takes over. Phrase originates with Keats
Poem by Type –
Fairly brief up to about 60 lines
Usually concentrated on one subject
No more than a single voice
Simple and natural musicality
Might feel in a vortex
Longer than Lyric
Discursive – digressing from subject to subject – rambling
More comfortable than Lyric
Examples – Whittier’s Snowbound
Walter de la Mare’s The Listener
Robert Penn Warren’s The Ballard of Billie Potts
No longer epic poems are written now but long poems are
They have central idea, digressions, and different voices
Example – TS Elliot’s The Wastelands
No longer written
Requed dignified theme, organic unit and orderly progress of action
Examples – Beowulf and Iliad
Very recent form
Looks like short block of type on page
Paragraph or two – no more than a page
Perhaps characters – perhaps not
Seems to have at center a situation rather than a narrative
Nothing much happens
A problem is making language work without musicality of the line
Syntax (arrangement of words and phrases) is often exquisite
Examples – Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud first
Then maybe, James Wright and Robert Bly
Language of poems is romantic – patches of woods are bowers – fields are emerald carpets – avoid these clunkers
Do not use clichés
Inversion – changing natural order of the words – mostly does not work – sounds @out of whatck@ – Bad inversion occurs in metrical verse in order to make syllables fits. – it calls attention to itself – good inversion is difficult to achieve
Informational language – the language you would use to write a paragraph on how to operate a can opener – don’t do it
Syntax – correct grammer and forceful graceful syntax
A phrase with no verb does not work
Advert and adjectives worth 5 cents
Verbs worth – 50 cents
Variety versus habits – effective writing varies its ingredients – use loads of different words
Beginning writer should write poems simply, freshly and clearly
Imagery [figurative language]
Language of poetry is language of particulars
Detailed and sensory language incorporating images
“My love is like a red rose” = imagery
“My loves is sweet, wild wonderful” are all abstract and not specific
In a poem there is a figure/image.
Patience could be represented as a statue as patient as stone
Specific devices are metaphor, simile, allusion, personification
Particulars and Texture
Fruit – informational – no image
Apple or peach – abstract and only a word mean any or all apples
The last apple on the tree or The one small peach as pink as dawn = developing texture
Example – The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop
Whitman, in one line, establishes the reader in place-where-the-poem-is “over the sharp-peak’d farmhouse, with its scallop’d scum and slender shoots from the gutters”
Stanley Kuntz in the Round – the poet leaning closer into the flowers so that he sees more than how the light flowed over the honey bees “down blue-spiked veronica light flowed in rivulets over the humps of the honey bees”
The poet must scrutinize the world intensely.
Figurative language –
Love like a burning city in the breast – Millay Fatal Interview
The clouds were low and hairy in the skies like locks blown forward in the gleam of eyes – Frost, One by the Pacific
Implicit comparison – does not use like or as
Little boys lie still awake, wondering, wondering, Delicate little boxes of dust – Wright, The undermining
Gives physical characteristic or quality of animation to something inanimate
I bowed my head and heard the sea far of / washing its hands – James Wright
Reference to something that belongs to a world beyond the specific sphere of the poem, e.g., using Van Gogh’s paintings of sunflowers to describe any old sunflower
Universal language –
We all live in the saem world country and city and feel same emotions. Some language is used by everyone to describe:
Ocean as mother
Sun as health
“Dark satanic mills”
“My love is like a red, red, rose”
The power of poetry comes from both mental inquiry and figurative language
Too much imagery can be jolting and cause poem to lose its meaning. Make sure imagery is appropriate – if not sure, don’t use it.
All poems need revision
Leave poem few days – so you come back to it fresh
Write poem for stranger who will be born in some distant country hundreds of years from now – everything necessary must be on page – it needs to carry all that it must to sustain life and not a lot of extra weight.
Too many metaphors can slow down the forward flow
Cutting is important
Oliver revises 40/50 drafts – others take longer
Some poems are unfixable
Flaubert to Van Gough – Talent is long patience, and originality an effort of will and of intense observation”
What Oliver says about that “…Look at what he does say: Patience is necessary and an effort of will and intense observation. What a hopeful statement! For who needs to be shy of any of these? No one!
That makes me hopeful.