120spacer.gif (56 bytes) Poetry Introduction

The poet is a hunter for the perfect shot ... using words or symbols on the page and the sounds of the throat. The good poet never wastes a word, a punctuation mark, a spelling opportunity. The single shot the poet has to communicate something can be perfect and true.

Music is similar to poetry, and a good case may be made for instrumental music being non-verbal poetry. The introduction to Beethoven’s 5th. Symphony, or the strains of the Yellow River Suite are as familiar to the educated ear as are the opening lines of various poems. "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan" brings up the image of Coleridge’s interrupted dream. "Don’t Let That Horse Eat That Violin..." is Ferlinghetti, without a doubt. e e cummings never uses capitals.

Much western poetry is written in stanzas, or verses, of more than one line. Most lines have a specific "length", called "Metre" (2 rhythmical beats, or 3 or 4), and an internal rhythm of stressed and un-stressed syllables. (See the links to "Technical Morsels" elsewhere on this site as well as the link to "Bob’s Byway", later in this poetry section of the site.)

Some poems tell stories ... they narrate. They are framed by time and sequence. These are called "Narrative" poems. An example is "The Charge Of The Light Brigade". Epic poetry is the telling of tradition. The great Greek poems "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" are Epic narratives, with action on a grand scale and a titanic manner of struggle with great, almost superhuman, forces. "The Shooting Of Dan McGrew" narrates a story, as does "The Cremation Of Sam McGee". These are story poems. Sometimes story poems are set to music. A sterling example of this is Loreena McKinnitt’s version of "The Lady Of Shalott".

Another form of narrative poetry is the Ballad. The ballad tells of a particular action, or feeling or situation in exquisite detail. The ballad usually highlights, directly or indirectly, a feeling of the poet or tries to create an empathic reaction in the reader / listener. Alden Nowlan’s poem "The Masks Of Love", and Coleridge’s "The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" are good examples.

Lyric poetry highlights a particular emotion. It is feeling in poetic form. Love, revulsion, loss ... all are candidates for the Lyricist’s pen.

The best-known type of lyric poetry is the Sonnet. There are particularly rigid rules about a sonnet, and writing a sonnet is considered the most difficult form of writing in English. The sonnet has 14 lines and a total of 140 syllables. In the first 8 lines, called the "octave", the writer lays out a situation or poses a problem, or just tells the reader about something. In the following six lines, called the "sestet" the issue is resolved, the situation explained or a conclusion offered. Some sonnet styles must follow specific rhyme scheme rules: The Shakespearian sonnet is (octave) ababcdcd (sestet) efefgg, while the Petrarchian is (octave) abbaabba followed by (sestet) cdecaf.

Free verse follows no particular rule or convention. Two shining examples of free verse are Irving Layton’s "If Whales Could Think On Certain Happy Days", and Ferlinghetti’s "Johnny Nolan Has A Patch On His Ass".

The Parody mimics a specific forms and style, making a mockery of it. An example is:

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
that valleys, groves, hills and fields,
Woods or steepy mountain yields.
And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.
A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull,
Fair-lines slippers for the cold,
With buckles of purest gold;
A belt of straw and ivy buds
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.

* * * * *

A parody of this might be (keeping the same rhyme scheme and rhythm):

Come bowl with me this evening dear
And we will kill twelve cans of beer:
We’ll join the others on the team
And eat three quarts of peach ice-cream.
And in between each frame we bowl
We’ll eat a burger on a roll,
A dozen hot dogs, sacks of fries
A meatball and two apple pies;
Come bowl with me, you really should --
The exercise will do us good.


You may also contact me directly at martin@aller-stead.com