Poetry essay: Poetry evaluation: what do you like?

As you read poetry, inevitably, there will be some poems that you like and some that you don’t.  Some poems will reach you in some way, and others will not.  If you read enough poetry, the sense of what you like may become intuitive.  Although you might not be able to explain why you like or dislike certain poems, which way you feel can become clearer.

In some ways poetry can be like food.  Why do you like a particular food?  Other than “it tastes good” you might not be able to give reasons.  You just like it.  If though, you spend enough time eating different foods, thinking about their characteristics, and thinking about what you feel about those characteristics, you can start to develop a more explainable reason for why you like certain foods.  You can transition from “it tastes good” to “it’s crunchy and salty, with a little sweetness, and it’s not too rich and …” You can become more precise.

The same notion can apply to learning what you actually like and dislike about certain poems.  If you spend time reading enough poems, noting their characteristics, and thinking about what you feel about those characteristics, you can get closer to a place where you can explain what you think makes a good poem.

This idea can be useful in a number of ways.

First, you can get a better appreciation for poetry.  You can understand, at least in your own view, what makes some poetry good to you and what makes others not.

Second, you can get an ability to explain why you feel the way you do about poetry.  This can be important if you are discussing poetry or debating poetry ideas.

Third, it can enhance your own ability to write poetry.  If you learn what characteristics you like in poetry, you can incorporate those characteristics into your own poetry and write poems, that at least in your view, are better.  You can come to like your own poetry more.

As you look at poems, there are a number of characteristics you can look at.  Some relate to form, some to ideas, some to content and some to other things.  Below is a list of some characteristics you can look at as you think about the poems that you read.

  • Poem length. The length of a poem is a good characteristic to start with.  Is the poem short, like a haiku?  Is it medium in length, like a sonnet?  Is it long, like a free verse poem might be?  As you read more and more poetry, you can get a sense of whether you like longer or shorter poems.
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  • Formality of form. Some poems have very formal forms.  Think for example an English sonnet.  Other poems have unstructured forms, such as a free verse poem with form elements.  Other poems seem to have no definitive form structure.  As you read poetry, you can think about if you like stricter form poems or those with less formality.
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  • Personal or Impersonal. Some poems you read will be personal to the author.  They will be writing about something that directly impacted themselves.  For example, they might write about a disease they have.  Alternatively, some poems will be impersonal to the author.  They will be writing about something they are detached from.  For example, they might write about a disease they have only heard of, but have never had.  Obviously there is also a space between those two.
     
    As you read poems, think about which you like better.  Do you like poems that have a personal tone to them, such that you feel the author’s connection, or do you like poems that are more detached, such that the poem is more about the subject and less about the person?
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  • Outside references. Some poetry you read will have outside references.  They will mention specific places, names, books, music and so forth.  In some cases you will know what the reference is about, and in others you won’t.  In cases that you don’t know the reference, in some poems there will be enough context to make the reference understandable, and in others there will not.
     
    As you read poems, ask yourself if you like outside references or not.  Do you feel that the references add to the poem or do you feel that they distract from it?
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  • Line length. This idea is a bit different from the idea of poem length.  A poem can have long lines, but be a short poem.  Conversely, a poem can have short lines, but be long.
     
    As you read poems, you can think about which you like better.  Do you like the separation of ideas that short lines provide, or do you think it makes a poem choppy?  Do you like the completeness of thought that long lines might give, or do you feel like they make the poem feel long?
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  • Subject category. Poems can be about so many different things.  In some sense, everything in the world could have a poem written about it.  That being said, the subjects of poems could be fit into categories.  Some poems are nature poems.  Some poems are relationship poems.  Some poems are disease poems.  Some poems are war poems.  The list goes on.
     
    As you read poems, make a note of the category that the poem is about.  Think about if you like poems about that subject or if it is something that doesn’t appeal to you.
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  • Rhyme. Although this relates to formality in form, in some sense it can be considered a separate category.  A poem can have an informal form and still have rhyme.  It is one of those things a reader might “notice” about poetry.  It is one of those things that might make poetry, “sound like poetry”, if you are just starting to read poems.
     
    As you look at different poems, pay attention to the rhyming quality.  In some cases it will be overt, and in other cases it might be more subtle.  As you read, think about if the rhyming appeals to you or not.
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  • Clarity or obscurity. Some poems, at least overtly, are very clear.  A reader can easily understand what the poem seems to be about.  Although there might be underlying symbolism and metaphor, the direct expression of the poem makes sense.
     
    Other poems are more obscure.  There are poems that have to be read multiple times and gone through piece by piece before even the overt expression makes sense.  Within these poems, there might be much symbolism and metaphor underlying the expression.

    As you read poetry, think about what you like.  Do you like poems that are clear, direct and make sense the first time you read them, or do you prefer poems that take time for the understanding to come through?

 

The above are just some aspects of poetry that you can look at as you read poems and decide about what you like and don’t.  There are many more categories you could look at.

As an exercise, you might find a number of poems by different authors, such as might be in different literary magazines, and evaluate each one.  You might look at twenty or thirty poems.  You could make a table with the names of each poem on one side and the categories along the other.  You could then note your impression of each category for each poem.

As you go through the poems, the hopeful idea, is that you will find yourself writing the same things.  You will note, for example, that some poems have rhyme and that you don’t like that, or, for example, that some poems are short and you do like that.  As you look at the poems, hopefully, what you like and don’t like will become clearer and more precise.  At the end of the exercise, you might be able to write a list that shows what you like in poetry and what you don’t.

Although whether you like a poem or not can feel intuitive, there is a lot to be gained from thinking about poems, evaluating them, and understanding how you feel about their characteristics.

Artwork to inspire poetry: garlic and a banana

garlic and a banana

The above artwork is of garlic and a banana.  The pair is a mismatch, in the sense that the two foods do not taste good together.  A poet could see this and be inspired to write about other mismatches.  They could focus on mismatches that, in whatever way, do not work, or they could focus on mismatches that work despite their differences.  They could focus on the differences between the two things, or despite those differences, they could focus on their similarities.

 

Poetry topic idea: bones

Today’s poetry topic idea is bones.  Below are some ideas for how a poet could use bones in poetry.  A poet could write about:

  • Broken bones. A poet could write about injuries.  They could write about how they happened and treatment.  They could write about casts and a person being immobile.
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  • Murder. A poet could write about murder referencing the bones of the victim.  They could write the poem in different styles.  They might write it as a mystery or they could focus on the crime aspect.  They could write it focusing on the victim or they could focus on the murderer.
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  • Leftover bones from food. Different foods have leftover bones.  Examples might be chicken bones from fried chicken or beef bones from a steak.  A poet could use the bones in different ways in a poem.  For example, they could write about the bones being thrown to animals and a hungry person looking on.  They could focus on the symbolism involved.
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  • Anatomy. A poet could focus on the anatomy of a human and all the bones a person has.  They could look at the scientific names of bones and the connections between them.  They could use these ideas either directly or symbolically in a poem.
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  • Structures. Structures are sometimes referred to as having bones.  Think of the frame of a building.  Poet could write about structures and their underlying frames.  They could focus on the aspect of the unseen.

Poem with an explanation: The rain will come

The rain will come,
  weeds will grow,
  hairstyles will be ruined,
  clothes will be damaged,
  workers will be late,
  events will be cancelled,
  people will catch colds,
  roads will deteriorate,
  homes will have damage,
  cars will have accidents,
  homeless people will suffer.

 

The rain will come,
  plants will grow,
  animals will drink,
  things will look better,
  homes will be cleaned,
  allergens will decrease,
  air will be cooler,
  farmers will benefit,
  people will feel calmer,
  pollution will go down,
  people will have water.

 

This poem is symbolic of political discussions.  In the poem there is an issue: the rain will come.  This issue symbolizes political and social issues in society.

In the poem, there are two sides: those who think the rain coming will be bad and those who think the rain coming will be good.  The first stanza presents the side that thinks the rain will be bad, and the second stanza presents the side that thinks the rain will be good.

Each side presents ten points to support their view.  Essentially, each side is making truthful statements, however, they are speaking in certainties (will) rather than possibilities (may).

Generally speaking, each side presents stronger statements as they go.  For those against the rain and for the rain, the statements they make, generally, are more significant as they present their side.

Additionally, neither side makes any reference or acknowledgement of the other side or their view.  Each side presents its case unilaterally.

The poem has the general form that each side says something will get better or worse.  They present their views in very similar styles.

This poem expresses the feel that can sometimes come in political debates.  Each side in the poem speaks in certainties, is consistent in their view, does not acknowledge the opposing view, speaks to persuade, and speaks in a consistent style.

The poem symbolizes the idea that in political and social issue discussions, each side examines the same idea and yet sees it completely differently.  It also expresses faults that can happen when issues are discussed.

Experimental Poetry Form: dactylic meter with rhyme

Today’s poetry form combines dactylic meter with rhyme.  The form contains one stanza of five lines.  Lines 1 and 3 rhyme.  Lines 2, 4 and 5 rhyme.  Each line contains four dactylic feet (thereby each having 12 syllables).  Below is what the form looks like.  The meter is marked with a * for the stressed syllables and a ~ for the unstressed syllables.  The rhymes are marked R1 and R2.

*~~*~~*~~*~~ R1
*~~*~~*~~*~~ R2
*~~*~~*~~*~~ R1
*~~*~~*~~*~~ R2
*~~*~~*~~*~~ R2

Artwork to inspire poetry: Peach

Peach

 

Above is an artwork of a peach.  It can inspire poetry.  Below are some ideas.  A poet could write about:

  • Peaches in general. A poet could write about the fruit.  They could focus on its color, scent, taste and so forth.
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  • Cooked items with peaches. A poet could write about peach pie, peach ice cream, peach preserves, peach cobbler or other cooked foods with peaches.
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  • Peaches as symbolism. Peaches could be used in poetry to symbolize summer, sunshine, brightness, nature or other ideas.

Here is a poem using peaches:

the shoe maker,
was given peaches,
and did not see,
the humor

Bilingual Poem: If you plant …

If you,
plant,
tomato seeds,
you get,
tomatoes.

If you,
plant,
bell pepper seeds,
you get,
bell peppers.

If you,
plant,
bird seed,
you get

 

Si usted,
planta,
semillas de tomate,
usted obtiene,
tomates.

Si usted,
planta,
semillas de pimiento campana,
usted obtiene,
pimientos campana.

Si usted,
planta,
semillas ave,
usted obtiene

Poem: So winter, here’s the thing

So winter,
here’s the thing,
it’s been great,
you know,
the snow,
the cold,
the occasional sleet.

Here’s the thing though,
it’s,
well,
over.

It’s been great,
really,
but,
well,
it’s just time to move on.

Now,
don’t feel bad.
It’s not you,
it’s just,
well,
time moved on,
and well,
um …
have you met spring here?

Listen tough,
really,
don’t feel bad.
You know,
in nine months,
things might feel different,
and well,
hey,
anything’s possible.

So,
yeah,
goodbye.

Poetry essay: A look at prose poetry

Prose poetry is poetry written in the form of prose.  In other words, it is a poem written in sentences and paragraphs like a story might be written in.  It doesn’t have the shortened lines, indentations, line breaks and other visual form elements of poetry.  It looks like this paragraph here.

Although its appearance can look like a story, it contains elements of poetry.  These elements can be form elements, symbolism and metaphor, or the sound of the work.

In terms of form elements, the elements used in prose poetry are more subtle than those used in non-prose poetry but they are of the same nature.  For example, a prose poem might be written in iambic meter.  Because the meter might not end with lines or sentences (such that it is continuous rather than, for example, iambic pentameter) it can be more subtle and less noticeable to the reader.

Other form elements that might be used are rhyming patterns, partial repeats, or acrostic elements.  These elements and others are incorporated into the prose poem in a way that they might not be overt to the reader.  They are worked in, in some sense, in the background.  Despite this, they still add a poetic quality to the prose work.

In addition to form elements, a prose poem can also contain the symbolism and metaphor of a poem.  Think of a work of literary fiction.  There might be dozens of symbols and metaphors in the space of a few paragraphs.  Things like numbers, colors, names, shapes and so forth can all be symbolic of other things.  A poet can work feelings, outside references, and meanings into a poem through these symbols.  In a sense, there can be quite a bit behind a short amount of text in a prose poem.

Lastly, a prose poem can sound different than regular prose.  There is a style of writing that makes the poem have a different tone.  The ideas might be presented in a less direct way and with more of a sense of sound and style.

As an example, here is a sentence written as regular prose:

It got dark outside as the storm came in.

Here is the same idea written in a more poetic style:

The sky did blacken as clouds rolled in like a fog over the moors on a winter’s night.

The sentences say the same idea, but the second one has a more poetic tone to it.

Prose poetry can be useful in a number of situations.  One example might be where a poet is writing something that isn’t essentially poetry, but they want to have a poetic sound and feel for impact.  Think of a situation where a poet was writing about a nonfiction topic and wanted to persuade people with their words.  Writing in a poetic style might give the words more emotion and strengthen their impact.

In another situation, a poet might have something emotional inside of themselves that they want to express, but they are lacking structure to it.  The thing they want to express might be the type where they have “a hard time putting it into words”.  A prose poem can be useful for this because a poet can simply write out what they feel just like a paragraph but they can feel free to include emotion, symbolism they feel, repeats that make sense to them and other elements of poetry that might not be traditional to prose.

As an idea, if a poet were interested in trying prose poetry, they might try to write something out just as prose.  When they were done, they could go back over the work and include poetic elements in it.  They might look for places that have almost a sense of form, for example, sentences of almost equal word length, and modify those places to include form.  They could alter their language and style to include a more poetic sound.  They could look for places where symbolism might be worked in.