Poetry essay: Some benefits to writing poetry

If you like reading poetry but don’t write it as much as you’d like, here are some benefits to writing poetry that will hopefully inspire you to write more.  If you already write a lot of poetry, the list below will let you in on some of the benefits you are gaining.

Expression

Poetry is good for expression.  This might be what people think about when they think about a benefit of writing poetry.  Poetry is a way for a person to express themselves.

Poetry can be a different form of expression from other kinds of writing or talking because of its style.

With poetry, a person doesn’t have to be direct.  They can use symbolism and metaphor to express something they are feeling, without revealing too much of themselves.

Also, with poetry, a person can lead in to something.  They can gradually build to an idea and present it in the way they want.  This could be different than other styles of writing where a lead in might take away from the main idea.

Poetry can also be good for expression because it doesn’t have to tell a whole story.  Poetry can just focus on a scene.  Poetry can just be the middle, without having a beginning or an end.  This can be good if a person wants to express a moment in time without describing what happened before and after it.

Improved writing

Writing poetry can help a person write better.  You can learn new words and word combinations.  You might discover different metaphors and analogies for things.  You might learn more about syllables, rhyme, and the way words sound.  Poetry can be a good exercise for writing in general.

A vehicle for learning

Poetry can help a person learn about other things.  Think, for example, if you were going to write poetry about something you cared about, but didn’t have too much knowledge of.  It might be a disease, a current event, a social issue, or something else.  To write poetry about the subject, you might start by doing some research.  You might read about the subject, watch programs about it, or talk to people.  In doing so, you would learn ideas and terminology that you could use in your poetry.  In addition, you would also be learning about the subject more generally.  You would be getting better informed.  This information could have a number of benefits for you.  For example, if you learned about a disease, you might become more empathetic to those who have it.

Interaction

Poetry can be a tool for interaction.  On one level, it could be one way interaction.  You could write poetry simply for others to read.  If you take it a step further, you could have two way interactions.

You might have a poetry blog.  You could post poetry for others to read, read poetry from others, and have conversations via comments.

You might go to poetry events.  It could be a reading or something with an author.  You could interact with others there.

You might join a poetry group.  You could share the poetry you wrote and listen to others.  You could have discussions about different poems.

A break

Poetry can be a way to take a break.  It can be a way to take your mind off of whatever it is on and focus on something else.  A break might help a person feel more relaxed and when they go back to what they were doing, they might be able to focus on it more.  Sometimes, when a person stops focusing on something, and pays attention to something else, they can come up with ideas for the first thing.

A start for short fiction writing

If you read the sets that are on MSakran.com, you might notice that some of the poems and short stories are connected in a direct way (in each set they are connected in some way).  Some of the short stories are longer versions of the poems that are with them.

A poem can be a way to start a short story.  As mentioned above, a poem can be way to express a scene.  It can be a way to show a moment in time.  It can be the middle, without the beginning or end.

Sometimes when a person writes fiction, the middle is what they think of first.  They know the heart of the story.  They know the main point and impact.  This part can be what they express in poetry.

Once that part is expressed, a person could fill it out more.  They could take the poem they wrote and write it in longer language.  They could turn the poem into the middle of a story.

Once the middle of the story is developed, the person can then focus on the beginning and the end.  They’ve developed the main part, and then they can focus on what is around it.

Poetry used this way can be a start for more developed stories.

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Poetry essay: Understanding poetry better

Sometimes poetry can be hard to understand.  You can read through a poem, and have no idea what it means.  What can you do about this?  How can you better understand poetry?  Here are some steps you can take:

Read it again

For a specific poem you are having trouble understanding, try reading it again.  Read it more than twice.  Read it five or six times.  Try reading it line by line while pausing to think about what each line means.  You might try writing out the meaning as you go and then reading over that when you are done.

Write poetry

One way to better understand poetry you read, is by writing poetry.  By working with words, metaphors, symbols, rhymes, and so forth, you can gain a better understanding of them.  This understanding can help you when you read poems that are difficult to understand.  If you are looking for poetry topic ideas, check out the category on this blog.  There are dozens of poetry ideas that you can use as prompts for writing poetry.

Read explained poems

One way to better understand poetry in general, is to read what different poems mean.  By reading interpretations of poems, you can get better at interpreting them yourself.  You can read poems with explanations on this blog and you can find them in Understanding: poems with explanations.

Discuss poetry

If you talk through poems that you are having trouble understanding with others, it can help you to figure out what the poems mean.  The people you talk to might see things you don’t or understand symbols that you missed.  By going through the discussion you can learn from other perspectives.  You can also learn by explaining what you know about poems that you read.

Read more poems

One way to better understand poetry is to read more poems.  The more poems you read, the more times you see things.  You will see particular metaphors, symbols, ideas, forms, words, and so forth more.  By encountering more poems you can come into contact with more poetry elements.  This can help you when you try to understand difficult poems.  You can find a number of poems on this blog.

Listen to poems

Tone of voice matters.  How words are spoken matters.  Sometimes a poem can sound obscure until you hear the author read it.  When you hear the author read a poem, by listening to their style, pauses, inflection, and so forth, the poem can gain new meaning.  You can get better insight into what the poet is trying to say.  Look for opportunities to listen to poetry.  You might go to readings, find videos online, or listen to audio books.

Poetry essay: Interpreting poetry

As a reader of poetry, you may from time to time try to interpret the poetry you read.  There are a number of reasons you might do this.

First, a poem might not be clear with a first reading.  You might read a poem and not fully understand what it is talking about.  This could motivate you to try to go through the poem to decipher the meaning.

Second, some poetry might appear clear in meaning, but could have hidden symbolism.  As a reader, you might be interested in trying to discover what this is.

Third, poetry sometimes has context.  For example, it could be related to a specific place or a specific time.  Looking into the poem with the context in mind, could enhance your understanding of it.

Fourth, interpreting poetry can help you write poetry.  By figuring out what poems mean you can learn how incorporate different meanings into your own work.

It’s a little difficult to describe how to interpret a poem.  In some sense, you simply read it and try to figure out what it means.  In some cases you might do research (for example, looking up a proper noun mentioned in a poem), but in other cases you might just be reading.

Rather than listing a methodology for interpreting a poem, it seemed like it would be better to simply show the process.  With that in mind, below is poem that will be interpreted.

The poem to be interpreted is Among the planets.  It appeared in the November 6, 2017 blog post on this blog.  It was written by M. Sakran.

While it may seem odd for a person to interpret a poem they wrote, this poem was chosen partially because of that.

This poem was a poem with an explanation.  The explanation of the poem is below it in the post.  As this is being written, the explanation has not be read since it was posted.  M. Sakran is not clear at this time what the poem means.

The idea was to interpret a poem for which the right answer was known.  This way, the effectiveness of the interpretation could be gauged.  If a poem by another poet was chosen (or one without an explanation) there would be no way to know if the interpretation was right.

This poem was written long enough ago, that at this moment, M. Sakran is not clear on its meaning.  This makes it a good candidate for interpretation.

Here is the poem:

Among the planets

There’s a counting,
is it a fortnight?
There’s a counting,
every other Mars.
But one is missed –
what is that,
a cycle of the Moon?

The sandy beaches,
of a moon of Jupiter,
an imagined place,
of forgetfulness.

Alone,
in the silence of a cave,
of Pluto,
as if transported,
from place and time,
watching the Sun,
go in circles and circles,
as night approaches.

 

Here’s an attempt to interpret its meaning:

The title is “Among the planets” presumably this has something to do with the sky.  It might have to do with patterns, as planets follow orbits.  It could have to do with time, as the sky is used to tell time.  It might have to do with large things.

There’s a counting, is it a fortnight?

This is the first sentence of the poem.  It asks a question.  Someone in the poem is gauging time, but is not sure how long that time is.  They are trying to figure it out, and think it might be a fortnight.  A fortnight is two weeks which is fourteen days.  The number fourteen might mean something or it could simply be that roughly that amount of time has passed.

There’s a counting, every other Mars.

This is the second sentence of the poem.  It repeats the idea from the first sentence.  Someone in the poem is trying to gauge time.  In this line, they seem to be gauging time by the orbit of Mars.  Mars might relate to Tuesday.  Tuesday in Spanish is Martes, which derives its name from the planet Mars.  This ties back into the idea of two weeks.  The person in the poem is noting something that happens every other Tuesday.  One Tuesday, to the one after the next, is one day over two weeks.

But one is missed – what is that, a cycle of the Moon?

This is the third sentence of the poem.  Again, there seems to be some idea that the person in the poem is having trouble gauging time.  They think it has been two weeks, or every other Tuesday, but something does not add up.  They might be missing a Tuesday.  Something in their time calculation is not working.

The poem says, a cycle of the Moon.  A cycle of the Moon would refer to a month, which is approximately one cycle of the Moon.  Maybe the person in the poem thinks two weeks have passed, but since the month changed, they are not sure.  They don’t seem to be sure how many days have passed because they can’t just subtract the current date number from the previous one.  This is because the days started over when the month changed.

The sandy beaches, of a moon of Jupiter, an imagined place, of forgetfulness.

This is the fourth sentence of the poem.  The first part The sandy beaches, seems again to go back to time.  Sand is in an hourglass and that could be the reference.  Maybe it means there is a lot of time because there is a lot of sand on a beach.

Of a moon of Jupiter, an imagined place, of forgetfulness seems to go back to the idea that the person is not sure of the time.  A moon of Jupiter is familiar, in that it is a moon like the Moon, but it is unknown.  The person in the poem seems to referring to the idea that they are confused.  The person’s thoughts might be somewhere else, which is why they are unsure of the time.

Alone, in the silence of a cave, of Pluto, as if transported, from place and time, watching the Sun, go in circles and circles, as night approaches.

This is the last sentence of the poem.  Alone, in the silence of a cave, of Pluto, as if transported, from place and time might refer to the idea that the person in the poem is lost in their thoughts.  They mind is on something far away (like Pluto) and this has caused them some isolation (Along, in the silence of a cave).  They are separated from where they are (as if transported, from place and time).  The person seems to have something occupying their thoughts.

The next part says, watching the Sun, go in circles and circles, as night approaches.  This again refers to the idea of time.  On the Earth, it appears that the Sun circles overhead.  This is how days are measured.  The person in the poem, who is lost in their thoughts, is watching the days go by.  The poem ends with as night approaches, which may refer to the idea that the person ends in darkness.  The person ends in confusion.

The main theme of the poem seems to be that a person is having trouble gauging how much time has passed because they have something on their mind.

So, the above is one interpretation of the poem.  Again, it was written before the actual explanation of the poem was read.  Below is the actual explanation of the poem form the original blog post:

This poem is about an elderly person in a nursing home.  The person is supposed to be visited by their family every other Tuesday, but their family missed the last visit.

In the poem, it is the fifth Tuesday.  The person’s family came on the first Tuesday.  They were supposed to come on the third Tuesday, but did not.  Now it is the fifth Tuesday, which is the next scheduled visit day.

The poem starts with a question, There’s a counting, is it a fortnight?  The elderly person is trying to think about how often their family visits.  They wonder what a time period name for every other Tuesday might be.  They have trouble counting the days, but think that it might be called a fortnight, which is fourteen days.  They are somewhat upset and aren’t able to focus and know how many days it really is.

The elderly person continues to think about the time between visits.  They describe “every other Tuesday” as “every other Mars.”  Tuesday, in Spanish is called Martes, which is a reference to Mars.  The idea of astronomy as a background idea continues in the poem.

They then describe the idea that one of the visits was missed (But one is missed).  Again, they are having trouble counting and wonder if that is a month between visits (what is that, a cycle of the Moon?).  This again is an astronomy idea in the background.

The poem then partially shifts perspectives.  In the next stanza, there is a blurring of the point of view of the elderly person and that of their family.

The elderly person imagines their family being somewhere fun and far away (The sandy beaches, of a moon of Jupiter).  Their thoughts are imaginary though (an imagined place).  Their family is just out living their lives as normal.  The place though, and this is a blending of the viewpoints, is one of forgetfulness.  The elderly person imagines their family forgetting them, and, for the most part, at least at times, their family does.

The perspective then shifts back to the elderly person.  They think of their reality as, “Alone, in the silence of a cave, of Pluto“.  The person is alone, as in the sense that they have no company.  They have no one to talk to (in the silence), and they feel hidden (of a cave).  The place the person is at is described as being of Pluto.  Pluto, at one time, was the farthest planet from the Sun.  This describes the person’s separation from their family.  Also, Pluto is no longer a planet.  This idea describes the sense of demotion the person feels in their sense of abandonment.  The detachment and separation the person feels is further described as if transported, from place and time.

The elderly person is in their room and they feel the days pass.  This is described as “watching the Sun go in circles and circles“.  The person has a sense that they will die soon (as night approaches).  There’s a sense of dejection.

 

This poem, in some sense, is about neglect by apathy.  The person’s family sees the elderly person as an obligation.  They see them as something that takes up time.  They feel the visits are a burden.  This is demonstrated in part by the fact that the visits are scheduled and sparse.

The person’s family isn’t mean in a sense.  They just feel detached from the elderly person.  They don’t feel a strong connection.  Seeing the person is almost viewed like completing community service to them.

The poem focuses on the perspective of the elderly person.  There is the idea, that a missed visit is very important to them, but not important to their family.

Astronomy was used in the poem as a descriptive tool.  The idea was to make the feelings of the person seem larger in a way.

 

As can be seen, the interpretation of the poem written for this post, wasn’t entirely accurate.  It did get a sense of the passage of time, but it missed the underlying meaning of the poem.  It was close in the sense that the person in the poem is concerned about time and they have something on their mind, but it missed the main idea of the poem.

This exercise is a good illustration in poetry interpretation.  It shows how some symbolism can be deciphered, but also how it can be difficult to sometimes truly understand the meaning.

While it might seem like the interpretation was unsuccessful, it should not be viewed as such.  The interpretation was an exercise.  It was an attempt at understanding.  Part of worked, part of it did not.  That being said, it still was a good learning tool.

In trying to interpret poems, a reader might have to accept that they will never know if they are right, and, they might have to accept that in some instances, they will be wrong.

This does not detract from the value of the interpretation though.  The exercise has value in itself, but also, as long as a person gains something from a poem, it was worthwhile.  Although they might not have interpreted what the poet intended, as long as the reader learns in some way, it had value.

M. Sakran recommends that readers spend some time trying to interpret poems. It can be a very good learning experience and it can improve a person’s ability to read and write poetry. If you are interested in practicing with poems that have detailed explanations provided, check out Understanding: poems with explanations.  It has twenty poems along with detailed explanations.  It can be a useful tool in learning how to interpret poetry.

Poetry essay: Grouping and ordering poems in a collection

If you are a poet, and write multiple poems, at some point you may decide to group those poems together.  Maybe you are creating an eBook of poems.  Maybe you are thinking about having a chapbook of poems.  Maybe you are thinking of having poems on different sections of your website or blog.

If you are thinking of grouping poems together, one thing you might be wondering about is, how do you group and order them together?  This can come up when you get the idea to have poems grouped and ordered.  You want the order of your poems and the groups they are in to make sense for the reader and to get your message across.  You want the poems grouped and ordered in the most effective way.

If you are thinking about this, below are some ideas for how you can group and order your poems.

The order they were written

This could be the easiest answer to the question.  You can simply leave the poems in the order you wrote them and in whatever groups you made them (if more than one).

There are advantages to this method.

First, it is simple.  You don’t have to do anything extra.

Second, it works off the idea of being natural.  You are leaving the poems in the order and groups you wrote them.  You aren’t overthinking things, looking into things, or contriving things.  This can be an almost organic approach.

Third, your ordering and grouping might reflect something natural.  If you wrote the poems over time, then how you changed over time, and what you experienced, will be reflected in them.  Showing them in this order can be an effective presentation.

Fourth, when you created the poems, you might have had some natural groups in mind, although maybe not at the front of your mind.  Maybe you started writing about illness.  This then lead to you writing about death.  This then lead to you writing about winter.  This lead to writing about spring.  This lead to writing about life.  This grouping, although maybe not intended, can be effective.

By subject matter

One obvious way to group poems is based on what they are about.  You could read through the poems you want to collect, assign subjects to them, and organize them by subject.  You could think about the flow from one subject to another and use that to help you order the groups.

By tone

Another way to group or order poems is by tone.  Is the poem upbeat?  Is the poem sad?  Is the poem defiant?  Is the poem sarcastic?  You could examine the tones of the poems and group them in those categories.  Again, like with the subject matter, you could order the tones in a way that you think has a flow and makes sense for the reader.

Combine subject matter and tone

If you like the idea of organizing poems by subject matter or by tone, you might consider combining the two together.  For example, you could organize poems by subject matter group.  Then, within each group, you could organize the poems by tone.  This can create a natural flow to your work.  You could also do the reverse, and group the poems by tone, and then organize them by subject matter.

Randomly

One way to order poems is to do so randomly.  You could write all of your poem titles (or some other identifying information) on pieces of paper, mix those pieces in a bowl, and draw them out.  You could then present your poems in the order they were selected.

The idea here is based on the idea, that in some instances, what a person thinks of isn’t really all that better than something random.  Think of something like seating arrangements at a party.  It could be, that whatever arrangement a person arrives at through hours of thought and work, might not turn out to really be better than had they just had people sit in random spots.  The same thought could apply to poem ordering.

Arbitrarily

This is a bit like assigning the order randomly, but it uses arbitrary methods instead.  An example would be ordering the poems alphabetically based on title.  This is arbitrary in the sense that it might not have any reflection on any substantial quality of the poems.  It can be a useful way to order though, because it eliminates the work and decision making that some other methods might use.

Quality

One way to group and order poems is by quality.  Imagine if you wrote one hundred poems and, although you thought they were all good, you thought ten really stood out.  Where should you put these ten?

Answering this question can help you order your poems.  You might put the ten best poems at the start and lead with the best.  You might put them at the end, and end with the best.  You might mix them in throughout the collection to have bursts of extra good work.

In looking at quality, you could extend the idea past just the best.  You might have three categories: good, better, and best.  You could use these categories to form groups and create an ordering of the poems.

Poetry essay: Proper grammar

If you read enough poetry, one thing you may notice is that poetry doesn’t always follow grammar rules.  Sometimes subjects and verbs don’t match, other times the wrong verb tense is used, and in other situations word order is incorrect.  This brings up something worth looking at: should poetry follow proper grammar rules?

One argument in favor of using proper grammar in poetry is that it helps with understandability.  If a poem is written using proper grammar, however obscure its meaning might be, at least a reader could read it and make sense of the words and basic ideas.

Another reason to use proper grammar is that it can help prevent what might be considered “poetry cheating”.  Sometimes in writing poetry using incorrect grammar can help a poem fit to a form.  Other times it might sound nice and provide an effect.  This though might be considered an easy way out.  Rather than writing something in a proper way, which might take some work, a poet can just use improper grammar, and get their message across.  There is some argument that a poet would be better served to take the time and write something in a proper way, rather than taking the shortcut.

Another reason to use proper grammar is that it enhances language.  Language changes over time.  There is some thought though that improper language takes over proper language.  Slang replaces standard words.  Incorrect word usage becomes common.  The use of improper language could be enhanced by poetry that applies it.  It could spread use that does not conform to standard.  Enough of this, over time, could aid in the deterioration of language.  If proper language is used though, it could help encourage its use.

There are reasons to use improper grammar in poetry though.

First, poetry is poetry.  In some sense there are no rules.  There are no grammar authorities that will chastise a poet for using incorrect grammar (outside of possibly a classroom or editorial setting).  A poet can write how they like.  They can use language how they like.  They don’t have to follow any rules.  This is one of the benefits of poetry.

Second, as mentioned above, incorrect grammar can sometimes sound nice.  Sometimes changing word order can have a dramatic effect.  Sometimes incomplete sentences can have impact.  Sometimes the wrong verb choice can actually enhance a poem.  This is part of poetry.  Sometimes writing with improper grammar can actually make a poem sound better and be more impactful.

Third, and somewhat the other side of the coin from an idea mentioned above, improper grammar in poetry can help language evolve.  Maybe a poet comes up with a clever word usage or ordering, that while not correct, sounds good and catches on.  What the poet did could catch on and might change how language is used.  It might enhance language by changing it.

Using proper grammar in poetry is one of those things that each poet will have to think about as they write.  Sometimes, a poet will naturally write with proper grammar.  In other situations, writing properly will be a conscious effort.  Other times, it might sound better to break the rules.  A poet will have to decide whether or not they value proper grammar in their poetry and how much effort that want to apply to using it.  They will have to decide in each poetry situation how important it is.

Poetry essay: Taking a break from poetry

If you write poetry on a regular basis, you may have at one time or another considered taking a break.  Maybe you felt burned out after writing so much.  Maybe you couldn’t think of something new to write.  Maybe you were busy with other things.  Whatever the reason, taking a break from writing poetry can have a number of potential benefits.  Some include:

  • Taking a break from writing poetry can give you time to develop new ideas. If you don’t write for a month or more, you can have time to build up a store of ideas from the experiences you have and what you see.
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  • Taking a break can help you change your perspective. If you look back on your writing, you might notice differences in how you wrote and what you wrote about that developed over time.  This same situation can occur when you take a break.  Taking a break from writing poetry can give you a concentrated time to develop a new perspective and could help you enhance your work.
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  • Taking a break can give you time to do other writing related things. Maybe you might write fiction and work on short stories for a while.  You might write nonfiction and explore different things.  Not only could this time be useful by itself, but the non-poetry writing you do, could help you enhance your poetry when you start it again.
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  • Taking a break can give you time to read. When writing poetry on a regular basis, it’s possible you might not read it as much.  You could be so focused on your own work, that you don’t look at the work of others.  Taking a break could give you the opportunity to do this.  You could read books or poetry on blogs like this one.  You could find well know poets or look for those with less notoriety.  You might consider M. Sakran’s published book, First Try.  By reading poetry, you could learn to improve the poetry you write.
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  • Taking a break can give you an opportunity to learn more about poetry. When a person does something, they can get so involved in doing the thing, that they don’t take the time to learn about the thing.  Think of a person who likes cooking.  They might cook a lot, but they don’t take the time to study cooking.  They don’t learn about different techniques and ingredients.  They don’t take the time to practice different skills and develop new ones.  This same idea can apply to poetry.
     
    A person could focus so much on writing poetry, that they don’t take time to learn about it.  With a break, you could have time to study poetic meter, different poetry forms, rhyming, or metaphor and symbolism.  You could take some time to read an eBook like Understanding: poems with explanations, from which you could learn.

Taking a break from writing poetry can have a number of benefits.  The time you spend not writing can have the potential to improve the writing you do once you start again.  You might consider taking a break and seeing how you benefit from it.

Poetry essay: Questions to ask a poet

Some of you may interview poets.  For example, you might have a blog in which you post interviews with poets whose work you have read.  You might also discover a poet and simply want to know more about them, their work, and poetry.  If something like this is the case, you might be wondering what kinds of questions you could ask a poet during an interview.  Here are some ideas:

Do you recall your first published poem or the first poem you posted online?  What was it?  What was it about?

Sometimes a poet can find themselves writing about the same subjects.  Examples of this might be writing about love or nature.  When you find yourself writing about the same subjects, how do you keep your poems fresh and different from each other?

Do you ever read poems you wrote months or years later?  If so, how do you feel about them when you do?  How do you interpret them?  Did your view of them change over time?

Could you explain a particular poem you wrote (suggest one)?  What is it about?  What does the symbolism mean?

Do you use form in your poetry?  If so, how so?  Do you use traditional forms?  Do you invent forms?  Do you develop a form as you write a poem?

How long does it take you to write a poem?  Do you write them at one time, or do you come back and revise them?

Are your poems more inward looking, focusing on your life and experiences, or are they more outward looking, focusing more on the world and society?

How has your work changed over time?  Are you writing about the same or different things?  How has the expression changed?

What kinds of poetry do you like to read?  What subjects do you like to read about?  What styles of poetry do you prefer?

Do you prefer poetry that is obscure, with a meaning hidden in symbolism, or do you prefer poetry that is overt, where the meaning is clear to the reader?

These are some ideas for questions.  Of course, you could ask other questions.  When asking questions, the idea should be to learn something.  It should be to learn something of value for yourself and for those who might read the answers you get.

If any readers would like to interview M. Sakran (via electronic text communication), please contact M. Sakran using the form on the Contact page.

Poetry essay: Three ways to look at poetry: what it says, what it means, and what it sounds like

There are a lot of ways to look at poetry, but three ways that a person can think about when trying to decide what they think of a poem are:

what it says,

what it means,

and what it sounds like.

 

What is says

Looking at what a poem says means looking at a poem literally.  It means looking at what it actually says and taking that at face value, without looking for underlying meanings or symbolism, and without looking deeper.  It is a “what you see, is what you get” way of seeing things.

The idea here is to examine the literal expression of the poem.  As an example, look at the following poem:

And there upon the snow did shine,
the light of night when stars did climb,
as wind did blow through trees of pine,
as stars did mark the night’s own time.

In this poem, literally, there is a nighttime winter scene.  There is snow on the ground and light from the stars is shining on it.  There is wind in the pine trees and time is passing.

Looking at what a poem says, a reader would take this scene literally.  They would try to decide what they thought of the scene the poem creates.

What it means

Looking at what a poem means, means looking at the symbolism and metaphor in a poem, or looking deeper within it.  It means trying to figure out the actual intent of a poem, which may differ from the literal expression.

Again, a person can examine the poem above.  There are different ways to interpret it.

If a reader went the literal route, and thought the poem meant what it said, they would see a winter scene.  They would understand that the poem takes place in a place where there is snow.  They would also know that the night was clear because the light and stars could be seen.  They would know that it was windy.  Additionally, they would understand that the poem was in a place where there were pine trees.  They would also understand the passage of time.

Looking at the poem this way, the reader would get a definite sense of place in the poem.  They would be seeing a certain place that differs from others.

If a person thought this way, they would be seeing the poem literally, but would be looking deeper within it.  They could go a step further and see more meaning in the words.

For example, a reader might think that because the stars could be seen, that there was not much light pollution in the scene in the poem.  A reader might see this as an indication that part of the intent of the poem was to say light pollution was a negative thing.

A reader could do this same thing with other ideas presented in the poem.  By doing so, a reader might interpret a message in the literal words of the poem.

In addition to thinking about what the poem meant literally, a reader might also look for symbolism in the poem.  They might see the poem as a metaphor for something else.

One interpretation might be to see this poem as a metaphor for surgery (that was not its original intent, just one interpretation).

In this interpretation, a person is having surgery.  They are covered with a white sheet before it begins (the snow).  They are in room with lights above (And there upon the snow did shine, the light).  The lights are lifted above them (when stars did climb).  The surgery is seen as an ominous thing, and so the light is “the light of night”.

The wind blowing through trees of pine is the ventilation system in the surgery room.  The person is still conscious and can hear the air moving through the medical equipment (trees of pine).

The surgery is seen as ominous by the person having it.  The lights in the room are there for the duration of the surgery.  The lights mark the surgery’s time, rather than the person’s (as stars did mark the night’s own time).

If a reader thought of this interpretation of the poem, they could examine what they thought about it and decide how they felt about the poem.

What it sounds like

The poem used here was written with a specific form.  It is one stanza.  Each line is written in iambic tetrameter.  Lines one and three rhyme and lines two and four rhyme.  A reader of the poem should be able to sense the form, even if they did not know what it was.

Additionally, the poem was written with an attempt to sound poetic.  The idea of light, night, and stars were all used to make the poem sound poetic.

A reader reading the poem, might look at it just from the perspective of what it sounded like.  They might ignore the literal words as well as any potential symbolism and just listen to how it sounds.  In this case, the poem has flow and rhyme with a poetic sound.

The three different views

When a person tries to decide what they think of a poem, they can look at it from one or more of the perspectives above.  This raises some ideas.

First, there might the question of which view was the best.  Should the quality of a poem be evaluated based on its literal words, its meaning, or its sound?  Different people will have different perspectives.

Second, there is the idea of combining the different views.  A person could look at a poem’s meaning and sound together for example.  This would give a different view than if they were looked at separately.

Third, is the question of what happens if a reader likes one of the views but not another one.  For example, what if a reader liked the way this poem sounded, but didn’t like any of the interpretations of its meaning.  Could a person still like a poem if they didn’t like what it meant?  Could a poem be liked only for its sound or literal words?

 

When a reader thinks about what they think of a poem, there are different ways they can see it.  If a reader considers these ways, and tries to look at a poem from each of them, they can gain a better appreciation for a poem and for their own perspective on it.

Poetry essay: Hidden meanings

Some poems have hidden meanings.  Sometimes the meanings can be significant, sometimes light.  Here is an example poem with a light hidden meaning:

the sentry stood
as all did leave

after the sun did climb
only sticks and stones remained

This poem might sound significant, but the hidden meaning is light.  This poem is about a snowman melting.  The snowman is the sentry.  The family at the house where the snowman is, left for the day.  As the day warmed up, the snowman melted.  All that was left were the sticks for his arms and the stones for his face.

The idea of having poems with hidden meanings brings up a number of ideas, some of which are examined below.

Significance to the insignificant

Sometimes when a poem has a hidden meaning, the poet can impart significance to something that is otherwise insignificant.  Think of a poem about a brown leaf falling from a tree.  This, in itself, is insignificant.  A poet though, could apply a metaphor of death to this idea and write a poem portrayed with depth and meaning.  The underlying meaning of the poem is not that important, but the poem is portrayed with importance in it.

Insignificance to the significant

On the reverse, if a poet writes a poem with a hidden meaning, they could take a significant idea and write a poem that seems insignificant.  For example, a poet could want to write about birth.  This is something significant.  They could though portray this idea by writing a poem about a package that was delivered.  The delivered package could symbolism the birth.  In doing this, a poet would be writing a poem that seems insignificant, but about a significant idea.

Expression without revealing

One reason a poet might have a poem with a hidden meaning is that it allows the poet to write about something without being overt.  A poet could express themselves without revealing something about themselves.

There are a number of examples that this could apply to.  One example might be a poet wanting to write about an addiction that they have.  They might want to express themselves, without revealing that they have an addiction.  They could do this by writing a poem with a hidden meaning.

Tricking the reader?

One issue that can come up when writing a poem with a hidden meaning, is the issue of tricking the reader.  Some might perceive a poem with a hidden meaning as not being honest with the audience for the poem.

As an example, consider a poem that is on the surface about a light bulb burning out.  If this poem was really about death, this might seem to some as fooling the reader.

Even more so, a poem that is on the surface about death, but really about a light bulb burning out, might seem disingenuous to some readers.

No explanation

Another issue that comes up with poems with hidden meanings is the idea that, unless it is done, the poems have no explanation.  The reader might not ever know the poem had a hidden meaning.  The reader might take the poem at face value.  If for some reason, letting the reader know the poem had some sort of other meaning was important to the poet, this could be an issue.

Use of metaphor and symbolism

One benefit of writing poems with hidden meanings is that they can be a good exercise in the use of symbolism and metaphor.  Trying to hide an idea while still expressing it can be a good way for a poet to learn about writing poetry.

Poetry essay: Poetry length

This poetry essay looks at the idea of poetry length.  It compares short poetry, medium length poetry, and long poetry.  Although the definitions of these are subjective, one definition might be that short poetry is a less than half a page, medium length poetry is a half a page to a full page, and long poetry is more than a full page.

Short poetry

Writers of poetry may be familiar with this length of poetry.  Forms like haiku, tankas, and limericks are all short poetry forms.

Short poetry has a number of advantages.

First, it is easy for a reader to consume.  It requires little commitment of their time to read.

Second, a reader may find it easier to read a number of short poems rather than one long poem.  The idea is that the breaks in the works makes the reading easier.

Third, if part of the idea of poetry is to express an idea in just the right words, short poetry can be conducive to this.  The brevity of the form can force the poet to be succinct in their expression.

Fourth, short poetry might be easier to write than longer lengths.  All else being equal, because there is less to write, it can be easier to write.

There are some disadvantages to short poetry.

First, a short poem can be harder to use to tell a story.  Some stories take time to tell, but with a poem that might only be fifteen lines, this could be difficult.  A short poem might be better for a scene than a story.

Second, a short poem has limited opportunities, all else being equal, to incorporate form elements.  For example, if a poet wanted to have a poem with a complex end word rhyming pattern, this would not be possible with a poem of only five lines.  A poet would need a longer work for this.

Third, sometimes a short poem length can make expression hard.  Sometimes a poet can have a difficult time expressing a complex idea in such a short way.  They might find it easier to express the idea if given more space.

Medium poetry

Medium poetry might be the length of poetry a poet writes when they are not thinking about length.  It might be the length of poetry that develops when a poet writes free verse poetry.

Medium length poetry has some advantages.

First, as mentioned above, it can be a good length if a poet does not want to think about length.  It does not require the focus on brevity that a short poem does while also not requiring the quantity of words of a long poem.

Second, it can an appropriate length to tell a short story.  Sometimes poems tell stories and a poem that is between a half a page and a page can be an appropriate length to tell a short story.  It can give the poet enough space to get the story across, while at the same time not requiring a poet to tell a full story.

Third, it can be an acceptable length for readers.  Like other medium things, it is not too little or too much.  It can be a length readers are comfortable with.

Fourth, this length of poetry opens up the possibility of using more complex poetry form elements.

There are some disadvantages.

First, because the poem is a bit longer than a short poem, a poet might end up being too wordy.  They might say more than is needed to get the idea across.  They lose the benefit of succinctness that can come with a short poem.

Second, this length of poetry might feel long to some readers.  If some readers are used to reading short poetry forms, like haiku, a poem that is a full page, might feel long to them.

Third, the increased length can make it harder for the poet to have impactful poetry statements.  It is sort of the notion that it can be easy to say one deep line, but hard to say twenty.

Long poetry

Long poetry can be considered as poetry that takes more than a page.  It might take just more than a page, or it might take many pages.  Readers may have encountered this type of poetry in some poetry books.  Some works have poems that span many pages of the book.

This length of poetry has some advantages

First, it can allow the poet to tell a full story.  A poet can tell as much of the story as they want and also have multiple scenes in the story.

Second, it can allow the poet to express fully what is on their mind.  They can do so without being concerned with length.

Third, it can allow the poet to work through an idea in the work.  Sometimes a poet can have a difficult time expressing an idea.  They know what they want to say, but not how to say it.  A longer poem can allow the poet to work through this in the work itself.  They can describe something in different ways and from different points of view until they feel they have made it clear.

Fourth, an undetermined length means a poet can incorporate as many poetry form elements as they want.

There are some disadvantages as well.

First, this type of poem can be too long for some readers.  Some readers don’t like the idea of reading ten pages of one poem.

Second, a longer length can make following ideas in the poem more difficult.  Because of the symbolism, metaphor, and other style elements of poetry, it can be difficult for a reader to follow ideas along if a poem is long.  They might be on page five, and not remember what was on page three.

Third, this length of poetry is absent the succinctness possible with short poetry.  If part of the idea of poetry is to express something in just the right words, this can be hard to do with hundreds or thousands of words.

Fourth, this length of poetry could be harder for a poet to write.  Because they have to follow ideas along its length, the longer the poem, the harder this can be to do.

 

A poet, when considering how long a poem should be, should take the above ideas in to account.  Some expressions are better for short poems, and some are better for medium or long ones.  It depends on what the poet wants to say and how they want to express it.