Poetry essay: Does the meaning of a poem change over time?

If you’ve ever read a poem that was written years ago you may have wondered about this question.  Are you seeing the poem in the same way as readers did when it was written?  Are you seeing the poem the same as the author intended?  Does the meaning of a poem change over time?

From one perspective, the answer to this question is no.  There is the idea that when a poet writes a poem they impart meaning to it.  There is meaning in the symbolism, the word choice, and the form.

In some sense, this meaning is fixed.  The poem means what the poet wanted it to mean.  Whether people later (or even at the time) interpret it differently doesn’t change that.  The original meaning is still there.

In another sense though, it could be argued that the meaning of a poem does change over time.  There is the idea that a poem changes with history, the audience, and with language.

Think about a poem about a current event.  When the poem was written, the event was current.  Readers would see the poem from the perspective of the present.  In the future though, readers have the perspective of looking back on the past.  They, in some sense, know what happens later and so have a different perspective on what happened before.

Think about reading a poem about some event in the 1960s.  An example might be an election taking place.  If you look up the election, and know who won, the poem might seem different to you than it would to a person who was reading it at the time who didn’t know who was going to win.

In addition to this idea, readers of poems can change.  Society can change.  Attitudes and preferences can change.  A poem written in the past might seem very different to a present audience and by extension would seem different to a future one.

Think about gender roles in history.  These can change over time.  A poem portraying the status of a woman in the 1800s might seem very different to today’s audience.  A poem that was meant to be very progressive at the time, might seem just the opposite to someone reading it today.

In addition to this, language can change.  Over time people don’t use the same words and they might not use the words they use in the same way.  Readers of poems might get a very different meaning if they understand the language differently.

Think about dialing a phone.  In the past, if used a rotary telephone, you actually dialed a number.  You physically turned a dial to input each number.  Now the word simply means to input a number to make a phone call.

If a person was reading a poem from the past, and it talked about the physical act of dialing a phone and related it to other things, the meaning might not be clear to them if they don’t understand the word in the same way.

There are implications to these ideas.

First, if you are reading a poem from the past, you might be concerned that you aren’t getting from it what was intended.  You might feel you are missing something or are seeing it in the wrong way.  This same concern applies to any poetry interpretation, whether a poem from the past or a new one.

Second, if you are writing poetry, you might wonder how readers of your work will perceive it over time.  Will they see the same things you intended?  Will history change the tone of your work?  Will they read the words in the same way?

This might be a concern if you want your work to be lasting.  You might worry that time will change your work.

If you are concerned about the first issue, you might try to place poems in context.  Learn about the author and the time period of the poem.  Read their other work.  This can help you place the poem in perspective.

If are worried about the second issue, you could first try to write poetry that is clearer in meaning.  Leaving out the issue of obscurity will help the meaning of the poem get through.  You could also consider writing explanations of some your poems, as M. Sakran does for some poems on this blog.  That way readers would know your meaning even after time changes.

Does the meaning of a poem change over time?

In some sense the answer is both yes and no.  A poem has a fixed meaning, but the meaning that people get from it can change.  As a reader and a writer of poetry you should consider this.  It can help you try to see poems from the past from the intended perspective, and it can help you to impart more lasting meaning to your work.

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Poetry essay: Empathy in poetry

There are different perspectives in poetry.  A poet sometimes writes about themselves.  They might write about society.  They might write about a societal group.  They could write about a specific person.  They could write about a fictional person.

In writing poetry about others, one concern is that of empathy.  When a poet writes about the experiences of others, they could be concerned with letting the others know they have some sense of their feeling.  This can be important if a poet writes a poem about someone specific, or even if a poet writes a poem about a specific type of person.

Think, for example, of a poet writing about grief.  They might not be experiencing any grief at the moment, but they still want to write about it.  They might know someone who is experiencing grief, or they may want to communicate with those who are experiencing grief in their audience.

If a poet does this, the might find it important to be sensitive.  They are writing about people experience something difficult.  They don’t want to make light of the subject.  Additionally, they don’t want to seem out of touch.  They don’t want to use clichés or write things that people experiencing grief might not relate well to.

This same idea applies to other subjects as well, particularly those that have a negative component.  A poet wants to write something that reaches people in a way that they can relate to.

There are some steps a poet can take to improve the empathy of their poetry.

One thing a poet can do is talk to people experiencing something.  They might not ask, “So what is this like?” but they can try to get a sense of an experience through conversation.

As a corollary to this, and where appropriate, a poet could observe people who are experiencing something.   For example, if a poet wanted to write about loss in sport, they could observe sport teams and athletes when they lose.  They could look at their reactions and see what they say in interviews.  Of course, this isn’t appropriate for all situations, but it can help in some.

Another thing a poet can do is learn about a subject.  The more a poet knows about something, the more a poet can understand what someone experiencing it is going through.  Although it’s not the same, it can it least improve some understanding.  A poet could read articles, blogs, and books about a subject, and they could watch videos related to it.

As another technique, a poet could imagine themselves in a situation.  For example, if a poet wanted to express empathy for those who lost their jobs, they could imagine what it might be like to lose their own job.  They could try to imagine how they would feel.

Another thing a poet could do, and only where appropriate, is experience something themselves.  Of course, this isn’t right for all situations, but it can work for some.  For example, where they are physically able and with a doctor’s approval, a poet might skip a meal to experience a little bit of what hunger is like.  This could help a poet who wants to write for those experiencing hunger.

As another idea, a poet could draw on some past experience.  The experience might not be the same as what they are writing about, but as long as it relates it could help.  A poet could translate what they felt in the past experience to the new subject they are writing about.

 

Expressing empathy in poetry can be hard.  If a person hasn’t gone through something, it can be hard to express what that something feels like.  Still, there are steps a poet can take to improve the empathy of their work.  By doing so, a poet can better reach those who have gone through what they are writing about.

Poetry essay: How to write many poems about the same subject so they come across differently

Sometimes a poet writes many poems about the same subject.  For example, think of a woman experiencing a pregnancy.  If she were a poet, she might write many poems about the experience of having a child.

When writing many poems about the same subject, a poet might be concerned about all their poems sounding the same.  They might wonder how they can write about the same thing, while having the poems sound and come across differently to readers.  They might wonder how they can have poems that seem new and different, while still having them be about the same subject.

There are a number of approaches a poet could take.  To illustrate them, the example above of a woman having a child will be used.

Different perspectives

One idea to make poems about the same thing sound different, is to write them from different perspectives.  In the case of a mother having a child, she could write about the experience from her perspective, the baby’s father’s perspective, the baby’s perspective, the medical staff’s perspective, the grandparents’ perspective, and others.  The same event would be experienced in different ways by different people, and expressing that could add variety to the poetry.

Different times

Another approach is to write about an experience from different times.  In the case of a mother having a child, the entire experience lasts nine months.  She could pick different times during this period and write about the experience from that perspective.  For example, a poem written about what the first month was like, would be different from a poem written about what the eighth month was like.

Different events

A poet could also write about different events in a subject.  In the case of a mother having a child, she could write about events like finding out she was pregnant, telling the baby’s father, feeling the baby kick for the first time, and so forth.  Each of these events could be a different poem.

Different emotions

In any experience there are different emotions.  It can depend on a lot of things.  Using the example of a pregnancy, a woman might at different times feel happy, excited, scared, frustrated, worried, anxious, and other emotions.  Each of these emotional perspectives could lead to different poetry expressions.

Different forms

Different poetry forms can impart a different feeling to poems, even if those poems are about the same subject.  A limerick about something, will sound different than a haiku about the same thing, and that will sound different than a free verse poem about the subject.  A poet could use different forms to make the same subject come across differently to readers.

Different levels

In experiences there can be different levels that they can be looked at.  For the example of a woman experiencing a pregnancy, levels might be motherhood overall, mothers as a group, a group of mothers, and herself as a mother.  If she writes about pregnancy from these different levels, the poems would come across differently, even though they were about the same general topic.  (As another example, think of a poet who wanted to write about trees.  They could write about nature, forests, a forest, trees, a tree, a branch, a twig, and a leaf.  It is the same general subject, but from different levels.)

Poetry essay: Political poetry

One subject that can be found in poetry is politics.  This essay looks at the idea of if a poet should write about politics in poetry, and if so, how.

There are a number of reasons a poet might choose to write about politics.  It could be a poet feels strongly about a certain issue and wants to express that.  A poet might want to influence readers to see their point of view on an issue.  A poet might want to support a particular political philosophy or candidate.  A poet might want to support a change in society.

In writing poetry about politics, there are some things to consider.

First, politics can be an emotional subject.  It can sometimes be draining for a poet when they really want to express an idea about something they feel strongly about.  Also, the tone of political poetry can sometimes be one of persuasion, refutation, or argument, and this can be draining as well.

Second, politics, by its nature, can be divisive.  Some readers will agree with a point of view and others will disagree.  The audience will not only be limited, as it would be with any poetry subject, but it will also have readers opposed to the message expressed.

Third, politics is a timely subject, which means the poet will have to keep up with current events to write about it.

Politics can be an interesting idea for a poet to write about.  Sometimes a person feels strongly about something, and there is also something about having the chance to influence society through ideas and words.

In writing about politics, a poet could choose along the spectrum of being subtle to being direct.

The pros of subtle political poetry are that a poet can express an idea in a way that might not seem political.  For example, if a poet felt a certain way about minimum wage laws, they could write poetry that either focused on groups that benefit from them or groups that don’t, in such a way that they get the idea across without seeming to be supporting a political idea.

For example, if a poet thought minimum wage levels should be raised, they could write a poem about a worker at a minimum wage job who can’t pay their bills.  They could focus on the plight of the person, while only subtly referencing the reason.

Alternatively, if a poet thought minimum wage levels shouldn’t be raised, they could write a poem about a small business that went out of business, in part because of worker salaries.

In both these situations, the poet would be expressing their point of view, but in such a way that it wouldn’t come across as supporting a political idea.

The downside of subtle poetry, is that if it is too subtle, the message can get lost.  A poet might not get their point of view across.

If a poet decided to be direct in their poetry about politics, the benefit would be that they could get their message across in a clear way.  It would be clear to the reader what the poet believes.

The downside to this is that it could alienate readers and invite argument.  If a poet is direct about a political belief, some readers won’t like their point of view and others may argue about it with the poet.

Direct political poetry might work better in situations where a poet is speaking to an audience that shares the same beliefs.  The idea is to reach people who think the same way.

Subtle political poetry might work better in situations where a poet is speaking to an audience that is along a spectrum of disagreement with the view of the poet.  It could be the readers have not thought about the issue, or that they are slightly to mildly opposed to the point of view of the poet.  Subtle poetry could be a way to reach them.

There are a number of reasons a poet might write political poetry.  Before doing so though, a poet should consider the drawbacks of it, as well as how direct they want to be.

Poetry essay: Improving your poetry

As you write poetry, at some point you might look to improve your work.  Maybe you feel your poems could have more impact.  Maybe your poetry isn’t getting the response you want.  Maybe you feel like you’re not getting your message across.

As you look to improve the poetry you write, there are some things you can do.  Here are a few:

Read more poetry

One way to get better at writing poetry is to read more poetry.  The more poetry you read, the more ideas, forms, techniques, and so forth you will encounter.  As you read, you can pick up on things and improve your own work.

Analyze poems

As you read poetry, you might take some time to analyze what you are reading.  Think about why you like a poem or don’t.  Think about what makes a poem effective or not.  If you take notes, and read enough poems from different poets, you might start to see trends.  You could find that you think certain attributes make poems good and others don’t.  At some point you could even make a list of the qualities of a good poem.

Analyze your own poetry

As you spend time analyzing the poems of others, you should also spend time analyzing your own work.  Look back over poems you wrote and think about them.  Think about their effectiveness and impact.  As you do, you could discover trends in your own work.  You could find things that you think work and others that you think don’t.

Write more poems

Although your goal is quality, one way to move toward it is with quantity.  The more poems you write, the more chances you have to use ideas, forms, metaphors, symbols, literary devices, and so forth.  The more you practice, the better you will get.

Experiment

As you write more poems you might try to experiment.  Write about ideas you haven’t before.  Use forms you don’t normally use.  Try different techniques.  As you do, you can pick up on things that work for you and things that don’t.  You can use what you learn to improve your work.

Study poetry

In addition to reading, writing, and thinking about poetry, you might also try studying poetry.  There are books on poetics that you can read.  You can learn about poetry techniques, poetry over time, poetry in relation to other things, and other ideas.  By studying poetry you can learn things that can help with your writing of it.

Research

One way to improve the poetry you write is through research.  The more you understand about the something, all else being equal, the better you can write about it.  Depending on what you are writing about, go places, find people who are experiencing the thing, experience the thing yourself, or read books about the thing.  You might find that by doing so, you pick up on ideas and details that you never thought of.

Get feedback

Find people to critique your poetry.  This might be through comments on a blog, at writing groups, with friends, and in other situations.  See how others perceive what you write.  Find out what made sense to them and what didn’t.  Find out what ideas they picked up on and which they missed.  You can use what you find out to improve your work.

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.

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.