Milestone: 1100th Post

This is post 1100 on M. Sakran’s blog of and about poetry and poetry related things.

There is a lot you can find on M. Sakran’s blog.  You can:

As you may know, M. Sakran has a published collection of poetry, First Try, and a self-published eBook of poems with explanations, Understanding: poems with explanations.  You should check out both.

Also, as you may know, M. Sakran has a website: www.msakran.com.  It has, among other things, sets of photography, artwork, poetry and fiction.

M. Sakran thanks all visitors to the blog, and hopes everyone, has enjoyed, everything.

Here is a poem to mark this milestone:

You stood by the tree
one thousand one hundred leaves
somewhere there are roots.

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Poem with an explanation: the traveler sees

the color changes
as the bridge repairs itself
the traveler sees

 

This poem is a 5-7-5 haiku.

This poem is about physical healing.  It is about a person healing from a small burn.

In the poem, a person has burned their hand.  It has changed colored and is dark purple and almost black.

As times goes (when the poem starts), the person starts to heal.  The color changes and the person’s skin repairs itself.  The person notices this and takes note of it each day.

The idea of the poem is to look at a passive experience.  The traveler in the poem (the person who burned themselves), watches as something happens to themselves.  Their body is doing something, and they are an onlooker to it.  This is an unusual idea to think about.  The person’s body is doing something, but they are not consciously involved.

This idea could be applied to a variety of both good and bad situations.  A good situation might be an athlete who does something amazing without thought.  A bad situation might be a person being affected by a disease.  In both cases, the person’s body is experiencing something apart from their consciousness.

Poem with an explanation: Which way is the way?

Which way is the way,
to speak words of what was lost,
and see what was found?

 

This poem is a 5-7-5 haiku.  It is about losing weight.

The poem asks a question.  It is asking how to lose weight.  In a direct way, it would say, “How does a person lose weight and find better health?”

In the first line of the poem, there is a play on words.  The word “way” is used because it sounds like “weigh”.  In the next two lines there is a play on the words “lost” and “found”.  The idea is that a person is looking for something, like they might be looking for in a lost and found.  Rather though, than trying to find a lost thing, the person is wanting to know how to lose something (weight) to find something (better health).

Poem with an explanation: drifting after the storm

in darkness the storm
the leviathan thunders
drifting out to sea

 

This poem is a haiku.  It is written in the 5-7-5 format.

This poem about the first signs of a serious illness.  In the poem, a person wakes up in bed, covered in sweat.  At this point, the person feels that something is physically wrong, but is not aware of the seriousness of it.

The poem uses idea of the sea as a metaphor.

The first line says, “in the darkness the storm”.  This alludes to a few things.  “the darkness” refers to the night as well as to the idea of the negativity of the illness.  It also refers to the idea that the person is “in the dark” in regards to the condition they have.  “the storm” refers to the person sweating, and again to the negativity of their condition.

The second line says, “the leviathan thunders”.  A leviathan is a mythical sea monster.  It is representative of the illness the person has.  The thunder the person metaphorically hears is not natural thunder, as a storm might suggest, rather it is the sound of the leviathan.  The idea here is that the person thinks what is happening is normal, like thunder during a storm would be, but what is happening is not normal.  The person is seriously ill but thinks they are just having a temporary condition.

The third line says, “drifting out to sea”.  This line changes the tone of the first two.  The first line had a storm and the second line had something thundering.  This line has something that sounds calm – the idea of a person in a boat drifting out to sea.

The idea is to reflect that the person is going on an unknown journey where they lack control.  The person is about to be faced with an illness they know nothing about and over which they have no ability to control.  Something is happening to them.

While this may be something that could be described as abrupt, for example with the line “over waterfalls”, in this situation that is not what is happening.

The person is about to go on the journey of their illness.  This journey has not really started though.  The person has not had the moment of diagnosis.  They have not had the “waterfall moment” of finding out they have a disease.  At this point, the person is in the dark and in some way slowly moving toward their journey.

As the person lays in bed, they have the abrupt moment of waking up covered in sweat, but this moment subsides as the person thinks they are just not feeling right.  They believe that the feeling will pass and they will return to normal soon.  They do not know what is really happening to them.

Poetry essay: When to use certain poetry forms

As a reader or writer of poetry you may have encountered various poetry forms.  There are a number of them including: haiku, tanka, cinquain, sonnet, pantoum, rondeau and so forth.  A question that may come up for a poet, is when should they use which form?

Different poetry forms express ideas differently.  They can change how ideas are presented.  Some are better suited for certain ideas and tones and others are better suited for others.

Poetry forms vary in a number of ways.  They can vary by length, degree of complexity, degree of formality and degree of sound expectation, as well as in other ways.

A poet should think about what they want to express and how they want it to come across before deciding what form to use.

Things such as the seriousness of the idea, the impact of the expression, and the level of subtly desired can affect the decision of what form to use.

Here is a look at three poetry forms and how they can affect expression:

Free verse (including unstructured experimental)

A poet might not initially think of free verse as a form.  Its name implies that it is unstructured.  It might be thought of as the form without a form.

Despite this though, free verse does have form elements to it.  For example, a free verse poem might be left aligned with a jagged right side.  It might use elements of sentence structure such as periods at the ends of sentences and capital letters at the beginnings.  It might vary in its use of commas at the end of lines.

Additionally, form elements can be added to a free verse form.  This may be done so without the specific intention of adding form elements.  For example, a poet might write a free verse poem with line breaks, indentations, partial line repeats, a maximum number of syllables per line or other qualities.  It can sometimes be surprising to look over a free verse poem and see all the form elements it has.

At some point, if a free verse form has a number of form elements, it might be considered an unstructured experimental form.  It is unstructured because the form elements weren’t predetermined or put with an intention or pattern.  It is experimental because a poet could evaluate its effectiveness, see how the form elements impact the presentation, possibly modify the form elements, and use the form for latter poems.

Free verse and unstructured experimental can be thought of as one form group because the line between unstructured and structured can be blurry, and because both can be thought of as free, in the sense that they weren’t written with form elements in mind.

Free verse poetry can be useful in a number of situations and effect expression in a number of ways.

First, because the form is devoid of predetermined form elements, it can impart a sense of free expression to the work of the poet.  The poet can write what they feel, how they feel, without considering how that fits into a form.  This can give a work a sense of spontaneity and naturalness.

Second, the form works well for serious subjects.  Because it doesn’t have rhyme or meter or other certain elements it can come across as more serious in nature.  For example, a metered rhyming poem about death, might not have the same serious tone as a free verse poem about it.

Third, and similarly, free verse can work well for “heavy” or “harsh” tones.  Again, imagine a poet is writing about death.  Maybe they want to describe the death of someone in a hospital bed.  This can be a very heavy and harsh thing to describe.  A free verse poem might do this better than a sonnet would.  A very noticeably structured form might seem out of place in this situation.

Free verse does have some drawbacks for expression.

One drawback is a lack of melodic sound.  A poem with rhyme and meter can at times sound a like a song.  It can have flow and beat.  Depending on the idea, this can be beneficial to a poem.  A free verse poem lacks this quality.

Another drawback is that free verse forms don’t have built in elements that impact expression.  Think of a haiku.  The first two lines setting up the third, can have an impact on expression.  It can make the third line more meaningful.  This is built into the form (the form can actually vary in this quality depending on how the lines are divided).  A free verse form lacks this poetic element.

A third drawback is that a free verse form might not work well for light or upbeat topics.  It can be difficult to tell a joke, for instance, or to describe love in flowery language, with a free verse form.

Haiku/Senryū

There are a number of ways a haiku could be written and there is even debate on the subject.  For the purpose here, think of a haiku as a three line poem with a 5 7 5 syllable count and a structure where the first two lines set up the third.

Although haiku and senryū are different, poets sometimes use the term haiku for both and that will be the case here.  For this purpose, they can be thought of as one form.

A haiku is brief.  This can make it a good form when a poet wants to quickly get an idea across.  It can be a minimalist approach to expression.

Also, if a haiku is written in such a way as the first two lines set up the third, it can increase the impact of an idea.  A poet can describe something in the first two lines and then have a third line that makes a point about the first two, or a third line that gives the first two new meaning.

Although a haiku can be impactful, it can be used when a poet wants a sense of subtly.  Because there are only so many syllables available, a poet can’t say everything.  They can only say enough to get the idea across.  This can make the expression seem more subtle, albeit in some cases, more impactful.

A haiku has a quality that it can be used for both harsh and light tones.  A poet could have a third line that makes a very hard impact or they can have three lines that are humorous and light.

A haiku might not be the best form when a poet wants to describe a subject at length.  A haiku is a sound bite, not a speech.  It can work well for making a point, but not as well for explaining an idea.

Also, because of its brevity, a haiku might not work as well when a poet wants their work to have a sense of lasting weight.  All else being equal, there is more to look into, see, discuss and interpret with a ten line poem than with a three line one.  Because a haiku is so short, it might not be as impactful the tenth time it is read.

Also, a haiku might lack a “serious poetry” sound to some.  There are some who might think of “serious poetry” as being more free verse and a haiku as being simplistic.

English sonnet

Although the definition can vary, an English sonnet might be thought of as a poem with four stanzas.  The first three stanzas have four lines each and the last stanza has two lines.  The lines are written in iambic pentameter.  Within each of the first three stanzas, there is a rhyming pattern of lines one and three rhyming and lines two and four rhyming.  In the last stanza the two lines rhyme with each other.  There is no rhyming between stanzas.

An English sonnet is a very formal style of poetry.  It has meter, rhyme and stanza structure.  It can have an old or a classic sound to it.

An English sonnet is useful when a poet wants their work to sound “poetic”.  An English sonnet can “sound like a poem” even to those who don’t normally read poetry.  It can almost be thought of as quintessential.

It is a useful form when a poet wants to have flowery language.  It can be useful when a poet wants their words to flow and to possibly include things that are grammatically incorrect, but sound nice.

It is a good poem for talking about positive or light subjects.  It can work well as a classic love poem.  It can also be used for somber subjects if done properly.

It can be a good form to use when a poet wants to think about each word and phrase they use with the idea of having something that can sound like a lasting poem.  It can lead to a poem that reads well long after it was written or after it has been read before.

A downside to English sonnets, is that they don’t work as well for harsh subjects.  The meter, rhyme and structured quality can sound off when talking about heavy things.

Another downside, is that it very much affects how a poet expresses themselves.  It is not the form to use when a poet wants the words just to flow out of themselves.  It is a very thought through poetry form.

A third downside is that an English sonnet is a little long.  Being fourteen lines long and containing one hundred a forty syllables, it might not be the form to use when a poet wants to be brief and impactful.

 

There are a lot of poetry forms to use.  A poet can even think of their own.  Different forms have different qualities.  Depending on what a poet wants to accomplish, one form might be better than another for their expression.  A poet should think about what they want to express and how they want to express it, and choose a form that fits that purpose.

Poem with an explanation: Two women

sitting on the chair,
in the silence of the room,
back to the story

sitting on the chair,
in the music of the room,
back to the story

 

This poem contrasts the experiences of two women.  Before the poem begins, both women are in similar circumstances.  Both women are invited to the same party.  Both women are introverts and don’t do well in social situations.  They have a hard time talking to strangers, they are not knowledgeable of popular culture, and they don’t communicate well in large groups.

Under these circumstances, the first woman (the one in the first stanza) decides not to go to the party.  She feels that if she goes, she won’t be able to talk to others or interact with a large group, and that she will feel uncomfortable or lonely.

The second woman (the one in the second stanza) decides to go to the party.  She feels lonely at home and thinks that she might meet people and make friends at the party.  She believes that she will feel part of a group if she goes and that she will feel less lonely going than if she stayed at home.

In the poem, it turns out that the first woman made the better decision.

When the poem starts, it is an hour into the party.  The first woman, as described in the first stanza, is sitting at home in a chair.  She is reading a novel.  There is a point where she realizes she is alone, when she notices the silence in the room.  For a moment this makes her feel lonely, but then she escapes into the story of her novel.

The second woman, as described in the second stanza, is sitting alone in a chair at the party.  She is a wallflower.  Although she had wanted to interact with others, her shyness and lack of social skills prevents her.  Also, no one at the party initiates interaction with her.

The second woman is sitting by herself, and she notices the music of the room.  There is talking and dancing and music and a party going on around her.  She isn’t part of it though, and sitting there makes her feel awkward.  She feels self-conscious and thinks that people are noticing her by herself.  She doesn’t know where to look or what to do so that she doesn’t look like she is doing nothing.  As a means of escape, she daydreams.  When she daydreams, she has moments where she feels like she is no longer in the room, and it provides her comfort.

In the poem, the first woman is able to be more comfortable and feel less lonely, ironically, because she is alone.  Unlike the second woman, who has her aloneness accentuated by people around her who seem to be a group she is not part of, the first woman is better able to ignore the fact that she is alone because there is no one there to remind her of it.

In terms of form, this poem is made up of two poems.  Each stanza is a 5/7/5 haiku.

Both stanzas are almost identical.  There is only one word of difference between the two.  The first stanza has “silence” and the second has “music”.  In a twist from how the poem might at first be read, the silence of the first stanza turns out to be less lonely causing than the music of the second.

 

P. S.  M. Sakran was wondering if anyone would be interested in participating in a poem with an explanation collaboration. The basic idea would be that a person would write a poem, and M. Sakran would write an explanation of it.  The details would have to be worked out, but it might be something that could be interesting.  If anyone is interested in this idea, please contact M. Sakran using the form on the Contact Page.  Thank you.