Poetry essay: Heavy or light poetry

There are different ways to classify poetry.  One way, is by the “weight” of a poem.  A poem can be “heavy” or it can be “light”.

Heavy poetry

A heavy poem is a poem written about a serious subject in a serious way.  It is a poem that speaks to something large in an outwardly focused way.  Additionally, it does so in a literary fashion.

A heavy poem might be a poem about a social issue.  It could be a poem about the plight of a certain group.  It might be a poem about war.  It could be a poem about mental illness.  It will be a poem about something large in scope.

This type of poem will focus on the subject rather than the poet.  It will reference something in the larger scale.  It will be written in free verse or in an unstructured experimental form.  It won’t have rhyme or meter or be of a traditional form.  It will utilize symbolism and metaphor and may, at times, be obscure.  It will have a negative tone, in a sense, overall.

Light poetry

A light poem will be a poem that is personal to the poet.  It will speak to something from their perspective.  It will focus on something on a smaller scale.  It could be positive in tone or down in tone depending on the subject.  It might have rhyme or meter or fit a form.

This type of poem might be about love, nature, things in a person’s life, random observations, objects, and things of that nature.  It will be clear.  While it may have symbolism and metaphor, the reader will understand the overall meaning.  Also, it may focus on emotions and could be uplifting or humorous.

Which to write?

When a poet writes poetry, they may have considered both of these classifications.  They may have written both types of poetry at different times, but may have questioned which they should focus on.

Sometimes heavy poetry might be viewed as more “real” poetry.  It is serious poetry about serious things.  Light poetry, might at times be viewed as trivial and unimportant.  The distinction might be similar to the possible view of literary fiction versus genre fiction.

Poetry though should not be looked at in this way.  Both heavy and light poetry have their uses.

Heavy poetry if a good choice when a poet wants to speak to an audience about an issue they have a view of.  It might be personal to them or not.  Part of the idea of this type of poetry is to make a point and express a view about a subject.

Light poetry is good if a poet wants to express an idea.  The poem might be written for themselves or for a small audience.  The idea is to express a thought, rather than a view.  It is a good choice if a poet wants to say something funny or just express something that they thought of.  It is also a good choice if what the poet is writing about is personal.

Given the weights of poetry, there are some poems that are blurry in a sense.  An example of this might be a serious large scale subject poem written from a personal perspective.  Think about a poem about a person going through a serious subject.  This type of poem can have qualities of both light and heavy poetry.

When a poet is deciding which type of poetry to write there are two ways a poet could approach the idea.

In one way, a poet could be conscious of the type of poetry they intend to write.  Before they start writing they could pick one of the types and then think of a subject to write about.

Alternatively, a poet could just start writing a poem and see what type develops.  They could let the subject, tone, and perspective provide the outcome for what type is used.

Both heavy and light poetry have their uses.  Both can help a poet express themselves.  When a poet is deciding which type to use, they should think about what they want to accomplish.  They should choose the type that fits their need.  They can do this before they start writing, or it can be something they examine as or after they have written a poem.

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Post Series: The Christmas Series: Poetry topic idea: Light

Today’s poetry topic idea is light.  There are many elements of light in Christmas.  Some examples include:

  • The light of the star in the Christmas story
  • The light of Christ
  • Candles
  • Christmas lights
  • Light as it relates to the winter solstice (for those in the northern hemisphere)
  • Metaphorical uses of light

Any of the above examples could be used as an idea in poetry.

Poem with an explanation: Walking inside

It was very strange walking outside,
it wasn’t hot,
the mosquitos weren’t around,
and the man and dogs seemed content,
as they walked about,
that morning.

 In the soft light of the morning,
 that came from the sun outside,
 the nurse moved about,
 and checked if his forehead was hot,
 and saw that he seemed content,
 as she moved around.

As they walked around,
breathing the air of the morning,
they all felt content,
as they were outside,
where it wasn’t hot,
as they moved about.

 As the doctor walked about,
 she turned around,
 because she thought he might be hot,
 although it was morning,
 and there were clouds beyond the window outside,
 she wanted him to be content.

He smiled and felt content,
as he and the dogs walked about,
in the breeze outside,
and they felt it blow around,
in the morning,
when it wasn’t hot.

 She thought he might be hot,
 although he looked content,
 and although it was morning,
 she moved about,
 and turned the handle around,
 to block the sun from outside.

The morning started to feel hot,
and outside he did not feel content,
as he walked about and moved around.

 

This poem is a sestina.  There are two scenes in the poem.  The first scene is outside where a man is walking his dogs.  This scene is in the first, third, fifth, and seventh stanzas.  The second scene is in a hospital.  This scene is in the second, fourth and sixth stanzas.  The first scene is in the dream of a man in a hospital bed.  The second scene is in a hospital, where the man actually is.

In the first stanza, the man almost notices the unreality of his situation.  Things are not as he expected.  It wasn’t hot and there were no mosquitoes.  Things feel strange.  He doesn’t realize he is dreaming though.

In the second stanza, the nurse notices that the man seems content.  His outward look, reflects how he feels in his dream.

In the third stanza, the man continues his pleasant morning with his dogs.  In this stanza, there is only one part where the man notices a lack of something negative – where he notices it wasn’t hot.  This is the only indication he has that he is dreaming.  He realizes it less than he did in the first stanza.

The fourth stanza shows an action that is about to happen.  In the second stanza, the nurse thought the man was content, and so she did nothing.  In this stanza, the doctor wants the man to be content, and so she has the impetus to do something.  The doctor has less understanding than the nurse of how the man feels.  She also ignores the idea that it was morning and there were clouds outside.

In the fifth stanza, the man still feels content, and now has the additional positive of the breeze.  The breeze is focused on in two of the six lines of the stanza.  In the last line, there is the same slight sense that something negative is missing, when the man notices that it wasn’t hot.

The sixth stanza starts with a line that is somewhat of the opposite of the last line of the fifth stanza.  In the last line of the fifth stanza, the man noticed it wasn’t hot.  In the first line of the sixth stanza, the doctor thinks the man might be hot.  She goes two additional steps, and ignores the fact that he seemed content and that it was morning.  She ignored two things before, when she ignored that it was morning, and that there were clouds outside.  She then does something, and blocks the outside.  The doctor’s action was negative, although she intended something well.

In the last stanza, there is almost a contradictory image.  The stanza before ended with an effort to make the man cool.  In this stanza, for the first time, the man now feels hot in his dream.  The negativity goes further and he no longer feels content.  Additionally, the dogs are not mentioned in this stanza.  It is almost as if they have disappeared and the man is alone.

In this poem, there is a man in a hospital bed.  Because there is morning sunshine coming in through his window, he is having a pleasant feeling dream.  When the light is blocked, the man starts to feel bad.

A poem with an explanation: Illuminate the darkness

Poems are generally like art in that each viewer (or reader) can interpret the poem in different ways.  Often no explanation of the poem is provided by the poet.  While this is beneficial, it can also be beneficial to understand the poet’s perspective of a poem.

The following has two sections.  The first section has a poem with no explanation.  Please read the poem a few times to develop a personal perspective.  After the poem, an explanation is given. Please read the explanation to understand the poet’s intention.

The poem:

Illuminate the darkness

Darkness fills like a cloud that has no form.

At the point,
lights shine,

but in a way,
do not illuminate the darkness.

Nearby,
lights shine,

but in a way,
do not illuminate the darkness.

In the distance,
lights shine,

but in a way,
do not illuminate the darkness.

Closely,
a light shines,

and it,

illuminates the darkness.

The explanation:

This poem is a dual-level poem.  The first level is the literal level – what the poem is actually describing.  The second level is the metaphorical level – what the poem is conveying.  The poem is meant to be read at the second level.

The first level of this poem is a very simple idea: the Earth in space.  It references the Earth in space with the Sun, stars and planets.  In a literal sense, this is what the poem is describing.  The poem, however, is not meant to be read at this level.  In fact, reading the poem at this level, may make the poem seem less impactful.  This level though is used as a tool to implement the second level of the metaphor – in this case, a person overcoming a problem.  The idea of light illuminating darkness is the main metaphor used.  This is the level that the poem is meant to be read at.

Poem title: Illuminate the darkness

This title was chosen for three reasons.  First, it has an interesting symbolism.  The idea of illuminating darkness can be very symbolic, as well as literal.  Second, it has a “poetic” sound.  Having a certain sound in poems often makes an important difference.  Third, because of this poetic sound, the title was repeated in the poem.  In writing the poem, the repeat of the phrase in the poem inspired the title, rather than the title inspiring the repeat of the phrase.

First line: Darkness fills like a cloud that has no form.

The first line of the poem is set apart from the rest.  It is written as a single line.  This first line is meant to have a certain “darkness” of tone that is represented by the actual darkness being described.  In the literal sense, this line is describing the dark space that is around the Earth.  The darkness fills the space, but at the same time, has no form.  This line is in a sense describing the place.  In the metaphorical sense, this line introduces the problem that is being faced.  No specific problem is mentioned, but the problem is represented by darkness that fills.  It is meant to represent a significant problem.

From this point the four stanzas follow a similar four line form.  The first line describes a location.  Four locations are used: at the point, nearby, in the distance and closely.  The second line is the same for three of the stanzas: lights shine.  In the last stanza it reads “a light shines”.  The third line also takes two forms.  It reads “but in a way” in the first three stanzas and reads “and it” in the last stanza.

First stanza:

At the point,
lights shine,

but in a way,
do not illuminate the darkness.

In the first stanza the location is “at the point”.  In the literal sense, this “point” is the Earth itself.  In the metaphorical sense, this location is signifying the turning point in how a person is facing a problem.  It is a turning point, because up to this point the “darkness” of the problem was over the person and not illuminated.  This time period is described in this stanza and the next two.  In a literal sense, the first stanza could read:

On the Earth,
there are electrical lights,
but these lights,
do not diminish the darkness of space around Earth.

In a metaphorical sense, this first stanza is describing an internal type of help, something that the person realizes internally.  At first, it seems to provide some assistance, but it does not overcome the problem.

The first two lines of the stanza are set apart from the second two.  The first two lines provide a situation and some hope, but the second two lines, indented for separation and to cause a pause, are introduced with the word “but” and show that the hope did not solve the problem.

Second stanza:

Nearby,
lights shine,

but in a way,
do not illuminate the darkness.

In the second stanza, the literal meaning could be read:

The planets in the solar system,
give off light,
but this light,
does not diminish the darkness of space around Earth.

In this stanza, the metaphorical meaning to the location “nearby” is that since the person could not solve their problem with an internal discovery, they look “nearby” for help, or in some sense to help that is readily available.  Similarly though, this does not solve the problem.

Third stanza:

In the distance,
lights shine,

but in a way,
do not illuminate the darkness.

In the third stanza, the literal meaning could be read:

The stars,
give off light,
but this light,
does not diminish the darkness of space around Earth.

In this stanza, the metaphorical meaning to the location “in the distance” is that since the person could not find help to their problem by looking near to themselves, they take the opposite end and look far away.  Similarly though, this does not solve the problem.

These first three stanzas describe a time period up to the turning point the person will face.  Up until this point, the person has not found help to their problem.  All of these stanzas, in a literal sense, describe how the light of the lights on Earth, the stars and the planets are unable to illuminate the darkness of space that is around the Earth.

At first glance it may seem that the lights of the lights on Earth, the stars and the planets are unable to illuminate the darkness of space around Earth because they are insufficient.  This is not the case.  They are unable to illuminate the darkness that is around the Earth, not because of their weakness, but because of the strength of something else.

Fourth stanza:

Closely,
a light shines,

and it,

illuminates the darkness.

This stanza could be written literally as:

The Sun,
gives off light,
and it,
does diminish the darkness of space around Earth.

This final stanza is purposely kept with the preceding three.  The change is meant to be surprising.  The reader is not intended to expect it.

The location “closely” at first may seem strange to the reader.  Up until this stanza, the locations have been progressively getting farther away: at the point, then nearby, then in the distance.  This location may seem strange in that it is closer than “in the distance” but it is unclear whether it is closer than “nearby” or not.  This was done intentionally to symbolize that help to the problem was not in a place that was looked for.  It was close and in some sense overlooked.  In a literal sense, closely represents the Sun.  It is closer than the stars and some planets to Earth, but not as close as some other planets to the Earth.

The second line in the stanza is also an abrupt change.  The three preceding stanzas described “lights”.  This stanza describes “a light”.  The intention was to signify that there is something different about it.  In a literal sense, the Sun is one light, while the other lights are many lights.

The third line continues the change.  Rather than having the negative word “but” there is the positive word “and”.  Additionally, the preceding three third lines were vague with the phrase “in a way”.  The literal idea is that the lights have some effect on the darkness, but do not overtake it.  The line in this stanza is not vague: it says “and it”.  The literal idea is that the light of the Sun has a much larger impact than the other lights.

The last line of this stanza is indented more than any other line.  This is done so to signify its importance.  This line literally describes how the light of the Sun illuminates the darkness of space that is around the Earth.  Metaphorically, this line is on the other side of the turning point.  The person has found hope for their problem that will actually solve their problem.

 

This poem takes something literal: the Earth in space with various lights affecting the darkness around it, and uses it to describe something metaphorical, a person overcoming a problem.  The poem follows a path of the person failing to overcome their problem by trying different things, until they look in a new place and find hope to solve their problem.

This blog entry has been an example of a poem with an explanation.  Hopefully learning the poet’s intent of the poem has provided additional meaning to it.