Experimental Poetry Form: Twenty one word lines

Today’s experimental poetry form is called twenty one word lines.  It consists of twenty lines, each with one word.  The idea of the form was inspired by the poem in the post from March 8, 2019.  That poem was a train of thought poem that had nineteen lines, with most being one word.

Although the form could be used to create a train of thought poem (where one idea leads to the next like with word association), it could also be used to write out a sentence or something else.

Here is an example poem that is a train of thought poem:

hunger
food
fruit
stand
roadside
cars
dirt
clean
water
soap
bars
prison
concrete
driveway
mailbox
letter
open
close
business
hours

Some train of thought poems, like the one above, just lead off.  They have no circularity.  Some train of thought poems, like the one from the March 8th post, do have a circularity.  There are other effects as well.

Here is another example poem.  This one is one sentence broken up:

Having
no
shower,
he
did
his
best,
and
washed
his
face,
arms,
and
hands
in
the
convenience
store
bathroom
sink.

Experimental Poetry Form: two words

Today’s experimental poetry form is called two words.  The idea is simple: a poem of two words.

While two words may not seem sufficient to write a poem and get a message across, if done with broadness or with context, it can be.  Here are 10 examples of two word poems:

Go away.

She died.

Open up.

Never stop.

Telling lies.

Falling tears.

Empty inside.

Quiet room.

Uncontrollable shaking.

Hidden wallflower.

 

While each poem is short, if perceived broadly, or given context, they can relate a message.

For example, consider the poem Quiet room.

If taken broadly, this could mean a number of things.  It might mean a peaceful setting.  It might mean a room where everyone has left.  It might mean a room where someone is detained.  It might mean a room after someone has died.  It could mean these or other things.  If a reader perceives the poem broadly, they could get a number of messages from it, which can add depth to the poem.

Similarly, if the poem was given context, for example with a title, or by being worked into a story or with other poems, that context could signify the meaning and give the two word poem impact.  For example, if the poem Quiet room, was worked into a broader context of loneliness, the message of the poem would come through.

P. S. If you like M. Sakran’s blog of and about poetry and poetry related things, follow the blog today.

Poetry essay: Using metaphor and symbolism in poetry

Metaphor and symbolism can be very important parts of poetry.  The idea of talking about something without directly saying it can be a very effective tool for expression.  If you read through some of the poems with explanations on this blog, you can see examples of the use of metaphor and symbolism.

The idea of the clarity and obscurity of expressing ideas through poetry, which relates to the idea of using metaphor and symbolism, was written about in a previous poetry essay on this blog: Clear vs. mixed clear and obscure vs. obscure poetry.

Metaphor and symbolism can be ways to add depth to whatever a poet is writing about.  If the subject matter is light, metaphor and symbolism can make it seem deeper than it is.  If the subject matter is significant, metaphor and symbolism can be a vehicle for expression that lessens the directness but makes the idea more subtly impactful.

Look at this poem:

his life did wane,
beneath the sun,
and in bright days,
no one did mourn

This poem sounds significant.  It seems to be about someone dying and not being mourned.  The poem has a sound of depth to it.

In reality, this poem is about something light: the melting of a snowman.  The poem was written in a way so as to make something little sound like something more.

Writing a poem in this way can have different affects.

On the one hand, it might appear to some to be silly.  A poet writing with depth about something so small.

On the other hand, some might view this poem as a way to express an idea.  The death of the snowman is symbolic.  It is speaking of some larger or more important idea.  For example, imagine if someone saw a snowman melt and it reminded them of the death of someone they knew.  With this view, the symbolism fits the situation.

One caution to writing a poem in this way, is that if a reader learns the true meaning of the poem, they might feel deceived.  Think about a song that you liked and thought was significant, until you learned it was about something small and light.

Here is another poem:

Snowmen,
twenty in a row,
a memory

The arc of time,
moved with pace,
so few are left

The spring will come,
the day will come,
when the field has flowers,
but no snowmen.

This poem is a little like a mirror of the first.  This poem is explicitly about snowmen.  It is basically talking about them disappearing through the winter.  There is a sadness to the poem, even though it is overtly about something light.

This poem though has more depth.  It is really about soldiers from a war many years before.  You may have seen a picture of soldiers of a past war lined up for a photograph.  Imagine it has been fifty years since the picture was taken.  Many of those soldiers would have died.  At some point, all will be gone.  That is the real meaning of the poem.

This poem uses metaphor and symbolism to express something significant, in a way that stills feels significant, but is less direct.  The poem still has emotion, but it might not hit as hard as if the poem had been overt.  Given that though, the poem might seem more reflective and more able to stimulate a sense of thought than a more direct poem might.  The poem is more subtly impactful.

 

Metaphor and symbolism are important for poetry.  They allow a poet a means to express ideas without just saying them.  They can impart meaning to things that are mundane and add subtly to things that are significant.

 

P. S. Happy fourth day of Christmas.

Poetry essay: Clear vs. mixed clear and obscure vs. obscure poetry

Sometimes when a reader reads a poem, the meaning can seem very clear.  For example, look at the following poem:

The death of Rollie the cat

Sometime in the night,
beneath the blue chair,
her eyes closed.

This poem should be very clear to the reader.  The title describes exactly what it is about and the poem itself, in some sense, fulfills the title.  From the title, a reader should be expecting to read about the death of Rollie the cat, and then they do.

Although the poem is clear, it does have some symbolism.  The death occurred at night (a time of darkness), in a hidden place, and beneath something.  The chair is blue, symbolizing sadness, and the death is described peacefully.  These symbols though, don’t take away from the clarity of the poem.  This poem doesn’t require any explanation to make sense.

Now consider the following poem:

Starlight

Through the canyons,
with bounds and flight,
starlight faded,
during the night.

This poem is a mixture of clarity and obscurity.  In a literal sense, the poem seems to be talking about starlight.  It seems to describe it moving about and then fading.  Although the imagery and sound is a bit flowery, a literal meaning does come through.

On another level though, this poem is obscure.  How can starlight bound and fly?  How does it move through canyons?  Why would it fade during the night?  The poem, in some sense, doesn’t make sense.

Underneath, this poem is about the same subject as the first poem.  It is about the death of Rollie the cat.  Rollie, in the poem, is symbolized by starlight.  This symbolism shows the positive emotions toward Rollie.

When Rollie was alive, she was very active and in some sense light in her movements.  This is described in the first two lines.  Rollie died though.  Her death is described in the last two lines.

The imagery, symbolism, syllable count and rhyme increased the obscurity of this poem.  While a reader might understand that it is about something active and bright ending, they might not know the real meaning unless they were told.

If they were told, however, for example, if someone said that this poem was about Rollie the cat, the ideas and meaning become much clearer.  The poem does not have many levels to its symbolism.  Once a reader knows it is about Rollie, the starlight fading, takes on the proper meaning.  The reader does not have to be told Rollie died, to understand that she did.

Now consider this poem:

Flowers,
snowflakes,
and a summer breeze,
  the sand crystals shined,
  while the melody played.

What is this poem about?  From the meanings of the poems above, a reader might understand that it too is about the death of Rollie the cat, but taken alone, the meaning isn’t so clear.

The poem has no title, and it mentions nothing about death, cats or the idea of ending in any overt ways.

The poem is full of symbolism.  Rollie the cat is seen as something good, but something that only lasted for a short time.  In the poem, this concept is symbolized by the first three lines.  Flowers are nice, but fade quickly.  Snowflakes are nice, but hardly last in their flake form.  A summer breeze blows in and then is gone.  All of these things symbolize the temporariness of Rollie’s life.

The sand crystals is in reference to an hourglass.  An hourglass is made partially of glass and glass is made from silica and silica is in sand.  The shining part combined with the sand crystals, is saying that time shined.  This time shined, while the melody played.  The melody played, while Rollie was alive.

The underlying meaning of this poem is obscure.  By itself, the poem doesn’t let the reader know what it is about.  Even if someone said that the poem was about Rollie the cat, a reader might not understand it was about her death.  They might think it was just talking about the happiness of her life.

 

A question that a poet can encounter as they write poetry, is should their poetry be clear, a mixture of clarity and obscurity or obscure?  The examples above illustrate one of each type of poetry applied to the same subject.

Clear poetry has the advantage that it makes sense.  A reader should be able to easily understand what the poem is about.  The message comes through.

On the downside, clear poetry might lack the nuances, depth and subtly that obscurity can provide.  Also, it means the poet has to be overt with their subject.  Additionally, some may view it as simplistic.

Poetry that is a mixture of clarity and obscurity has the advantage that readers understand it, but it also has enough symbolism and metaphor that readers can understand more if they pause to think about the poem.  It can be a style of poetry, such that one brief explanation, causes the whole poem to make sense.  Also, this style gives the poet the advantage that they can write overtly where they want, but kept things more hidden where they choose.

As a downside, mixing clarity and obscurity can be hard.  If there is an imbalance, such that the poem is very clear with little moments of obscurity, the obscure moments can seem out of place and confusing.  Alternatively, if the poem is mainly obscure, with little moments of clarity, the clear moments can be swallowed in a sense by the obscure ones and seem part of the obscurity.  The reader might not know those moments were more literal.  With either imbalance, when a reader is told the main meaning of the poem, it might not match well with the poem.

Poetry that is obscure has the advantage that a poet can explore many areas of depth, symbolism and metaphor.  A poet can frame what they want to talk about in many ways.  Also, a poet can keep the underlying meaning of their poem hidden.

On the downside, obscure poetry can be hard for some to understand.  Some readers might not get it, even if they were given a brief explanation.  Also, some may view the obscurity as lack of skill.  They might think that the poet was obscure because they did not know how to express their ideas in a way that made sense.

When choosing between the styles, a poet should consider their intent and the situation.  Each style lends itself to a different goal.  A poet should consider the reader’s perspective and decide which style will help them achieve what they want.

Poetry topic idea: bookmarks

Today’s poetry topic idea is bookmarks.  Obviously, it ties in with the bookmark giveaway.  See the bookmark giveaway post for more information about the giveaway.

Bookmarks can make an interesting poetry topic idea.  A poet could write about:

  • The book a person is using a bookmark in
  • Something symbolic about the design of the bookmark (for example, its color pattern)
  • The idea of one person using a bookmark to mark a page that later another person finds. This could be intentional by the person marking the page (for example, they are trying to communicate with someone) or it could be unintentional.
  • The page a person last marked before they died.
  • A person having difficulty reading and then marking the page they are on.

As examples of poems inspired by bookmarks, each of the poems on the backs of the bookmark giveaway bookmarks was inspired by the design on the corresponding front.  The fronts and backs of the bookmarks can be seen here: bookmark giveaway.  In case the poems are difficult to read from the image in the bookmark giveaway post, here they are again:

tiny raindrops fall
on wildflower petals
blue birds land on trees

bumble bees flutter
among the bright red roses
the date rings the bell

purple butterflies
pollinate the peach blossoms
a man reads a book

high in the fruit tree
peaches and leaves grow on stems
craftsmen work all day

manicured gardens
grow by wildflower fields
the visitors stop

seaweed floats with ease
on waves pushed by quiet wind
kites float in the sky

as the river flowed
they bounded across on stones
planets in the sky

green grass starts to grow
within a rock covered field
smiles on a train

Experimental Poetry Form: Paragraph of poems

This experimental poetry form is a paragraph that consists of ten sentences.  The paragraph is formed in three stages.

In the first stage, ten poems are written.  Each poem consists of three lines.  The syllable counts for each line are noted below.  Each poem should be self-contained, but should flow from one to the next.  The syllable counts of the lines are:

Poem 1: 4, 4, 4

Poem 2: 7, 7, 4

Poem 3: 6, 6, 8

Poem 4: 8, 8, 2

Poem 5: 5, 5, 5

Poem 6: 8, 6, 4

Poem 7: 3, 3, 7

Poem 8: 4, 7, 4

Poem 9: 5, 4, 3

Poem 10: 2, 8, 8

In the second stage, each three line poem is written as a sentence.  The words are kept the same, but punctuation is changed as necessary.

In the third stage, the sentences are put together to form one paragraph.

The idea of this form is to see how writing the sentences of a paragraph as three line poems first, changes how the paragraph sounds, compared to how it would sound had the sentences been written in a free style.

To illustrate the form, here is an example with three sentences.  In the first stage, three poems are written using the syllable counts noted above:

 

Poem 1:

 Mowing the grass,
 it didn’t seem,
 to be so hot.

Poem 2:

 But once the mower was pushed,
 back and forth across the lawn,
 it did seem so.

Poem 3:

 Sweat was on the forehead,
 and soaked through the t-shirt,
 and seemed to drip onto the ground.

 

In the second stage, those poems are written as sentences:

Sentence 1: Mowing the grass, it didn’t seem to be so hot.

Sentence 2: But once the mower was pushed back and forth across the lawn, it did seem so.

Sentence 3:  Sweat was on the forehead, and soaked through the t-shirt, and seemed to drip onto the ground.

 

In the third stage, those sentences are combined into a paragraph:

Mowing the grass, it didn’t seem to be so hot.  But once the mower was pushed back and forth across the lawn, it did seem so.  Sweat was on the forehead, and soaked through the t-shirt, and seemed to drip onto the ground.

 

The idea here, is that writing the sentences as poems first, had an influence on how the paragraph sounded once it was done.  The paragraph, presumably, would sound different, had it been written simply as a normal paragraph.