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I have had the same impression myself, but isn’t the true charm of literary devices in their application to poetry? When I write, my ultimate aim is to produce something that feels whole rather than feeling like the sum of its parts. I want readers to find something new each time they read it—to find connections they hadn’t seen before, to gradually unravel all the threads and find that it wasn’t just a trick of light, but the careful weaving of a poet.

Perhaps we can compare this to a song:

  • The raw, emotional words contain the vocalist’s part. They can stand alone still tell a story, and those words carry their own rhythm and feel, to form lyrics.
  • Each instrument plays its role, giving a beat or a melody or a harmony or some element of musicality. Each part on its own can be beautiful; multiple parts together more so, to form music.
  • Either of these two parts can be appreciated on their own, or one can serve the other, but the best music happens when all parts serve the whole: the instrumental music raises the lyrics up, embellishes them, draws attention to their most important parts, plays on their rhythm and feel by working with or against it; and the lyrics do not overpower or dominate the accompaniment, instead working within the music to build a whole.

We’ve all heard those singers that just want to show off. They forget about serving the song—they serve themselves. They forget that the song is a whole thing, and they end up ruining the song.

I think that’s what’s happening with the poems in some of these journals.

At the same time, I know some people who consider themselves literary poets who write on key cultural issues with passion and emotion. They don’t fit that mould. So what makes them literary poets? Is it just that they’re published in these journals? (What makes literary fiction, for that matter?)

What kind of poet am I?

(For interest: Andy Meyer, Rachel B. Baxter.)