Elements of Poetry
Poetry provides a condensed experience of a subject for the reader, perhaps richer than one he may create of his own accord inside of his head[A1] .
A structure or form shapes the poem like a skeleton shapes a living thing. This provides form and helps create the rhythm of the poem. Set structures require a definite number of stanzas, lines, and even syllables per line. For example, a stanza groups a number of lines in a poem. A quatrain forms a stanza of four lines and a couplet, a stanza of two lines. Certain poems require a specific skeleton while others allow for room to breathe and to explore style like the free verse poem[A2] .
Various poem types create a theme for the poem. For example, a ballad or a narrative poem tells a story and can even feel like a short story to the reader. A haiku can be of any topic but requires set syllables and therefore creates a snapshot for the reader of usually one subject. Anelegy is a poem of rather a sad topic that laments a subject that has passed.
Within every poem lives a rhythm that creates a metaphorical heartbeat for the poem. The type of poem, which has a specific structure, can create the rhythm of the poem based on the number of syllables and stressed words and the number of words in each line. Because not every line has to contain the same number of syllables or number of words, the varying sentences can create a very unique rhythm for the poem or on the contrary; a poem that holds set structural rules can create a very specific rhythm that may seem familiar to the reader — “Roses are red. Violets are blue.”
Outside of structure, figurative language brings the poem to life. Figurative language creates imagery through the use of various tools. A poem is a metaphor. A metaphor “implies an intuitive perception of similarity among dissimilar,” (Aristotle[A3] , 322 BCE). In other words, a metaphor allows the writer to showcase a connection no matter how subtle, similar, or dissimilar the subjects. A good poet shines a plethora of light rays on a subject exposing the tiniest of connections within the largest frame of the big picture. He can shine this light on the subject erratically or steadily through the use of rhythm. At times we could barely sense the connection provided through the use of metaphor, until he shines the light on it many of times with not only the use of rhythm but also the use of extended metaphor. An extended metaphor expands on an original comparison.
At other times, a poet smacks the reader hard on the face with a hyperbole or an exaggeration of an idea. This intensity could almost blind a reader depending on where it is so craft fully placed in the poem. At other times, the poet uses a litote, an understatement that denies the opposite. Each tool creates a certain tone depending on how it is used on the subject, which then, in turn, affects the mood of the piece.
Other types of comparisons include personification, metonymy and allusions. Allusions allude or reference another artistic piece. This direct comparison almost befriends another work through this connection, which is usually used strongly to compare two rather brilliant pieces, or so the writer hopes, if that is his intent. Similarly, metonomy refers to something by using an actual name [A4] of something associated with it like: “Scepter and crown must tumble down,” (James Shirley). The crown may refer to a reign or power. Lastly, and more interestingly, personificationis used to give life-like qualities to something that is not alive. Some thing is actually brought to life by using personification. It draws great attention to the subject. What can be better than bringing your subject to life?
Outside of imagery, these lists of tools above all contribute to the overall experience of the poetic experience. One may focus solely on creating a piece filled with imagery but may neglect a focus on syntax, the arrangement of words ordiction, specific word choice or rhyme scheme or line breaks. It is a poem in its entirety that creates the experience. The best poets recreate the experience for you, artfully so that you are tasting, breathing, feeling, hearing, and smelling the subjects. This can be best done using synesthesia, the blending of senses by associating an image with a new sense — please, taste the music.
[A1]Wow, is this your line? Fantastic.
[A2]You have a wonderful way of describing this.
[A3]Yes, the father of all this…
[A4]I’m very impressed by your insightful analysis and your smooth, intelligent prose.