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Poetry Over Prose - May 7, 2018

just.a.willow.tree

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"Everyone sees, feels, responds to the poetry of the world every day. In a sunrise over rooftops, a dogwood in bloom, a child's bike leaning against a fence, a pair of tennis shoes hanging by their laces from a telephone wire, a moth's wing spread on the screen door, the sound of a train in the distance, the smell of fresh bread. Everyone falls in love with the world daily and we have no words for what spellbinds us. Poems need to be made to recognize that sense of wordless awe.”
 —Dorianne Laux

Welcome, HPFT-ers, to the first installment of the Prefect Blog’s special posts! On the 7th of every month, we’ll select a relevant theme and create a post about it. As April was National Poetry Month, the prefects wanted to take an opportunity to feature our favorite aspects of poetry and share them with you. :wub:

We hope you enjoy this special issue!

 

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One of the most enlightening aspects about reading poetry is the process of analyzing and understanding the piece, and though your interpretation may differ from someone else’s, that’s the beauty of it all! Our very own @Rumpelstiltskin (with help from @forever_dreaming and @just.a.willow.tree) put together a detailed post about this in the Writing Resources section of the forums here+. In addition, we’ve also written a guide to poetic meter here+ (which is essentially an explanation of the thing that makes Dr. Seuss’s poems so much fun to read aloud :P). Check it out if you have time, and perhaps you can apply it when you read poetry from the wonderful authors on our archives!

 

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In these next two sections, we wanted to feature poems by authors on our archive, as well as poems from published anthologies! We’ve divided them up into two categories: poems that use form and poems that use sound. We definitely encourage you to look through the poems that we’ve linked to on the archives and leave them thoughtful reviews, because writing poetry is difficult and our authors do it beautifully. :wub: (All poems are linked; click on them to read the full piece.)

This first section highlights a few fascinating poetic forms that you may not have known about!

SESTINA

Both @forever_dreaming and @just.a.willow.tree happened to write sestinas for their English class, so we thought it appropriate to talk a little more about what sestinas are. :P (They are very, very cool. You should check them out afterwards! Here+ is a much more in-depth explanation of the form, if you’re curious. ^_^)

Essentially, sestinas are a very repetitive type of poem, except oftentimes poets use creativity and ingenuity to work around the repetition. In each stanza (except for the last) there are six lines, and at the end of each line is a designated word. These six “last words” are then reordered throughout the other stanzas, though they will always be the last words of the line. This might sound confusing, but here is a visual representation, with each letter representing a “last word” in a line:

1. ABCDEF
2. FAEBDC
3. CFDABE
4. ECBFAD
5. DEACFB
6. BDFECA
7. (envoi) ECA or ACE

It’s easier to understand with an example poem. Take a look at W.H. Auden’s “Paysage Moralisé”:

Hearing of harvests rotting in the valleys,
Seeing at end of street the barren mountains,
Round corners coming suddenly on water,
Knowing them shipwrecked who were launched for islands,
We honour founders of these starving cities
Whose honour is the image of our sorrow,

Which cannot see its likeness in their sorrow
That brought them desperate to the brink of valleys;
Dreaming of evening walks through learned cities
They reined their violent horses on the mountains,
Those fields like ships to castaways on islands,
Visions of green to them who craved for water.

They built by rivers and at night the water
Running past windows comforted their sorrow;
Each in his little bed conceived of islands
Where every day was dancing in the valleys
And all the green trees blossomed on the mountains,
Where love was innocent, being far from cities.

But dawn came back and they were still in cities;
No marvellous creature rose up from the water;
There was still gold and silver in the mountains
But hunger was a more immediate sorrow,
Although to moping villagers in valleys
Some waving pilgrims were describing islands…

'The gods,' they promised, 'visit us from islands,
Are stalking, head-up, lovely, through our cities;
Now is the time to leave your wretched valleys
And sail with them across the lime-green water,
Sitting at their white sides, forget your sorrow,
The shadow cast across your lives by mountains.’

So many, doubtful, perished in the mountains,
Climbing up crags to get a view of islands,
So many, fearful, took with them their sorrow
Which stayed them when they reached unhappy cities,
So many, careless, dived and drowned in water,
So many, wretched, would not leave their valleys.

It is our sorrow. Shall it melt? Then water
Would gush, flush, green these mountains and these valleys,
And we rebuild our cities, not dream of islands.

Notice how the last words of every line are reused over and over again in each stanza, except in a different order every time. Sestinas are beautiful poems this way. In this instance, Auden uses the repetition to paint different images with the same words, and it works beautifully.

In “weary”, @just.a.willow.tree uses a similar technique as Auden: embracing the elements of repetition built-into the form of a sestina to emphasize the weariness of the main characters and the tragic perpetuity of the pain and injustice they feel. However, the repetition of the end words can be twisted to enhance the poem in a different way too. For example, in “Passing Time”, @forever_dreaming manipulates the words themselves, altering their spelling or using homophones in order to convey the paradoxical nature of time passing both quickly and at a snail’s speed.

If you’re curious about another fascinating sestina, check out Carole Oles’ “The Magician Suspends Her Children”. It is so creative and clever, you will almost definitely have a lot of fun deciphering the meaning of the poem while also paying attention how amazing it is, the way she wields her words.

VILLANELLE

Another interesting form is a villanelle! This is a 19-line poem, typically composed of five tercets (a three-line stanza) that follow the rhyming pattern aba, with a final quatrain (a four-line stanza) that follow the rhyming pattern abaa. The first and third lines of the initial tercet are alternately repeated as the third lines of the following tercets (and then are presented as the ending couplet of the quatrain). A visual example of the rhyming scheme of a standard six stanza villanelle might be helpful.

1. AbA
2. abA
3. abA
4. abA
5. abA
6. abAA

What might be even more helpful is seeing this in an actual poem. Take a look at "Do not go gentle into that good night" by Dylan Thomas, as an example [emphases added]:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

There are two beautiful examples of villanelles on our archives, both by the lovely @abhorsen.! In “And when the wind whistles through me, I am free” and “And still there’s the wind to batter and moan”, the perfectly-crafted repeated phrases set the tone of the poem. Yet with each new stanza, these phrases gradually shift and grow in meaning as more of the poem is unveiled. We cannot recommend these two poems enough!

HAIKU

A haiku is a form of Japanese poetry that consists of 17 syllables that are arranged in three lines of five, seven, and five. A fun aspect of a haiku is that the short pieces are meant to encapsulate a single impression on something, in a particular season. This creates a sense of simplicity and intense expression. 

To assist in the visualization, take a look at a haiku from Basho Matsuo, and notice the syllables in each line:

An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.

And we have a number of elegant haikus on the archives as well! One example is from M C Crocker (or @scooterbug8515 on the forums), with her collection of season-inspired haikus: “One Love One Year”. Each poem perfectly captures the essence of the season within such a small number of syllables. Definitely go check out this piece if you have time!

 

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One of the main differences between poetry and prose is the manipulation of how words sound. Poets choose words whose sound reflects the meaning they are trying to convey, creating a more immersive experience and enhancing their meaning further; sound makes poetry more vivid and sensory than prose. One of the classic sound devices is onomatopoeia, or, simply, when a word sounds like what it means. 

English is a cool language in that lots of words are onomatopoeic to some degree. The obvious examples are words like “crash”, “clang”, “smash”, etc. But other words have a subtler onomatopoeic effect. For example, consider Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach”. We’ve only put an excerpt below, but do check out the entire poem if you have time. (We recommend reading the poem out aloud to yourself, to get the full effect!):

The sea is calm tonight. 
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light 
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand, 
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay; 
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air! 
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sun meets the moon-blanched land, 
Listen! You hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling
At their return, up the high strand, 
Begin, and cease, and then again begin, 
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in. 

In the first stanza, Arnold uses heavy sound-focused imagery. The long “ea” sound in “gleams” mimics the word, just as the long “a” in “vast” stretches out the word to further emphasize the image of the vast ocean. Similarly, the quick “imm” sound in “glimmering” mimics the action. Arnold does this purposely; he practically tells us this, with a command for the audience to “Listen!” and other sound-related diction, like “cadence” and “note”. In this first stanza, Arnold is building a sound-based image of the cliffs of Dover, which he then contrasts with a more sight-based image of the cliffs of Dover, to illustrate the difference between expectation and reality—a central theme in the poem. 

Alliteration is the repetition of the first letter or consonant. In “Dover Beach”, Arnold alliterates “gl” in “glimmer” and “gleam”, to emphasize these two words; this alliteration brings focus to the inherently contradictory picture Arnold is trying to present, of something that is both ephemeral (that glimmers for a short amount of time) and enduring (that gleams forever). Alliteration helps poets draw attention to specific words and forces the reader to connect the images these words present. 

@Alexis Black’s “The Wind Chimes are Calling to Me” is a great example of a poem that is enhanced by manipulations of sound. The use of words that sound like the term they are describing, such as “whisper”, “sigh”, and “murmur”, truly enhances the poem and brings it to life, and it’s this vibrancy that adds a tinge of nostalgia to the piece.

 

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The main purpose of this post was to celebrate National Poetry month while highlighting a few of our talented authors. So here are a few more poems that we would like to recommend to you from the archives:

What is life” - @Felpata_Lupin

When Spring Doesn’t Return” - @Rumpelstiltskin

Poetry Collection” (M) - @MalfoysAngel

Truths and Lies” - @TreacleTart

“an absence of sound” - @just.a.willow.tree

“Love Is a Whisper In Your Soul” - @abhorsen.

“Supernova” - @TreacleTart

“The place where planes take off and land” - @Felpata_Lupin

Dreamwalker” - @Alexis Black

“Pillars of Smoke” (M) - @abhorsen.

"From" - @Stella Blue (not exactly a poem but beautiful nonetheless)

---

This has been our special blog post for May! We understand that poetry isn’t something that everyone enjoys, but hopefully after reading this, you’ve taken away a few things. ^_^ (And, who knows, maybe this’ll help you out in the next reviewing event when you stumble across a poem!) Let us know what you think of the post, if you like/dislike poetry, or if there’s anything you’d like to see in the future!

The Prefects

written by forever_dreaming, just.a.willow.tree, and Rumpelstiltskin
graphics by just.a.willow.tree

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Felpata_Lupin

Posted

This was such a great blog post! 😊

I love poetry and it was really interesting to read this and the threads in Writer Resources, too. I had no idea about how English metric worked and the poetry forms you presented here (Italian poetry is a bit different... :$)

Also, thank you so much for the recommendations... :rose:

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just.a.willow.tree

Posted

6 hours ago, Felpata_Lupin said:

I love poetry and it was really interesting to read this and the threads in Writer Resources, too. I had no idea about how English metric worked and the poetry forms you presented here (Italian poetry is a bit different... :$)

Wait but Chiara, now you have to talk about how Italian poetry is different because I'm curious :P

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scooterbug8515

Posted (edited)

What I also think is interesting about Haiku's is that they not only capture a clear moment and have a given set of syllables they should usually reference the season in some small way and should have contrasting lines like hot/cold, fast/slow.  It is one of my favorite poetic forms.

My other favorite I would say are poems that use consonance or assonance.  The lyrical repetition of sounds gets me.  I've not doe a lot of work in this realm but Edgar Allen Poe's 'Bells' is a great example of what I love.    He certainly does use rhyme as well but instead of focusing on having it one line to the next sometimes he would use it in the same line.  I love how poems have this lyrical and melodious sound and feel.  (As an aside, my all time favorite poet is Poe.  I probably would kill to have mad skills like his.)

Edited by scooterbug8515
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forever_dreaming

Posted

2 hours ago, scooterbug8515 said:

My other favorite I would say are poems that use consonance or assonance.  The lyrical repetition of sounds gets me.  I've not doe a lot of work in this realm but Edgar Allen Poe's 'Bells' is a great example of what I love.    He certainly does use rhyme as well but instead of focusing on having it one line to the next sometimes he would use it in the same line.  I love how poems have this lyrical and melodious sound and feel.  (As an aside, my all time favorite poet is Poe.  I probably would kill to have mad skills like his.)

OMG YES. We were actually going to talk about assonance and consonance but we didn’t have the space :( Bells is a fantastic poem! I love the near rhymes. 

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scooterbug8515

Posted

17 minutes ago, forever_dreaming said:

OMG YES. We were actually going to talk about assonance and consonance but we didn’t have the space :( Bells is a fantastic poem! I love the near rhymes. 

It totally get it there is so much when it comes to poetry one could almost do an entire blog devoted to poetry.  Ya'll did an awesome job for just one entry!  Thanks for doing it!

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Rumpelstiltskin

Posted

I agree! I LOVE Poe's Bells . I've never experienced so many different emotions in one poem. 

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MuggleMaybe

Posted

This is a really interesting post! I enjoyed it a lot. :wub:

Also, I would like to add a recommendation to the list: +From by Stella Blue. It's not designated as a poem on the archives and I don't know if Kristin thinks of it as a poem, but that's how it read to me. (A more freeform poem, though.) And I absolutely love it, so I had to mention it!

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just.a.willow.tree

Posted

28 minutes ago, MuggleMaybe said:

Also, I would like to add a recommendation to the list: +From by Stella Blue. It's not designated as a poem on the archives and I don't know if Kristin thinks of it as a poem, but that's how it read to me. (A more freeform poem, though.) And I absolutely love it, so I had to mention it!

I completely agree, I adore this piece. I'll add it to the recommendations list in the original post. ^_^ 

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Stella Blue

Posted

What a wonderful blog and  I love the explanation and analysis of the different types of poems! And the recommendations from our talented HPFT poets! I've read quite a few of those and have been so, so impressed. What a great way to highlight poetry month! Also 100% agreed with previous posts admiring "Bells" by Poe, that's such a good poem and I love the sound repetition.

 

Also @justawillowtree those graphics are g o r g e o u s. I had no idea you had this hidden artistic talent :bowdown: 

 

15 hours ago, MuggleMaybe said:

Also, I would like to add a recommendation to the list: +From by Stella Blue. It's not designated as a poem on the archives and I don't know if Kristin thinks of it as a poem, but that's how it read to me. (A more freeform poem, though.) And I absolutely love it, so I had to mention it!

Omg thank you!!! Gah <3 <3 <3 :$ :wub:  :hug: 

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just.a.willow.tree

Posted

1 hour ago, Stella Blue said:

What a wonderful blog and  I love the explanation and analysis of the different types of poems! And the recommendations from our talented HPFT poets! I've read quite a few of those and have been so, so impressed. What a great way to highlight poetry month! Also 100% agreed with previous posts admiring "Bells" by Poe, that's such a good poem and I love the sound repetition.

Also @justawillowtree those graphics are g o r g e o u s. I had no idea you had this hidden artistic talent :bowdown: 

Ahhhh Kristin!!! :hug: Thank you for stopping by!

And awww thank you so much :$

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Rumpelstiltskin

Posted

Kristin's From was an absolutely wonderful suggestion, Renee! I'm really happy that you brought up that though it may not have necessarily intended to be a poem, and even if it's not marked as a poem, that it felt poetic to you .  That's one of the reason's I enjoy poetry so much -- it can be the personal experience of finding something raw and beautiful and so simply seductive of the soul in something (which are a few of the things that From is) that means EVERYTHING and makes it meaningful to the individual. 

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