About Poetry – Part 1

I want to talk about the power of poetry and poems, in this case a sonnet, and the force it can contain with in it. First, we will have to break down what a sonnet is. A sonnet comes in one of four primary versions. Each of these contain a different rhyming structure, which I will later post a blog about, but all sonnets traditional will have 14 lines of what is called iambic pentameter. That is, lines containing five metrical feet. A foot is a unit of measurement within metrical verse. Iambic means a unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. There are substitutions and other considerations, but for right now this is enough information about that.

We now should have a grasp on the sonnet, so let’s look at W.B. Yeats’s famous poem ‘Leda and the Swan. ‘

W.B. Yeats – Leda and the Swan

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
                                  Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

Watch Nerdwriter’s Youtube video before continuing.

Now that we have enjoyed Nerdwriter’s wonderful content, we can continue on our exploration of power of poetry.

The first thing about a poem is sounds and how they sound, and there is a lot of different things involved in sound other than rhyme. For now though, as I will be posting individual explanations of many devices, we are just looking at surface level. On the surface, even though the poem is a very deep sonnet, it also sounds good. Let’s say that you did not watch the video, or maybe read the print copy of the poem before watching the video. Did you under stand it the same way you did before the video? If not, did you still enjoy the poem? I suspect, yes. Poetry is closely related to music and sounds can have a huge effect of the music of a poem, and lets face it we have all enjoyed some pretty terrible lyrics because the music sounded good. It’s sublime when good music meets good lyrics, we are striving for. Good meaning meets good sound in poetry, at least if we seek to be the best we can be at it.

If a syllable makes up the shortest unit of sound in a poem then the longest unit of sound could be considered the line and how they interplay with other lines. The line is a major developer of sound and meaning within a poem.

Since lines of all lengths exist within all forms of poetry, weather metrical or not, it is logical to recognize that lines will have the same if not greater effect on free verse poems and their sound than metrical poetry. Delivering as much info on metrical verse is important not because as modern writers we would seek to go back to it, but because writers like Alfred Lord Tennyson did things with sound that, in his case, are largely unrivaled to this day. I say largely because Jennifer Grotz comes to mind.

Again, It doesn’t matter if your writing free verse or metrical verse either way the line within a poems format exists, and a knowledge of this might be helpful in understanding what meanings and feelings can be evoked simply by changing a line within poetry. That is, to rely on different types of word sound within a line and also the act of braking the line up across the page different ways.

Like I mentioned early on, at this point we are interested in surface level, and In W.B. Yeats’s poem here he has good examples of sounds, rhythm and line usage without the poem being lost within those structures, devices, and mechanisms. In my next update I will expand upon these 3 subjects.

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