Statement of Philosophy

A site for exploration and discussion about verse, poetics, the aesthetic, and creative writing in general.

Because there is a profound difference between writing something to be read and writing something worth reading; and in that difference might beauty be found.

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

"To a Young Father" by Sydney Lea -- Poetry Daily, 4/20/2013

from I Was Thinking of Beauty
poem found here

first lines:
This riverbend must have always been lovely.
Take the one-lane iron bridge shortcut across


the stanza break, and difference and repetition

Two bits:

1. While re-reading this a memory popped into my head of a conversation (repeated more than once) with someone showing me a poem. (The actual context of the memory is irrelevant.)

me:  Just to ask, why did you break your stanzas like this?
them:  I found it made the poem easier to read.
me:  But if you needed to make it easier to read, isn't that pointing out that there is a problem with your poem? and that your stanza breaks are not addressing the problem, but trying to hide it?

My point is simply to point out that very often a person might apply a format to a poem thinking it is a benefit to the poem, when in fact it is hiding a flaw. And, when you are crafting a poem, you should keep that in mind. Whether that applies to this poem I leave up to you.

2. A quick look at line 2:

Take the one-lane iron bridge shortcut across

I am not a fan of this line, because it is overwhelmed by stressed syllables.

That's a lot of stress for a line, and it makes for an aurally clumsy read. Stringing stresses can be very interesting moment in a poem -- though, of course, that requires maintaining a nice flow of iambic (or whatever) rhythm for the string of stresses to play against. This poem, to me, does not pay much attention to the rhythm of the words/lines, and the string of stresses speaks more of not paying attention than of crafting, which is not good.

Simply, if your poem speaks to a reader of not paying attention, you have failed. Poetry is meant to be defined by the idea of paying attention. You do not dictate poetry; you craft it; you create it.

Note after the fact: By happenstance I came upon these lines from Robert Frost's sonnet "On a Bird Singing in its Sleep," this afternoon, an excellent example of a wielded series of stresses. (Keep in mind it is a formal sonnet, so it is iambic pentameter.)

It could not have come down to us so far,
Through the interstices of things ajar
On the long bead chain of repeated birth,

Note how the stresses are complemented by the long syllables.

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