Sunday, April 5, 2009

Free Verse: Messy Room

“Messy Room“

-Shel Silverstein


Whosever room this is should be ashamed!

His underwear is hanging on the lamp.

His raincoat is there in the overstuffed chair,

And the chair is becoming quite mucky and damp.

His workbook is wedged in the window,

His sweater's been thrown on the floor.

His scarf and one ski are beneath the TV,

And his pants have been carelessly hung on the door.

His books are all jammed in the closet,

His vest has been left in the hall.

A lizard named Ed is asleep in his bed,

And his smelly old sock has been stuck to the wall.

Whosever room this is should be ashamed!

Donald or Robert or Willie or--

Huh? You say it's mine? Oh, dear,

I knew it looked familiar!


Free verse poetry is free from the normal rules of poetry. The poet may choose to include some rhyming words but the poem does not have to rhyme. A free verse poem may be just a sentence that is artistically laid out on the page or it can be pages of words. Some forms of free verse separate, or split, phrases and words between lines. Punctuation may be absent or it may be used to place greater emphasis on specific words. The main object of free verse is to use colorful words, punctuation, and word placement to convey meaning to the reader.

This form of poetry is incredibly broad in its definition and even more so in its practice. Using Caesura to end his lines and determine the flow of this poem Silverstein creates a situation in which an observer realizes the magnitude of his own situation. And, because he was oblivious to the truth that the “messy room” was his own he is able to most accurately discern the condition of said room. Using the free verse form he is able to better form this poem, not restricted by the normal bounds of poetic structure.

Imagism: This is Just to Say

“This Is Just to Say”

-William Carlos Williams

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably


for breakfast.

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold.

Imagist poetry is a seeming contradiction. It is concise and simple in the visual aspect as well as the literal meaning, but it is also quite complex in its "actual" meaning. Imagist poetry paints a concrete picture for the reader while expressing a deeper meaning.

his particular poem uses clean and succinct language to create a picture. At first glance this poem comes off almost as if it were a note left on the table next to the empty plum container awaiting discovery.

At first glance this poem seems like nothing more than a simple note, but after it is read the reader starts to notice the poetic feel of the words. The reader gets dragged in by the simplicity and swallowed by the complexities.

The language in this poem is very crisp, clear and to the point. There isn't a word over three syllables in the poems entirety and the poem itself is only 28 words. This poem is by right and by form simplistic in nature.

There is no tangible answer as to what this poem is pertaining to, many observations can be made and many questions can be raised. Is the poem about a love affair? Does the poem have nothing to do with love? Is forgiveness really what the speaker seeks? Is the speaker sincere in apologizing? Is the speaker self-righteous? Polite? Pleased? Good-humored?

"What Teachers Make"

-Taylor Mali

the poem

Due to the nature of these poems it makes the most sense not to read them but instead to see them performed. So, I have attached to this blog a video in which the artist recites his poem.

Slam poetry is a modern form of performance poetry that occurs within a competitive poetry event, called a "slam", at which poets perform their own poems (or, in rare cases, those of others) that are "judged" on a numeric scale by randomly picked members of the audience. It can also consist of several poets performing without being judged.

I thoroughly enjoyed this poem and truly admire this form of art. Mali uses a very simplistic and repetitive language along with a very common almost musical rhyme scheme as his tools to show a passionate teacher and his response to ignorance. He varies his volume and pitch to delineate the immense amount of passion he has as a teacher. The plainness of his language helps to show his belief that teaching is more about passion and discipline than it is about actual intelligence. His less than subtle point is that making a difference is far more important than making money.

Friday, March 20, 2009


    The dragonfly
   can't quite land
   on that blade of grass.


Haiku is an unrhymed, syllabic form adapted from the Japanese: three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. Because it is so brief, a haiku is necessarily imagistic, concrete and pithy, capturing a single moment in a very few words. Because the form has been brought into English from a language written in characters, in which a haiku appears on a single line, many poets writing haiku in English are flexible about the syllable and line counts, focusing more on the brevity, condensed form and “Zen” attitude of haiku. The traditional Japanese haiku requires some reference to nature or the season; thus the related short form of senryu is distinguished from haiku as being concerned with “human nature” or social and personal relationships.

In this particular Haiku, Basho analyzes nature through the imagery of a dragonfly. He delineates a creature that can't find a way to land on a certain blade of grass. It is important to note that it is this specific blade of grass that perplexes the dragonfly, like an obstacle he cannot overcome. The dragonfly "can't quite" accomplish this task, showing that he is continually falling barely short of his goals. Also the use of the dragonfly itself introduces the element of a dignified insect, one that should be able to simply land on a blade of grass, increasing the magnitude of it's failure.

Basho is covering the idea of failure through this Haiku, analyzing the actual actions of failure. He depicts an unexpected failure that is important only because of its contrast with the dragonfly. I was wondering what you guys thought about this Haiku in terms of the relationship Basho draws between nature and failure? Also how does this Haiku analyze human nature in juxtaposition with adversity?

Monologue: The Chimney Sweeper

"The Chimney Sweeper"
-William Blake

The central theme in ‘The Chimney Sweeper’ featured in the ‘Song of Innocence’ collection is the fact that if you live a life doing your ‘duties’, you will go to heaven. Already, this shows naivety, as it has such a simple meaning. This is something that a child is more likely to understand, and being part of the ‘Songs of Innocence’, this seems a realistic central theme. However, whilst the theme in the ‘Innocence’ collection has a very simple theme, the poem featuring in the ‘Songs of Experience’ collection is questioning the work of God. It also questions religion, showing that adulthood has a much more complicated view on not just Blake’s subjects, but any topic or matter.A quote that shows naivety in the ‘Innocence’ collection is:‘And the angel told Tom is he’d be a good boy,He’d have God for his father and never want joy’This quote not only proves the central theme of doing good and going to heaven, but it also shows the lack of awareness that Tom and other children have. Firstly, Blake uses the word ‘angel’. Blake is showing the audience that although it is the parents’ responsibility to clothe a child, the boy subject of this poem is not being clothed in real clothes, but metaphorical clothes of ‘death’. This shows us that the parents of this little boy have not only neglected the child, but their responsibility to look after the boy, also.

Spenserian Sonnet: Sonnet 75

Sonnet 75
by: Edmund Spenser
A Spenserian sonnet is characterized by the rhyme scheme ababbcbccdcdee. The carrying of a rhyme from one quatrain to the next lends itself to a 12-line "body" which develops 3 related ideas (one in each quatrain) and a final couplet that presents a different idea or commentary.

One of the many traits that this sonnet shows is the many different images that it gives. The first image that appears is the man writing the women’s name in the sand. It shows in your minds eye a man writing out a name while he was sitting on a beach. The poem also describes a beach and it is very easy to see when you think about it. Another trait that it shows is symbolism. The ocean in the sonnet symbolizes eternity. The ocean seams to go on forever so this is a perfect symbol for it. Another symbol is the waves messing up the name that he wrote on the sand. This symbolizes that his love for her will go on forever and that nothing can change that.

Throughout the poem, Spenser uses alliteration to create sounds that help the imagery in his poem. In the second line of his poem, Spenser uses alliteration when he says "waves and washed it away". The repetition of the "w" sound creates a sound similar to the actual washing of waves. Later in the poem, Spenser writes, "my pains his pray" where the repetition of the "p" sound, which is a sound that gives the felling about the hard time the person is feeling. Spenser uses alliteration to tie in the words and phrases he uses to help connect the poem with the imagery.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Elegy Poem: "Elegy Written in a Country Church-yard"

"Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"

-Thomas Gray


This poem is not a traditional elegy as more often than not elegies are written lamenting the loss of an individual. This poem, on the other hand is mourning of an entire churchyard as well as the speaker himself through his inevitable death.

He begins the elegy with a vivid description of the desolation in his surroundings. Utilizing the elegance common to this structure Gray draws on intense imagery of a sinking sun and a day ending. This powerful idea, the closing of a day, draws on the existentialist interpretations of death. Gray explores the inevitability and they uniformity of death and sets this up through his speaker’s narration in the first three stanzas.

After the ideas of an almost drowsy reality are fully delineated, Gray delves into the actual graves of his churchyard. Throughout the next few stanzas he discusses the inevitable end of all men rich, poor, famous or unknown. Here the existentialism of this poem is blatant as the author talks of the pointlessness of life, if all “in his narrow cell for ever laid” than of what consequence is our lives. This elegy now reveals yet another very unique aspect in the author’s mourning of others through an analysis of life.

Finally the speaker brings himself to a conclusion about his own death. He realizes we are all equal in life as we are in death. Through this he assures himself of a burial among commoners, despite any renown he may acquire. Thus, a very existentialist close to an existentialist piece.

Ode Poem:"To Autumn"

"To Autumn"
-John Keats
Can be read here

John Keats' ode "To Autumn" is an ornate and precise depiction of the season and its role in the natural life cycle. Keats begins his poem by addressing Autumn and describing its abundance in relation with the sun. He talks about Autumn as a time of birth and enrichment. Mentioning the ripening of fruit and the bloom of late flowers, Keats makes a very distinct connection between Autumn and the sun. This almost seems paradoxical as Autumn is generally referred as a time of death, with the changing of leaves. Autumn is here being discussed as the beginning of life whereas it is generally associated with the advent of death.
In the second stanza Keats gives Autumn a personified identity, a goddess. He delineates her sleeping in the fields along with her recumbency  on "a granary floor". This stanza seems to give an interpretation of almost idleness to Autumn in contrast with the active liveliness of the first stanza. The first stanza of the ode, known as the strophe, is preformed with a choir moving right to left on a stage, similar to the way the sun rises. While the second stanza, the antistrophe, is meant to reply to the strophe and balance it. This is seen quite vividly in "To Autumn". as the choir preforms the antistrophe they move back to the right, signaling the descent of the sun into the night, hence the almost ominous tranquility of this stanza.
The third stanza, the epode, is projected with the choir standing still. Thus in this poem the sun, or Autumn, can be inferred as descended. Here there is a very thick comparison between Autumn and death. This is clearly depicted from the wailful mourning of Keats' gnats. This section of the poem is connected strongly to the antistrophe in that there is a "sinking" mentioned that corresponds with the descending sun of the antistrophe.
Throughout the poem it seems more that Autumn is not a part of the natural life cycle, but in fact a cycle in itself, moving from the bloom and birth of late flowers to the cold departure of the soft-dying day.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Favorite Poem (2):

-Matsuo Basho

                  An old silent pond...

                  A frog jumps into the pond,

                  splash! Silence again.

This is my first Haiku, so hopefully I do this right.

This Haiku is a classic, in fact it is from this haiku as an example that I first learned how to make haiku poetry. I have always really liked this poem because it takes a very simple occurrence, a frog jumping into a pond, and magnifies its significance. I like haiku poems because they force the artist to really choose their syllables carefully, charging each one with it’s own individual importance. This makes this poem much more complex than many of the longer ones that we have read.

Basho mentions the pond as old and silent, almost dead even. He creates this imagery of an old decaying pond, quiet from disuse and negligence. And then the statement “A frog jumps into the pond” arises out of the “…” mentioned at the end of line 1. This adds the elements of surprise to the suspense of an empty pond. The frog makes his mark on this desolate pond, and creates his “splash!” But, the frog’s actions only amount to that transitory ripple, as soon after there is silence again.

I found this poem very existentialist, talking about the pond as the world, and how it is old and silent, unmarked. The frog jumps into the pond and makes his attempt to be remembered through his splash, but ultimately there is silence again and his splash is forgotten.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Favorite Poem (1): The Red Wheelbarrow

"the red wheelbarrow"
-William Carlos Williams

so much depends


a red wheel


glazed with rain


beside the white


I first read this poem when I was a freshman, and I remember I hated it. I didn’t believe that it was poetry because it didn’t fit my definition of a poem. But, coming across this again recently, I realize that it actually is the definition of a poem. Williams does an excellent job of describing the image of a flawless red wheelbarrow covered in enough water that it has a metallic sheen next to a flock of chickens. His scene contains no disorder, no evidence of anything out of place. It reminds me of movies that have a setting in which all the colors have no blemishes or mixtures of any kind. Everything in this poem creates the sensation of a perfect world, completely dependent on this perfection; hence “so much depends upon”. Williams is making the argument that we all strive for this level of flawlessness but in the end it just doesn’t visualize itself realistically.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

External Structure 1:Here I am

"Here I am"
-Roger McGough

            The most interesting aspect of this poem is it's very unusual shape. McGough uses a very odd shape for his poem that is not easily discernable as any particular object. I personally think that the shape resembles that of an hourglass, representing the time that the author has left in his life. The poem talks a lot about the many things that the author failed to accomplish in his life. The author is lamenting about the time he has wasted, but he realizes that his hourglass is not yet empty, hence the line “Here I am” in the center of the poem. The author realizes that he is still alive and still has time to redeem himself and do what he has yet to do. The author accepts how he has spent the first section of his hourglass. This is why the change from the top half of the hourglass to the bottom occurs at the second repetition of the line “Here I am”.  The shape does not fit this mold perfectly, but it is fairly close and the deviation from the mold may be a symbol that the poem is imperfect. It is the author’s acceptance of the fact that not everything can be accomplished, not everything can fit the ideal mold.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

External Structure 1:[I(a]

-EE Cummings

            I personally liked this poem due to its very odd structure. This poem truly does exemplify external structure and the importance it plays in a work’s overall meaning. The structure is a vertical poem, one in which all of the words are shown in a line going straight down, rather than the conventional straight across method. The poem spells out the phrase “l(a leaffa ll s)onel iness” which is essentially saying “l(a leaf falls)oneliness”. This phrase is using the phrase “a leaf falls” and placing it within the word “loneliness”. The parenthetical is cleverly placed so that numerous ideas relating to the theme of loneliness are displayed.

        First the “l” at the beginning looks much like the number 1, which is commonly and logically known as the loneliest number that there ever was. The poem continues through the parenthetical, not placing more than two letters in any one given line and placing the spaces irrationally. This serves to relate the loneliness of each line to an overall idea of disorder and chaos. This idea is contrary to the general beliefs that loneliness means a desolate and dejected solitude. After the parenthesis the poem finishes the word loneliness with the words one, l, and iness showing that loneliness is singularity and one-ness.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

External Structure(Sonnet) 2: Autumnal Sonnet

“Autumnal Sonnet”

-William Allingham


Now Autumn's fire burns slowly along the woods,

And day by day the dead leaves fall and melt,

And night by night the monitory blast

Wails in the key-hold, telling how it pass'd

O'er empty fields, or upland solitudes,

Or grim wide wave; and now the power is felt

Of melancholy, tenderer in its moods

Than any joy indulgent summer dealt.

Dear friends, together in the glimmering eve,

Pensive and glad, with tones that recognise

The soft invisible dew in each one's eyes,

It may be, somewhat thus we shall have leave

To walk with memory,--when distant lies

Poor Earth, where we were wont to live and grieve.


This sonnet is in Petrarchan form. The poem, like my first choice, is split into two parts. The first being the initial eight lines of the poem, and the second being the final six lines.

The first section of this poem deals with autumn as a season and what comes with it. It discusses how with autumn the leaves fall and die and how the mood of the Earth shifts from the “indulgent summer” to a “melancholy, tenderer in its moods”. This section delineates autumn as a very negative time of year. This is odd as usually winter is the archetype for death, but here autumn is the source of all the despair and the dead leave’s melting. The speaker seems to be suggesting that the fear surrounding death is actually within the precursor to death and not death itself. It is knowing that death is coming that frightens us, and not death itself.

In the second part the speaker addresses his readers and talks about facing the horrors ahead (winter). He talks about the coming winter and how earth will not live through it. It is revealed that the earth is in its autumn, and that winter is around the corner. The speaker is trying to ready his audience so that they can be prepared for the end and “walk with memory”.

External Structure(Sonnet) 1: Mother Night

"Mother Night"

-James Weldon Johnson

Eternities before the first-born day,

Or ere the first sun fledged his wings of flame,

Calm Night, the everlasting and the same,

A brooding mother over chaos lay.

And whirling suns shall blaze and then decay,

Shall run their fiery courses and then claim

The haven of the darkness whence they came;

Back to Nirvanic peace shall grope their way.  


So when my feeble sun of life burns out,

And sounded is the hour for my long sleep,

I shall, full weary of the feverish light,

Welcome the darkness without fear or doubt,

And heavy-lidded, I shall softly creep

Into the quiet bosom of the Night.


This poem is a variation of the Italian sonnet form. It is split into two stanzas, an octet and a sestet. While in the octet the author describes the general existence of light and the stars and their course of living, in the sestet he delves into an analysis of his own “feeble sun”.

The first half or so of the octet set the scene for the rest of the poem. These lines discuss the beginning of time, before the suns and stars had shapes and forms. It talks about when there was merely light among a sea of chaos. The last half of the stanza discusses the death of these stars. It talks about how after stars have “run their fiery course”, they go into the night never to be seen again. This parallels the circle of life in how the stars, after coming out of the night, return to it with their death. In this way, the speaker shows how life passes through a structural metaphor of stars and suns. He then uses the next stanza to explain how he will face the last half of his octet.

The speaker now compares himself to the stars and suns in the sky and realizes that when it is his time to disappear into the night he will accept death as his destiny and return to whence he came. Actually, the "feverish light" that he mentions as his own life makes it seem that he will be tired and ready to go, “weary” from his long journey through the sky. The speaker is not afraid of death, but seemingly this is only in the context of having a full and satiating life.