Misconceptions of Structured Poetry

Misconceptions of Structured Poetry

A Chapter by William Liston
"

includes a few words on free verse too

"


Disclaimer: This is not meant to insult free verse poets in any way. Please read to the very end.  

 

In my time here on the cafe, I've come across many poets who prefer free verse over structured poetry. Of course, there's nothing wrong with this, but I find that such a preference is often accompanied by a few misconceptions regarding structured poetry. Thought I'd address a few:   

 

1. It Takes Away a Poet's Uniqueness  

No, it doesn't. Structured verse actually allows more uniqueness by providing a variety of options for a writer to choose from. One who has mastered a structured form can easily add his or her own unique touch. Compare the elegant words of "Woodsprite" by Richard Jenkins* to the more neurotic ones of "Mad Girl's Love Song" by Sylvia Plathboth are villanelles, but both retain a uniqueness in style and expression completely distinct from one another.   

  

2. It Causes Poets to Force Their Words To the Form  

Like any craft, skill in poetry requires practice, dedication, time, and effort. Mastery of a structured form may cause one to force their words at first, but this shouldn't keep one from composing in it. Would it make sense to quit basketball after performing poorly at the first practice? Would it make sense to quit writing if your first effort produced a not-so-desirable result? Of course not. Even writing free verse for the first time can be difficult. Structured poetry, like any craft, has difficulties that one must overcome, but that doesn't make it an unworthy pursuit.   

  

3. It's OldMost Poets Use Free Verse  

This one's somewhat true. The majority of poems composed nowadays are written in free verse. That, however, doesn't make it unimportant. Most (or perhaps all) accomplished poets of the modern age use the conventions of rhythm and meter in free verse. Walt Whitman, sometimes called the "father of free verse,"* was perfectly competent in structured forms (read "O Captain My Captain"). I doubt his free verse would have been so rhythmical if he weren't. Billy Collins, another well-known poet who typically writes in free verse, once advised poets to study the origins of poetry, claiming that it causes one to "internalize the rhythms of English verse."* Sylvia Plath also composed in structured forms. Along with the villanelle mentioned earlier, she wrote two loose interpretations of the terza rima: "Sow" and "The Pheasant."* 

  

4. Why Worry About StructureIt's the Message that Matters.  

The message does matter, but the way you convey that message is equally (if not more) important. When used properly, structured forms can enhance a poem's message. For example, in Paul Laurence Dunbar's "We Wear the Mask," the repetition (characteristic of the rondeau form) emphasizes the poem's theme of hidden emotion. Dorothy Parker's "Resume" owes much of its ironically lighthearted tone to its bouncy rhythm and rhyme. Forms such as the villanelle and kyrielle are great for emphasizing particular expressions, while forms such as the limerick and senryu are great for lighthearted verse. In short, there's a form to fit virtually any mood, tone, impact, ect. a poet is going for.

  

5. Structured Poetry Isn't Natural  

Poetry itself, whether it be free verse or structured verse, isn't natural. It isn't natural to speak in metaphor or imagery, but that doesn't make a poem any less beautiful. The beauty of any art is in how it makes unnatural modes of expression seem second nature. To master a craft is to take the craft and make it natural. Being that it's like this in every art-form, it puzzles me why anyone would use this argument against structured poetry.  

 

Author's Comment: If you choose to write in free verse because it's your preferred style, that's perfectly fine, but don't let any of the above reasons keep you from writing structured poetry, especially if you enjoy reading it. The same goes for poets who only use structured verse ... writing unstructured poetry has its benefits. Give it a try.  

 

For those who think that free verse is merely random, unorganized thoughts: It's not. Writing free verse is like playing the pianoit's easy to do, but difficult to master. Free verse offers a totally different set of challenges than structured verse: one must work to find their own form and their own rhythm and make it work to express a thought. Just as anyone can jot a few rhyming words on the page and call it a structured poem, anyone can write a few disjointed lines and call it free verse. It takes true skill to write something that gives the reader an emotional experience, no matter what style of poetry you use. 

 

"Woodspriteby Richard Jenkins: http://www.writerscafe.org/writing/RichardJ/1584637/ 

 

Personally, I consider Walt Whitman one of the most musical free verse poets I've ever read … the man had a great ear for rhythm. 

 

* A link to the Billy Collins' interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eP9reBY7EwM


* I say "loose" interpretation because Plath uses many consonant and slant rhymes throughout.






© 2017 William Liston



Author's Note

William Liston
Something I thought I'd share ... all opinions are welcomed in the review section.
Constructive criticism is welcomed and encouraged.
Feel free to point out typos ... I'm sure there are some I missed.
Any more misconceptions you can think of? Tell me about them. I may add to this.

My Review

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Featured Review

Your write is enlightening and I agree with every word of what you have written. As far as the soul of of the work is concerned that comes out better and beautifully in structured poetry for me. I agree with your fifth point even more.
But, for me every art work is a creation in itself with some emotion or beauty or thought. So being pro or against doesn't sound sound to me. As beings, we all are unique so I respect people's preferences equally.
I appreciate your effort for removing certain misconceptions that some have against structured work. So thank you for writing and sharing this write.
P.S. I myself love reading and writing different forms and for me, all are equally challenging and enjoyable including the free verse.


Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

William Liston

5 Months Ago

It was a pleasure, Bala.
Thank you for reviewing and sharing your thoughts.

I .. read more
Bala Gorthi

5 Months Ago

You are welcome William.
You are right.I just realise that yes, you are right. It depends on.. read more



Reviews

I always find funny when people point out on free poetry like on something what is not worth it. We have free poetry here almost hundred years . But I find it here so many old mind writers who even know who was Charles Baudeilere or Boris Vian. I try explain why i chose to write in free verse. When i wrote it in old classic rhyme style stanza. I find my writing is like poetry for kids , i lost what i want to try to say. I copy myself i was really confuse . Then I read it Sylvia Plath poems. I saw there is meaning and there is freedom . There is everything what i search for. I don't mean this is best style what you can get. But it's best style for me. Each person have own ways. We should respect that. Little open are stoned mine and try see something good in what we don't like .




Bad reviews are important like raining in New Patagonia . IRISH MURDOCH.

Posted 1 Month Ago


As a writer and avid reader of free verse I enjoyed this very much. Your points are dead-on.

Posted 2 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

William Liston

2 Months Ago

Thank you for stopping by, Stanley.
William Liston,
"Misconceptions of structure.."
Your analysis of poetry was so good for me! You know the enjoyment of pondering life and trying to be in its beauty has been so nice. Getting these things on a page is rewarding and enjoyable.
The list of input you gave in this one was educational and motivational. As time goes by I can continue to learn.
Thanks so much for your teaching.
Blessings, Kathy

Posted 4 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

William Liston

4 Months Ago

Thank you for your kind words, Kathy. I'm glad you could find this enlightening!
"...it's easy to do, but difficult to master." Just told another poet on this site whose free verse poetic tutorial on how to write free verse was enlightening - and equally frightening! Many try, but I've only read a few who have mastered this "non-form" form. I will leave it to those who minds wax in more poetic language than my own. I have learned, since I've been here, how to recognize you masters of language and abstract thought. I'll be looking up the works you cite, and looking up "kyrielle" and "villanelle". Your words are encouraging to one who might want to try their hand...I will wait...and learn. Thank you for a clear and direct lecture.

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

William Liston

5 Months Ago

I'm glad this could be enlightening to you, Carol.
I agree with what you've said: only few ca.. read more
Ok guilty as charged,
I bow my head in shame
knowing fellow poets
look at me in scorn.
But bless me Father
for I have sinned.
I have tried and tried
to write, construct
and offer structured poetry
but I have slipped
back into the mortal
sinner's realm
of words spewed
in open emotion
upon the page.
no rhyme, no reason
simply a heart and mind
where tight form
is de rigeur.
Where my simple heart
cannot express
so freely
in the chains of form.

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

J. J.  Nightingale

5 Months Ago

You are welcome...
William Liston

5 Months Ago

We poets are a special breed -
to each his unique way.
Some splatter thoughts upon the.. read more
John Alexander McFadyen

5 Months Ago

Applause!.........
Your write is enlightening and I agree with every word of what you have written. As far as the soul of of the work is concerned that comes out better and beautifully in structured poetry for me. I agree with your fifth point even more.
But, for me every art work is a creation in itself with some emotion or beauty or thought. So being pro or against doesn't sound sound to me. As beings, we all are unique so I respect people's preferences equally.
I appreciate your effort for removing certain misconceptions that some have against structured work. So thank you for writing and sharing this write.
P.S. I myself love reading and writing different forms and for me, all are equally challenging and enjoyable including the free verse.


Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

William Liston

5 Months Ago

It was a pleasure, Bala.
Thank you for reviewing and sharing your thoughts.

I .. read more
Bala Gorthi

5 Months Ago

You are welcome William.
You are right.I just realise that yes, you are right. It depends on.. read more
Most poets today write free verse, which is open to pattern and is recognized as nonconforming and rhymeless verse. If you are looking for free verse examples, then Walt Whitman is your guy. He is known as the father of free verse English poetry. (And other examples are the King James Bible version of The Psalms and The Song of Solomon)
Other various forms of avant-garde poetry related to free verse are surrealism, concrete, and language poetry.
Formal poetry or metrical verse follows “rules” regarding stanza length and meter or rhyme patterns. There are several traditional, commonly-known types of formal poetry.
I believe if it’s good – the composition will succeed or fail by the merits of the written work. Both styles are ‘gems’ in their own right.
That's for the share William ... !

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

William Liston

5 Months Ago

Thank you for sharing your insight, and I agree, both styles of poetry are "gems" in their own right.. read more
Hi William. I really like how you try and educate us about the importance of knowing structured poetry more and be aware of its good side in improving our skills and techniques as aspiring poets. I think you discussed all of them very well and I do not have anything to add. As for me, I am afraid to try structured poetry before because I am afraid to commit mistakes as I believe it should be perfect and all. Then I realized, free verse is just the same as that. It is just all about knowledge, passion and commitment that one pours out into poetry. Poetry deserves to be discovered and studied more and more from history to present. :)

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

William Liston

5 Months Ago

It seems that you've grasped the purposes of this write quite well.
Thank you for reviewing a.. read more
CAPOLAVORO

5 Months Ago

You are very much welcome. :)
William, I agree with everything you've said here. 
I think there are two kinds of poets. One writes for himself. The other writes for the reader. I think they disagree a lot. Haha

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

J. J.  Nightingale

5 Months Ago

angry buddha guy..... I AGREE TOTALLY !!!!!!!
mattavelli

5 Months Ago

Really, an infantile w***e?
J. J.  Nightingale

5 Months Ago

LOL...................

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William Liston
William Liston

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Get your own valid XHTML YouTube embed code I'm an amateur poet who's been writing for about three and a half years. Some of my influences include Edgar Alla.. more..

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