Poetry is an art form that everyone can read, but all may not understand it right away. The way in which poetry is phrased, constructed, and handled is different from the ways writers will create and mold their stories. This isn’t to say that poetry is an isolated art form to a select group, but instead is something that can be looked upon and interpreted in a multitude of ways. Such an aspect creates an open door for anyone wanting to step into the world of poetry and get a better understanding from either the reader's point of view, the poet's point of view, or both perspectives. The first step into the world of poetry is to understand the type, the style, of poetry that speaks the most to them.
There is no set length on how long, or how short, a poem needs to be. The length can determine the style a person would be interested in. Now, I won’t be covering every single type of poem, but I will be covering some of the well-known types that will cover different lengths and styles. For those who enjoy short pieces, a haiku would be a nice place to start. A haiku is typically three lines that follow a format of 5-7-5 for the syllables of the words that are used. With such a length it is easy to read right through them, but they can also offer insight even at such a length. When looking for longer pieces, sonnets and dramatic monologues are some examples of mid-length poems. While sonnets follow a fourteen-line rhyming scheme, a dramatic monologue is written in first person and has the poet take on a person, or role, that is not them. Poems like these, and of similar length, offer a greater depth of the world through a variety of lenses. The depth sometimes even dips into the world of the “other,” those who are not us, which offer things we as readers and/or poets may have never imagined. Lastly, if you’re looking for a story, but still in the realms of poetry, the concept of epics and mock epics is where you will feel comfortable. Epics tell the story of hero’s and their adventures while mock epics tell stories of comedy, and they are written in great lengths with such examples as Beowulf as an epic or Don Juan as a mock epic. Poetry comes in all shapes and sizes, and once a reader or poet finds what they enjoy then it comes down to word choice and how they wish to use it.
Wordplay, in my opinion, is the part of poetry that makes it fun. Poetry relies on more than just the structure of the words, but also how they are used and sounds. A previous type of poetry that was mentioned, a sonnet, is a good example of how the wordplay of a piece is going to sound. Rhyming, a repetition of similar or same sounds, is considered pleasing to some poets/readers, which furthers along the refinement of what type of poetry they are interested in. Poetry isn’t just about how it is written, but also how it is read out loud which is why some will enjoy the rhythmic patterns that particular poems will offer. The other style of wordplay that I have previously mentioned, when describing haiku’s, is when the wordplay is based on the syllables of the words being used. At times poets will use certain phrases within their works that when read over may appear “off” or “unexpected” because there are different variations that could have been used, but there is a reason for it. One reason could be that the poet had wished to imply multiple meanings because of how they worded their piece, and another reason would be that the piece is following a pattern, similar to rhyming poems, that is based more on the syllables of words and not if they sound similar. Wordplay is the second main aspect of poetry, besides the style that they come in, and they are used to help poets/readers find their comfort zone within the realm of poetry; however, sometimes even with these two aspects at their disposal the answer isn’t always clear. There is one part of poetry that I have yet to talk about; free verse.
What happens when a poet can’t decide what style they wish to write in? How they want to handle their wordplay? This is where free verse comes into play. Free verse has no limit; hence the “free” in free verse. There is no set length or style that a poet has to follow when it comes to free verse. This type of poetry offers a gateway to a vast land for the imagination for the poet, which in turn offers much to the reader. In my opinion, free verse is where I think a beginning poet should begin with their work. No need to set up barriers and restrictions at the beginning of their poetry career whether it be as an actual career or a means of entertainment.
From my own experiences, I started out in free verse and often remain as a free verse poet. After a while the structure of the poem flowed naturally. It has become as easy as breathing for me. Sometimes, when writing, the poem will take on a style or a certain variation of wordplay that is well-known. Other times I enjoy a challenge and will attempt to write a few pieces in a certain style. Its relieving and a means to express things even when the words don’t always make sense, but that is the best part of poetry. Poetry is an art form, a craft, that will take on many forms and variations becoming a means of entering a world of unlimited possibilities with the ability to express oneself however they wish. As for the reader, reading poetry brings about a new world of the unknown. Each piece could be filled with one meaning, multiple meanings, or even no meaning but instead is just a stream of thought from the poet. Poetry is a wonderful art form that everyone should get into whether it be reading it, writing it, or both.
Christopher J. Enos
Grub Street Poetry Team Member
Image Source: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/the-magnetic-heart-1252781
The image above is "Flight" by Gillian Collins.