I have rather mixed feelings about form poetry.
That and meter, rhyme scheme, and everything else. Shaped poems, too, like the ones that come in the shape of a star or a Christmas tree or a heart. The ones that form words with the first letter of each line, which I can’t remember the name of.
See, when many people think of poetry, they do indeed think of form poetry, usually sonnets, limericks, haiku, and the common ababcdcd rhyme schemes. And meter. Don’t forget the meter. They usually believe that a poem has to rhyme to be a poem, that it needs to have meter, to be a poem. That’s why few people actually write poetry: they’re under the misconception that it is a creative form without a….er, creative form, if you will.
Here’s where my mixed feelings come in. They’re based around what poetry is, in my mind: poetry. A lyrical, beautiful arrangement of words that is effective and powerful through word choice and line breaks. A metaphor. A simile. Any kind of “poetic” arrangement of words. (Doesn’t “A sodden blue towel” sound more poetic than “a wet towel?”) It also depends upon the context and phrases with multiple meanings. A way of storytelling, too.
The even more confusing part is that form poetry is beautiful to me! It seems, to me as well, like “real” poetry (as if there was such a thing. Psh!). To say such a thing while confined to such a strict form! Ah-mayzing! I have a friend who writes unique and fun poetry in her own style, in perfect rhyme, on impeccable meter. On the drop of a pin (sort of. Doesn’t it sound awe-inspiring, fellow poets?).
Yes, form poetry is beautiful. I personally have a hard time writing it, but that’s what makes it so beautiful! So much effort goes into form poetry, and to write in it without sounding like a dying cow or a two year old spewing random and flat words (words that are “dead”, that aren’t powerful, like say and do and all sorts of simple words like that which are not poetic at awl)…that’s what makes the good feeling from me towards form poetry.
Form poetry can sometimes have a lot more impact than free-verse. Like this one:
Succulent droplets of broth and flavor run
Over my tongue, delicious,
Until its scorching heat forces me to swallow, lest I have a cinder for tasting with.
Plop! Spoon back for more.
You’ve got to think more about your subject when you use form poetry. You can’t just spit out random ideas. It’s sort of like making an outline of your poem before you write it, getting down what you want to say.
Personally, I’m a little against that kind of planning before a poem. It used to be that I would get my idea straight and dive headfirst into the pool of words, following my feelings. Often, I wouldn’t dare edit a poem I’d written because the words chosen at writing are sacred and must remain the way they were, lest I contaminate the meaning (Stories would be harshly edited. Poetry, the punishment for the crime is burning at the stake.) Slowly I’m coming to realize that poetry isn’t just that flurry of words coming out of the firehose-like pencil. Nearly every poem has a point where I struggled for a phrase or word and shoved in a make-do replacement so I could move on. I’ve realized that poetry isn’t just working with a moment.
Poetry…I’m still quite muddled about that. Is it following the emotion of a moment, like I do when I write many of my free-verse? Is it taking absolute meticulousness (is that a word?) over the choice of a word?
Or is it both?
The world of poets may never know.