Hello. I'm Donn Taylor, here again to talk about poetry writing and ways to achieve the "higher voltage" that distinguishes poetry from most prose. We've talked about putting strong words in emphatic places, use of images, and a little bit about figurative language. On my last blog we began talking about ways to organize a poem. Those ways are infinite, of course, so we'll confine ourselves to some of the most common, and we'll deal only with lyric poetry (poetry that expresses the poet's thoughts or emotions). As before, I compare a short poem to a paragraph: it has a main idea that may be stated or unstated, and everything in the poem points to or develops that one idea.

            In past blogs, we’ve talked about organizing a poem around a single striking figure of speech or around an analogy that often moves from concrete to abstract. A poem can also celebrate or interpret an event, as in this poem by Richard Lovelace (1618-1658). Lovelace organizes his poem in three quatrains. The first states the situation, his leaving his mistress in order to go to war. The second introduces the metaphor of war as the new mistress. The third uses paradox to explain why the change of mistresses is not an act of unfaithfulness.


            To Lucasta, Going to the Wars


            Tell me not, sweet, I am unkind

            That from the nunnery

            Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind,

            To war and arms I fly.


            True, a new mistress now I chase,

            The first foe in the field;

            And with a stronger faith embrace

            A sword, a horse, a shield.


            Yet this inconstancy is such

            As you too shall adore;

            I could not love thee, dear, so much,

            Loved I not honor more.


            Another method is to employ commonplace things in a new combination. Recently in the journal First Things, Jack Butler wrote a sonnet in which he dreamed he was Superman defeated by kryptonite. And one can present an old idea with a new significance. Also in First Things, Amit Majmudar gave a new application to Archimedes’ idea of the lever. In that poem, Jerusalem becomes the fulcrum and the Cross is the lever that moves the world.

            Yet one more method is to put a new twist on a well-known line, thought, or cliché, as I do in this limerick about a disappointing professional basketball team.




            Their light show comes on with a rush

            And a trumpeted promise to crush;

            But with old talents molding

            And fourth-quarter folding,

            The Rockets’ red glare is a blush.


            As I stated, the ways to organize a poem are limited only by the poet’s imagination. In our next blog we’ll look at ways the poet can make his poems different from most others.

2 thoughts on “Poetry Basics: Organizing the Poem III

Eliabeth Baker

May 18, 2012 - 10 : 40 : 47

Thanks for sharing your skills and insights. I like your blog and always learn.


Donn Taylor

June 12, 2012 - 12 : 29 : 02

Thank you, Elizabeth. It’s good to know that someone actually reads these things. Blessings,


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