Poems have natural elements that stay the same no matter what you do. The words move from left to right and the lines go from top to bottom. Of course you can change this and make any kind of poem you want, one that goes backward, forward, or makes alphabet soup on the page or screen. But, for the most part, the basic elements of a poem stay the same each time you start to create a new work.
Everyone knows that the last word of each line gets special emphasis by the reader, no matter what enjambment you use. Everyone also knows that first lines and last lines enjoy a greater punch just by being there. These are basic elements that every poet learns to use, almost by instinct.
But what about other "elemental" elements of a poem? Are there aspects that get less attention than first words and last lines, but are just as powerful?
In fact, there are quite a number of these basic elements that you can use to empower your poems.
I'm only going to talk about one in this post and that's the downward motion of a poem. Virtually every poem in English moves from the top to bottom and you can (and should) use this natural motion to you advantage.
One perfect example of this is the poem I talked about in yesterday's post, Plath's "Black Rook in Rainy Weather." The poem starts with the speaker looking up in a hopeful way, and then, as the lines fall down, the speaker looks inward to doubt and hesitation, sweeping back up (slightly) at the close to find a sprig of hope.
Another really short poem that uses the downward motion of a poem well is: "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks, with the lines literally burying the guys in the poem and leaving a tombstone to them.
Another great example is "Apple Picking" by Robert Frost -- where the poem becomes a ladder to memory and dreams. And yet another , rather spectacular, example is Hart Crane's "Atlantis." That one's dynamiter though so be very careful!
And last, but certainly not least, I'd like to mention Anne Sexton's poem, "The Ambition Bird" which is about the struggle to contain and release artistic ambition. You can see how she uses the downward climb of the poem yourself -- it's heart wrenching.
The point is: the downward climb of a poem is there whether you like it or not; it's part of your poem's expression whether you want it or not. So your best bet is to let the natural gravity of a poem, it's innate fall from imagination to "paper" be your inspiration and your guide.
Meanwhile, if you'd like some help with editing or polishing your poems, or you just want some feedback for them, reach out to me @ firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com or use one of the buttons below.
Also, check out my 7 Secrets of Poetry guide available now!