Archive for November, 2012

What is a poem?

November 14, 2012


Yes, it’s

‘a piece of writing arranged in patterns of lines and of sounds which often rhyme, expressing thoughts, emotions and experiences in words that excite your imagination.’  Longman (1995) ‘Dictionary of Contemporary English’


Then we have particular types like ‘free verse’, and ‘blank verse’.


Free verse is ‘poetry that does not have a fixed structure’ (Longman (1995) ‘Dictionary of Contemporary English’


and blank verse is ‘poetry that has a fixed rhythm but does not rhyme: Shakespeare’s blank verse’   Longman (1995) ‘Dictionary of Contemporary English’


When a dear friend passed away, I felt moved to write a ‘poem’.  I believe it is a poem in the true sense of the word.


The poem is as follows:


One click of a camera’s eye captures her:

the girl from the land of sweet-scented silver birch.

Dappled leaves fluttering in pale wide skies,

a flat land; a wooded land that lies

between lake upon lake.

A solitary green snake

slips into cool pools of darkness.

Stark contrasts: boiling saunas, icy pools, stark naked!

Rustic everyday things: wooden platters, garden peppermint tea

Summers of lazy games: croquet, tennis, mah jong, moments free

to lie beside her pond of great crested newts to doze and dream,

soulful themes drift from her piano keys

while she, creates her own percussion,

clattering pots and pans, getting the tea.

A hammock fixed between the heavy limbs of an ancient tree.

A bright yellow sports car streaks

through the village streets;

the soft air of her cosy cabin

filled for a moment with the babble

of voices among

friends who speak the smooth rhythms of her native tongue.

This is the language of Soili.’


The patterns of lines and of sounds in my case express single ideas and/or thoughts that often rhyme within the line or from one line to the next. The patterns are not strict – they are dictated by the sounds, the idea and even the different rhythms of the chosen words, phrases and or ideas.

I asked a fellow poet to comment on my poem and he said he did not like the way it moved from inside to outside and back again. He wanted more consistency. I agreed, but then – I was trying to reflect what one thinks when one is at a funeral wake, remembering an individual and maybe one’s thoughts do wander, which is what I was trying to represent i.e. random memories.

Then, he said he did not like the idea of free verse and rhyming combined. I should do one or the other. I asked another friend about this and she said she thought that Shakespeare combined both free verse and rhyming.


So I looked up his sonnets.


In sonnet 1V I read:


‘Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend

Upon thyself they beauty’s legacy?

Nature’s bequest gives nothing, but doth lend

And, being frank, she lends to those are free.’ Spring Books ‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare’


This does seem to be ‘free’ verse in one sense. It’s very hard to say to lines to a strict rhythm – and yet it rhymes as well.   What do you think?