Is Poetry a Puzzle? (Or is it Legos?)

I’ve been trying to visualize poetry, specifically writing poetry, in order to make it accessible for non-poets or those who are afraid of poetry. What is the right (or at least a decent) metaphor that is simple but contains enough complexity and nuance to explain the genre? I want my family and friends to be able to enjoy poetry without feeling intimidated. My solution is Legos.

Originally when I visualized writing poetry, I used to think of it as a jigsaw puzzle. The individual parts help create the whole picture; but, I realized that jigsaw puzzles are rigid and constricting. You can’t move the pieces around (like moving around images or lines during revision). In addition, jigsaw puzzles are flat and it didn’t capture the life and three-dimensional quality that really good poetry creates; therefore, puzzles fail. And instead, I determined that poetry (at least for me) is Legos.

Legos encapsulate the fluidity and dynamism in poetry. They continuously change with our culture; the Lego creators come out with new packs reflecting a current trend and retiring older ones. With Legos you can build almost anything: towers, houses, Millennium Falcons, and more. The builder, the poet, takes these Legos—words—and can create anything of the aforementioned or something new. It’s pretty astounding what people can do with language; there are new words being added to the dictionary every year and our language is constantly developing which helps us build off of past traditions (sort of like the new Lego packs).

I feel like Legos work well to explain how poetry is created because Legos, like language, are flexible to work with. Say for instance you want to build a simple bridge. There are instructions with specific guidelines you can follow to make this bridge—this is like traditional poetry with set rhyme schemes and meter. But you have flexibility even within this form: if you want a blue and purple bridge instead of the suggested grey one, you can follow the guidelines but modernize it at the same time (like new formalism). The form is your guide but the content is new.

Or you can decide to throw aside the instructions and build a bride that doesn’t have a traditional form—maybe it twists, maybe it’s fragmented in areas, but you can still build a functional Lego bridge. The previous foundation of bridge building allowed you to try to break the form and try something different. This method is similar to free verse poetry. I could continue to relate Legos to different types of poetry but a reader can understand the general comparison.

What’s important about this comparison is that anyone can try to build a Lego bridge: all you need are the bricks. Your bridge may be rudimentary but it’s still fun to try or least gain an appreciation for these structures. And if you’re really passionate about Legos and have a good eye, you can hone your craft until you’re building the Golden Gate Bridge or the Notre Dame.

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