Thoughts on Form in Poetry/Reaction to Szirtes’s reading


Form is an adhesive element to the larger whole of a poem, for it microphones literary meaning and experience from within its vessel.  While there is a good mix of white and black, more often than not it is the white spaces that echo the song of poetry than anything else.  This is something I’ve become more and more aware of as I’ve developed as a person and as a writer, and it’s definitely something I want to learn how to control more.

I’ve always found a certain delight in manipulating line breaks, spaces, punctuation, and rhyme to change the way a poem is mentally read and received by the reader, and to alter the emotionality and experience the poem offers to its readers. I’m certainly into delving into this and uncovering new techniques for formatting poetry.

In George Szirtes’s prose piece, “Formal Wear,” he addresses various features of importance to poetic form. I appreciated his admirably approach to unclothing the sentence—how the sentence carries the most responsibility within the machinery of the whole piece—both sound, meter, rhyme, word choice, flow, and various other intricate gears and screws of writing are the bulk of what gives a sentence its meaning, its voice—but that, according to Szirtes, “the line will make its own music too, with or without instruments” (3).

I am a big believer in having poems accessible enough to the readers in such a way that it is the form itself which invites the reader into the poem, to encounter a realization entirely personal to that individual being. In the same way, the sentences or lines crafted by poets are what allow this process to happen, by first enticing their own ghosts to enter into the house created.

Language, to Szirtes, is “a product of the imagination,” and there is something to be said for the specific or vague images created by the poem holding more meaning because structure triumphs over chaos and meaninglessness (2).  It is in this statement that I align myself most, because this is the mindset I tend to have when rereading my work or thinking about my writing/editing process. I like to think that the white space on a page can sometimes speak the most to the reader. There is something to be said, or echoed in the empty spaces that fill a page of poetry, specifically the places in between lines or between stanzas. These are the places that have come to be the most important to me, chosen with careful fingers and conscious thought.

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