Sketching Structure and Form: The Bridge Between Content

Although slightly different when it comes to poetry, form exists across all artistic disciplines. Form is structure, history, and ultimately, foundation for artistic expression.

While form works more obviously in the aforementioned ways, form is also (and perhaps most importantly) freedom for both the writer and the reader.

If a poet recognizes that the content of their poem will consider some cyclic aspect of nature or life, perhaps they will opt for a villanelle as form. In the same way, a sculptor may use ice if they want their piece to reflect on the temporality of their subject. In this way, form informs content and has an inseparable bond with the latter.

Imagine an artist throws their material of choice on a table. That’s a first draft of form, a preliminary decision, now there are limitations as to what they can do, but also options. Wood cannot become clay, much like a sonnet cannot become a sestina (or can it?). This wood can be a chair, a table, or a frame, and the poem works fairly similarly, but with even more flexibility. For the reader’s sake, form offers familiarity and accessibility.

In my poetry, I start by drawing sketches. Gathering words, forming a shape, looking for form with lines, shadow, texture (comparable to line breaks, metaphor, repetition). Then I do it again and again, slowly painting over the phrases that continue to stick out and nurturing the words that hold the core of my poem’s purpose. When the poem starts to take shape, I decide on form and refine my poem within the parameters of the form and if everything goes right, I get out my best pen and high quality paper and I write towards my poem’s final form.

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