I was inspired to try out shape poetry when our class turned in poems with unconventional formats- I had always used the done-to-death format of a flat wall of text . The idea that words should reflect what they mean isn’t new at all, but I’ve never tried it before and I’m still spit-balling ideas even after writing Eye of Time. I was looking for inspiration during drafting, and came across the shape poetry of E. E. Cummings. I’m sure you all are familiar with his work: it’s plastered all over the web. Here’s “A Leaf Falls on Loneliness.”
Here, Cummings uses a vertical line to denote the falling of leaves to the ground- as the the leaves fall, the words fall with them. It’s a beautifully simple poem that is also a profound turn away from the timeless format.
There are a lot of ways you could take more than just circles or vertical lines. Imagine, poems in the shape of an infinity symbol. Poems in fractal shapes, or even poems made from word clouds- like those ones you see in graphic design- to reflect chaos, disorder. I’ve seen a few word clouds that use shapes to convey a person or object- and the words in the cloud give them supplementary meaning while the shape itself gives the poem context- much like a title traditionally word. I think calling word clouds poetry is a stretch, but the format would lend itself incredibly easily to the workshop. What does bother me, though, are the examples of shape poetry I found while researching this that didn’t try to use the format to say anything. Shape poetry that just constructed the outline of a cat, or a boot, or whatever. They looked nice, sure, but I felt like the authors could have done more to stretch that incredible idea further.