On Poetry, In Time

Poetry’s ability to move through time, including the future, has always amazed me. I’ve noticed poets experimenting with tenses, form, and narratives in order to do so, and it’s inspired me to the same. I’m always conscious of my tenses when writing prose (as I feel one should be) but in my poetry, it usually comes naturally. Tenses are particularly important to me because it eliminates confusion for the reader (and I’ve caught myself messing them up sometimes). In terms of form, I’ve never branched out into innovative forms of verse but I would love to one day (if anyone has suggestions on how to approach poetic form that works with time, let a girl know!). But, of course, my favorite way in which writers play with time in poetry is with narratives. The voice of poem can range from a present day news reporter to a WWI doctor. The moment narrative voice is identified, the reader already has a sense of where on the fabric of time they have landed.

2 Replies to “On Poetry, In Time”

  1. I’d love to see you explore this more, both as reader and writer. Take some poems you’re enjoying and track their tenses: literally annotate each moment tense comes up to see how they move within time, even slightly (there are different types of past tense, for instance). Then try to emulate that in your writing, or else to use tense as a way to revise a poem (what happens if you take a poem you like but which isn’t quite working and then make it a really different tense, putting into the future, etc.?).

    I’m not sure tense is governed by form; it’s something that can change within any form. However, what often can work with tense changes is a shift within form, so you might think about how white space, for instance, could allow you to shift from one tense to another. Happy to talk more about this in office hours!

  2. I agree that tense comes naturally in poetry. Only once did I have to pay attention to the tense that I was writing in because I had combined two different poems and they didn’t match. I think a good way to start experimenting with different forms of poetry is to write one in the style of another poet. This could be a terrible suggestion for all I know, I will preface with the fact that I myself have not had much experience with writing poetry other than on my own, but I know that in music composition courses, in order to learn and understand classical music, you will be tasked with arranging a few measures in the style of a certain composer. I think that perhaps imitating or breaking down some of these poems that spike your interest could help you understand how the poets did that they did and then allow you to form your own poem/preferred style out of it.

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