A Question for Poets Who Blog Visitors

First, a big thank you to Poets Who Blog for their kind attention.

The question: if you read through this blog a while you will notice that recently there are three types of poems: those represented by the prose pieces like "Three Years August", the shorter-lined and more kinetic (as one reader noted) works like "Fireworks Suddenly", "Vita Brevis" or "Blinded by Sunrise", and a slightly more lyrical tone of poems like "Its After The End of the World", "Survey of 20th Century Poetry".

And a second question: when I come back and read my work here, I think my own efforts to force myself into a line of a fix number of stresses or syllables in a line doesn't work that well. I read them in my head differently than they present on the page, and I think that if I broke up that artificial structure a person casually stumbling in here might hear the poem in their own head more as I hear it in mind.

An example:

First, the current version of a bit of Blinded by Sunrise, stuffed into a syllabic line count

It’s like this: I’ve had just enough of a taste
Of your words that I’m haunted like a man
In love who’s suddenly not sure where
His next drink’s coming from, except
It's not from her. She's up and left.

Then consider:

It’s like this:
I’ve had just enough of a taste Of your words
that I’m haunted like a man In love
who’s suddenly not sure
where His next drink’s coming from, except
It's not from her. She's up and left.

If you have any ideas on that, I would love to hear them

And as the note as the side says, kind words are always welcome and real criticism is hard work but thoughtful critiques are always welcome on this journal.

Thanks for stopping by, and thank you to Writerwoman for the PoetsWhoBlog site and her own kind words that brought you here.


Constance said...

You're never going to be able to control the reader's interpretation... unless you read it to them. :) Even with your changes I'm still going to read it in my own weird way.

I read the first line the same in either version, so having a line break doesn't matter, the colon is a hard stop to me.

I like the second version better, but I would still break it differently if it were my poem. I would make it more vertical, with shorter lines, to force the reader to slow down. "She's up and left' deserves its own line to me...

S.L. Corsua said...

Hullo. I'd like to share my humble input: Either version works for me. The first is fluid, thus bringing the reader to the next line and the next and so on (so the reader is compelled to read up to the end without realizing the length of the piece -- which is, as regards my own writing, how I manipulate line-breaks, and layer meanings in the process). The second version, more of the full-stop method of breaking lines, is the way to go for purposes of creating impact/emphasis (like using flashcards in front of the reader). So, the writer's intent plays a role, aside from listening to the words in one's head or aloud, and breaking lines where it 'sounds' appropriate.


Pam said...

I agree that it is difficult to dictate how any particular reader is going to break the lines up. I do feel that there are some things that could be changed with both versions that may help you reach satisfaction.

The second version starts out very firmly and then falters with the word, 'that' leading the third line. The end of the second line might be well-served with either a period or a semi-colon. You also might want to isolate the phrase, 'she's up and left' on a line by itself.

I find that syllabic counts work in some poems and not in others. This particular poem seems to be constrained by trying to adhere to a count. It almost reads more like a short prose poem.

Agnes said...

Like Constance said, readers will read your poem however they read it. That's the joy of poetry and the hazard of language run amok. Heh. Singling out these 4 lines of the poem, I prefer the second version, but I'd probably still change it a little. Maybe move "except" down to the next line. I also agree "She's up and left" needs its own line. A few words may be extraneous, like "of a" before taste, but removing those might mean removing "that" and changing punctuation. Who knows. I could fall in there with my eraser and measuring tape and never be seen again. Just because you wrote a piece one way (in syllabics or whatever) doesn't mean you can't remodel it. You just have to decide if the designer prefers traditional, retro, or animal prints...
I don't quite understand what you mean when you say you forced yourself into a syllabic line. I went and read the whole poem and there isn't really a pattern of syllables. Lines in the piece run from 7 to 14 syllables. What am I missing? Color me confused. (That's puce, in case you're wonderin'.)

Mark Folse said...

Puce it is. Stresses (with reference to a particular foot) not syllables. My bad. I'm going to correct the main note.

Thanks for your contribution!

Lirone said...

Also here from poetswhoblog!

More of a general comment than a specific one, but I tend not to worry about stresses or syllable counts unless I´m also using some sort of rhyme or repetition.

For me it doesn´t really matter how many stresses there are in a line (as you don´t "hear" line breaks).

(Perhaps a visual image would help... visualise a string of fairy lights that is draped over pegs... the syllables are the lights and the pegs are the rhymes, repetition etc. For me a line break alone isn´t a strong enough peg to give the line an interesting shape.)

So if you´re not using pegs, I´d say it´s better to go with varied line breaks chosen for expressive purpose.

Mark Folse said...

Here is a good example of a poem driven by a basic, Anglo-Saxon measured stress (not a foot, just counted stresses), picked up from Poetry Daily (and used as Fair Comment without Permission). It's also a very good poem. I still think there is merit in trying to write to a structure, even one as simple as counted (rather than measured) stresses, else why are there so many sonnets in the world?

Each day′ I walk′ for an hour ′or two′,
what start′ed as ex′ercise now′ a mat′ter
of devo′tion. Or′, less′ grand′ly:
walk′ing gives′ me some′thing to do′,
a kind′ of dis′cipline since I′ don't know′
how′ to mov′e toward′ a′ny of those
big′ intan′gible goals—whole′ness, God′, [really 5 beats here]
forgive′ness, jus′tice—but I know′ how′
to walk′. Some′times I bring Rus′kin along′.

You can read the rest of the poem here:


If you don't get the daily feed of Poetry Daily (and the weekly Poetry and Fiction feed from the New Yorker, I highly recommend them both.

Katie said...

Hi, I just wanted to comment on your two versions here--I am 200% for the first one. The line breaks are extremely effectively chosen. I suppose I should admit my own bias towards Modernist and Imagist work, but I also read current poetry often. That first version has the same effect as this take on St James Infirmary on youtube:

By this musical allusion I mean, your first version has the same force, the same play of the chords that is so satisfying.

I also liked your 'Red against blue' and 'Vita brevis', as well. In the latter, was there an undertone of Prufrock in there? But you shouldn't reveal your intent to anyone, I caution you : ) I will just add, though unasked for, that I feel your poetic gift would shine so much brighter if you abandoned the narrative drive you seem to have. Many of the poems seem like tiny stories, but I personally feel that that belongs in short stories and/or essays instead of poetry. Your poems would be so much stronger with more of an Imagist dogma underpinning your style. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of yours, keep writing--you're already good and you'll only get better : )