The shape of poetry

Poems are not merely things that we read but also things that we see. We are aware at a glance of whether a poem is written in a regular or irregular form, whether its lines are long or short, whether the verse is continuous or stanzaic, and so on. Moreover, all these facets of a poem may be entirely lost if one's only experience is of its being read aloud. This visual dimension of their work is something that poets have been conscious of for hundreds of years, and many have fashioned works...

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It is hard to know how to start discussing this poem, but we can perhaps begin by saying that it consists of nine lines, made up of two distinct syntactical units the first being the single word 'loneliness', and the second, bracketed within the first, being the clause 'a leaf Falls'. It goes without saying that Cummings has carved up his poem so as to make the lines unusually short, but at the same time the line divisions are not arbitrary, but have clearly been drawn with a view to the...

The key words of poetry

'Why Sir, it is much easier to say what it is not. We all know what light is but it In the study of literature, the questions which seem most straightforward are often the most complex ones to answer. In particular, innocent'sounding questions of definition such as 'What is poetry ' or 'X hat is Romanticism ' can be addressed in an almost bewildering number of ways, as the scholarly quarrels over the definition of these words demonstrate. Much critical ink is spilt as to what a key poetic term...