This was a group exercise to try and list the main characteristics of poetry as a form of writing. This is what we came up with.
It is structured visually on the page
– pattern, shape, lineation, syllable count
– structure, e.g. line endings, used as pseudo punctuation
Stylised use of language
– rhythm, alliteration
– rhyme not necessary but often partial rhymes
– repetition and chorus
– multiple layers of meanings, ambiguity, use of metaphors, imagery and associations, innuendo, suggestion, subliminal
Rules, fixed forms
Often emotional and abstract content – passion, a message
Alternative syntax and punctuation – often linking words and articles left out.
After this exercise we were given a prose poem by Amy Lowell. We were asked to make a list of the characteristic attributes of a poem that were left out and therefore made it a prose poem rather than just a poem. We were then asked to take the prose poem and rewrite it as a conventional poem sticking to the content and feel of the text as much as possible.
The day is fresh-washed and fair, and there is a smell of tulips and narcissus in the air.
The sunshine pours in at the bath-room window and bores through the water in the bath-tub in lathes and planes of greenish-white. It cleaves the water into flaws like a jewel, and cracks it to bright light.
Little spots of sunshine lie on the surface of the water and dance, dance, and their reflections wobble deliciously over the ceiling; a stir of my finger sets them whirring, reeling. I move a foot and the planes of light in the water jar. I lie back and laugh, and let the green-white water, the sun-flawed beryl water, flow over me. The day is almost too bright to bear, the green water covers me from the too bright day. I will lie here awhile and play with the water and the sun spots. The sky is blue and high. A crow flaps by the window, and there is a whiff of tulips and narcissus in the air.
Amy Lowell, “Bath” from The Complete Poetical Works of Amy Lowell. Copyright © 1955 by Houghton Mifflin Company.