The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

QOTD – Structure or Freedom?

When it comes to writing poetry, or enjoying poetry, there is a fundamental choice one must make- will you use a rigid structure, bend your words and your will to eloquently fit that form, or will you write freely ignoring the bounds of line count, syllabication, or rhyme?

In elementary school I recall enjoying writing poetry for the simple reason that it was something I was good at.  In 5th grade we were supposed to all write poems for our mothers and I made close to $10 off my classmates by rhyming things like “climbed a tree” and “there for me”.  Playing with words was something my family often did at home, and as such the concept of playing a game to find the words that fit the rhyme scheme was neither foreign nor scary, but fun.

In high school we had to write a portfolio of poetry- one acrostic, one limerick, one (or more) haiku, something using alliteration, one using couplets, one boast poem, etc. etc. etc.  Again, this assignment was something fun for me because it was so easy.  I wrote a packet full of poems that, while realistically shallow and weak, fit the criteria perfectly and earned me an A.

It wasn’t until college, when I found my voice, that made the writing of the poetry the fun part, rather than the receiving of praise (no matter how shallow a big capital A may be, it still feels good, right?).  I discovered that the poetic nature of the prose I so enjoyed reading was itself poetry and I, if I so wished, could mimic that rather than spending valuable seconds trying to find a rhyme for “subcultural autonomy” (hint: try “something something, this economy”).

The answer I provide to my own question may be less than satisfying because I am not sure what my answer is.  My favorite poetry to read may or may not follow a structure or it may be a free-for-all of ideas; when I write I will freely admit I begin without a roadmap and may or may not wander my way into a form.  I am also a big fan of the haiku.  One day I tried to/ speak completely in haiku/ it annoyed people.

But, what about you– do you prefer your poetry to follow a structure, Mr. Smith, is freedom slavery? Or is it the free flow of poetry that brings you here?

About Jamaal

Lover of words, liver of life, director of theatre, keeper of keys and grounds at Hogwarts. Twitter: @JamaalAllan

3 comments on “QOTD – Structure or Freedom?

  1. Sreejit Poole
    May 6, 2013

    Nice question. Personally I tend to go with structure when I’m all out of ideas, just to help the process along. But when I really have something to say, then I can’t contain it… One day a friend told me that she thought I should right more poetry. I was like, isn’t everything that I write poetry? woops… guess I get pretty free sometimes…

    • J. Gabriel Allan
      May 6, 2013

      Well said, mister Poole-
      Our everyday words and thoughts
      are life’s poetry.

  2. Pingback: Thursday Poetry Prompt #2 | We Drink Because We're Poets

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