The Spine of a Poem

The routes are innumerable – while themes all begin at the same boulevard, they branch off into thousands and thousands of directions with completely different destinations. The initial paths are easy, so have in mind which one you would like to take.

I generally use the same basic skeletons of a poem. This is not their format or rhyme scheme, mind you, but what they are at the heart. Just to consider, the five essential sorts I prefer to use are as such:

Artistic – It’s free game. Experimental and surrealist poetry tends to automatically fit here. You draw an image without art supplies, using only your words. Art for the mind rather than the eyes.

Emotional – Broad term, yes, but it’s a vital core to poetry (like it or not). It’s not exactly like artistic or personal poetry as it may be inspired by things you have no connection with or are not nourishing to the heart – it is raw thoughts completely naked from interpretation. My personal favourites are the worst emotions, which in my opinion form the best poems.

Story – It tells a story or could be interpreted as a story. I prefer the latter, as it lets the reader make what they will. A story conformed to a poem is a lot different from a story in a novel. It’s condensed into its own little globe, and in a way is a more concentrated power because it doesn’t have time to grow comfortably outward. It also has the ability to be more wild than a novel’s story because it’s not as limited by what makes strict, non-metaphorical sense.

Experience – Ones based strictly on memory and experience, siphoned out through the raw feelings and thoughts of that time, or altered into something stronger. These range from maudlin to psychotic to beloved, and every corner in-between. These are the most individual ones a poet can write, and they will become their signature even if they don’t intend that.

Nightmare – I haven’t a better word for this sort of poem. A subset of artistic / surreal poetry and personal poetry, a nightmarish poem is more psychological and resonates on a far more discomforting level with the reader. Probably the best example that would be familiar to most is Poe’s “The Raven” – which contains elements of fantastical horror but with a very primal and real sense of dread and death.

These examples are purposefully vague and broad bases, so literally anything can be built upon them. While “winging it” is actually not a bad idea for writing a poem, it’s also good to keep in mind what you want to make from a raw platform. One might be more fitting for an idea you want to convey than a different one would, so it doesn’t hurt to switch its skin around just to test it out.

Keep in mind though, that if you have poems in mind for a compilation, all types can be used but they should be relatively fitting together. Kind of like ornaments on a Christmas tree – completely different in looks and sizes but they compliment each other in purpose.

-S. M., May 2018

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