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Colonel Brown, in formulating the Group Writing topic for this month, suggested various spurs for approaching the topic, including: “Tell us about your favorite or least favorite form of verse.” Poetic verse forms are tools. Every tool has its strengths and weaknesses. For instance, one can pound on things with a wrench, but it is better for turning nuts or bolts. One can also loosen a nut with a hammer, after a fashion, but the hammer is better as a tool to pound on things, such as nails. Poetic forms each have their uses, their strengths, and their weaknesses.
A haiku might be good for conveying an image, especially laden with a double or triple entendre or strong contrast. But it isn’t usually that good for conveying a long story. Sonnets are also great for contrasts, since a proper sonnet has a pivot or turn of thought. But being longer, it might have several images or even convey much more movement of thought and detail than a haiku could. As we look at the verse forms as tools, it is certainly possible for someone to say, “I like this one best.” But the question always lingers, “Best for what purpose?”
Cherry blossoms done
I walked along the old, long path
Where cherry trees all bloom
They suffered from the summer wrath
of stormy winds and gloom.
The petals shot from blooms in wind
Their useful lives complete.
They littered down from start to end,
Were trampled by my feet.
The once-pink petals smudged and torn,
The once-whole flowers burst,
The spring is old and faded, worn,
And summer brings his worst.
Spring and Summer in the Cherry Grove
The cherry tree abloom, beauty of spring.
A cheerful sight to behold after gloom
As winter fades to rosy dawns and brings
The greens and pinks replacing snow and doom.
The flowers flow in gentle, warm, fine winds
Back and forth with branches born by breezes
In hushed, gentle undulations that trend
To strengthen as the spring wanes and wheezes.
And then their time is done. The petals drop.
Blooms disappear as quickly as they came.
The joy, the heartening sight, is all but stopped
As if the summer were the cherry’s shame.
But then Spring’s promise is fulfilled anew
With hanging fruit to drive away the blues.
There we have three poems on a similar topic, cherry petals falling at the end of their season, but they have very different feels and effects. The haiku presents a very abbreviated image and thought, The reader has much that he must infer from the poem. The three stanzas in hymnal stanza paint the picture much more graphically. The English sonnet is a bit longer and allows for the presentation of more of time’s passing. And unlike most sonnets, it has not one, but two pivots.
Of course, if all you have is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail. If you need to learn more about poetic forms, I have an incomplete resource easily available. Maybe some day I shall finish it up.
In the meantime, what is your favorite poetic form? Would you like to provide examples?
(The limericks start in 3…2…1)
- While the general way of translating a haiku into the English language is using 5-7-5 syllable lines, many poets trying to recreate the sparseness of the form in Japanese use more compact forms such as 3-5-3 or even 2-3-2.