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Chiefspider
May 17th, 2011, 04:05 AM
I'm sorta new here, and I noticed people speaking of meters, metrics, structures and what-not and it has me baffled, what exactly dose this mean? I always thought of poetry as a song of sorts, are there rules to poetry? I know this must seem like an idiotic question to the experts on here however I find myself getting enthralled in poetry and want to know it's rules if such a thing exist.

Please and thank you.

Gumby
May 17th, 2011, 05:25 AM
It's not an idiotic question at all, Chiefspider. The rules of poetry are slippery and hard to pin down in one spot. There are so many different forms and different rules which apply to each one. Here are a few links to some of them.

How to Measure the Rhyme and Meter in a Poem | eHow.com (http://www.ehow.com/how_6141957_measure-rhyme-meter-poem.html)

http://www.writingforums.com/writing-101/62470-basics-free-verse-poetry.html This one is on this site.

Types of Poetry: All the Different Types of Poems (http://www.buzzle.com/articles/types-of-poetry-all-the-different-types-of-poems.html)

Poetry Terms (http://www.poetry-online.org/poetry-terms.htm)

Chiefspider
May 17th, 2011, 03:21 PM
Thank you, these links will help a great deal :D

Nenada
May 23rd, 2011, 08:15 PM
A really good question Chiefspider, I wonder that myself all the time. I'm toddling off to read those links, the technical nitty-gritty of poetry is definitely something I need to work on. Cheers for the links Gumby.

Nick
May 23rd, 2011, 09:18 PM
I like to think there are no rules to poetry. As long as someone can look at it and say "That's poetry" then it is! Trying to write rules for poetry is as constricting as defining poetry. It can be so abstractly wonderful that there are truly no boundaries that you can't explore with poetry.

However, reading a lot of poetry will help you understand some of the general 'rules' people might associate (the general way a poem should be formed etc.)

I read a book recently which I found quite interesting - Stephen Fry's An Ode Less Travelled. Check it out some time if you're interested in developing your poetic knowledge.

Chiefspider
May 24th, 2011, 02:48 AM
Vary insightful nick thank you :D and I will check out the book :D

Bloggsworth
August 4th, 2011, 09:47 PM
A very useful site: http://www.volecentral.co.uk/vf/ (http://www.volecentral.co.uk/vf/) every poetic form known to man, with examples!

Nacian
August 5th, 2011, 02:01 PM
I like to think there are no rules to poetry. As long as someone can look at it and say "That's poetry" then it is! Trying to write rules for poetry is as constricting as defining poetry. It can be so abstractly wonderful that there are truly no boundaries that you can't explore with poetry.

However, reading a lot of poetry will help you understand some of the general 'rules' people might associate (the general way a poem should be formed etc.)

I read a book recently which I found quite interesting - Stephen Fry's An Ode Less Travelled. Check it out some time if you're interested in developing your poetic knowledge.

I agree with you. I like free form.
No boundaries in Poertry is no boundaries in thoughst and words.

j.w.olson
August 5th, 2011, 02:56 PM
There are not rules to poetry unless you want to limit yourself to a certain form -- for example, if you want to write a sonnet, it cannot be 4 lines long.

The words you're thinking of like meter, rhyme scheme, etc -- they are not rules. Calling them rules would be like calling the sideline on a soccer/football field a rule. Or a free throw or a three point shot. They're not rules; they are vocabulary/terminology which makes talking about poetry easier.

Prof
August 27th, 2011, 02:59 PM
Well said JW. Rules apply to form, not thought. I find that writing in a fixed form helps me be more disciplined when I move to free verse.

j.w.olson
August 27th, 2011, 03:11 PM
Exactly -- plenty of people say, "form? never! If I force my thoughts to fit inside your box, they won't be true anymore!" And they use that as an excuse to be lazy and not pay attention to the form, function, and meaning of every syllable.

Sure, free verse is a wonderful form for those who eschew forms, and I write half of my poems in it. But by using sonnets and other rigid forms as training to pay attention to how every syllable fits together, I'm able to craft free verse with much more control and attention to detail than I could otherwise. Besides which, a beautifully written poem that is crafted well enough that people don't realize it perfectly fits a form is even more impressive than if it were free verse.

Also, only by being truly practiced with the rules are you best able to break them. And beauty, to me, is not found in the free form sprawl; it's found in the purposeful breaking.

aj47
August 27th, 2011, 03:19 PM
I love what you say here. I like the puzzling required by formal poetry. I think it's the same part of me that likes programming. It's not restrictive, it's constrained. Like what you can and cannot do in your "Sunday go-to-meetin'" clothes. You make different choices but they aren't automatically inferior or superior.

feralpen
August 27th, 2011, 09:39 PM
I write mostly rhyming poetry. I like the lyrical rhythm. I like the 'build' aspect that astroannie speaks of as well. Some forms, for me, are exactly like working a puzzle. I've read a considerable amount of free verse. Some is very beautiful, exciting, compelling ... some is just being lazy (like a poorly written limerick). I've made several attempts to write free verse. It's not pretty :( . I do plan to keep trying and I do hope to improve. That goes for my endeavors in form poetry as well. Very good discussion y'all.

fp

Edgewise
August 27th, 2011, 10:13 PM
In aren't really any rules, just guidelines and preferences.

Prof
August 27th, 2011, 11:17 PM
I respectfully disagree Edgewise. First, guidelines are rules, or if not, then what are they?

Second, in what respect are you using preferences? Too often new poets jump right to free verse and what it ends up[ being is a prose paragraph with no punctuation and oddly spaced. That poet might argue that it is all a matter of preference, but I would argue that it isn't even poetry. Free verse, good free verse at any rate, takes at least as much work as formal poetry.

Example:
The little
BIRDS
sitting in their
NESTS

sing songs of
the

HUNGER

of the masses.

Is that poetry? It took me longer to type than to make up.

Free verse is fine, but you've got to know the rules before you start to break them.

Note, this is just my own opinion so feel free to ignore at will.

Edgewise
August 28th, 2011, 06:49 AM
I respectfully disagree Edgewise. First, guidelines are rules, or if not, then what are they?

Second, in what respect are you using preferences? Too often new poets jump right to free verse and what it ends up[ being is a prose paragraph with no punctuation and oddly spaced. That poet might argue that it is all a matter of preference, but I would argue that it isn't even poetry. Free verse, good free verse at any rate, takes at least as much work as formal poetry.

Example:
The little
BIRDS
sitting in their
NESTS

sing songs of
the

HUNGER


of the masses.

Is that poetry? It took me longer to type than to make up.

Free verse is fine, but you've got to know the rules before you start to break them.

Note, this is just my own opinion so feel free to ignore at will.

By guidelines, I meant something more along the lines of "suggestions". Poor choice of word on my part. What I have in mind are the devices that make some poems instantly recognizable as poetry but are not by themselves, or even all together, enough to make or break an actual poem. If prose with enjambment might be considered un-poetic, than a poorly written poem with line breaks is not made any better, or more poetic, because of those line-breaks. In my opinion meter, alliteration, and even stanzas, etc. are insufficient criteria by which to distinguish poetry from what is not poetry. All of these things are to me accouterments to poetry, and do not therefore define its essence, or rules. In other words, writing which DOES NOT employ any of those devices can succeed as poetry, which leads to my next explanation of what I meant by preference.

In many peoples opinion (including my own) poetry not following ANY conventional poetic devices usually appears to be poorly written poetry. You're right that free verse often exemplifies this, but such poetry is not poor BECAUSE it is written in free verse but because it does not work as an individual poem.

What actually makes a poem work as poetry, or warrants being called poetry? The best answer I can give is that I believe preference is at the heart of the definition of poetry. If you dig structure, you'll gravitate towards poems that respect forms and schemes. If you prefer abstraction, you might find you have a taste for arcane, SoC free-verse. The best poems are the ones that work for you as a reader or work for many readers. The beauty of it all is that poetry is so indefinable as a form that it is essentially limitless in permutations. Shakespeare and Emerson might not have liked Bukowski and Hughes, but the judgment of whether or not a poem works by whatever rules poetry may or may not have rests on the shoulders of people judging poetry, not poets judging other poets.

Naturally this is just my take on it issue. Could be wrong.

Prof
August 28th, 2011, 03:25 PM
Thanks for the reply. You have a well thought out and quite cogent argument. I take no issue with your explanation of guidelines, though I'm not sure that "suggestions" is the right word. Perhaps we can find another word. I could live with "devices" or "types." You are very much on point that odd spacing and line breaks do not determine the quality of a poem. On the other hand neither does perfect meter and rhyme. The well known poem "Trees" is, in my opinion, a bad poem, while "The Emperor of Ice Cream" is a good poem. One is very well rhymed, but trite and shallow. The other is not rhymed at all but is deep and moving.

Now, as to preference, we are treading the edge of one of those impossible questions. How do we define poetry? If poetry is whatever a poet says it is them we need to know what a poet is. Is anyone who writes something and calls it a poem a poet? I think not. I write quite a bit of poetry, but I think of myself as a writer, not a poet.

Well, I sort of wrote myself into a corner there. I'll try, briefly, again. You write that "preference is st the heart of the definition of poetry." I once asked a class of AP English students to define Poetry and to come to a group consensus. After two days, the best they could do was, "Poetry is the best possible words in the best possible order." Of course I told them it was both too vague and too general, but that they were at least in the parking lot outside the ballpark. I think they had the meat of it. Poetry is both words and form. There is no room for preference in the classes' definition. They say the best. Preference comes into play at the individual level. That brings us back to the question of, is it poetry just because a person (poet) says it is"? That is a debate for another day.''

Enough, we risk beating this to death, The initial question was, "Are there rules for poetry?" The answer seems to be yes, but no one knows what they are.

Edgewise
August 28th, 2011, 07:11 PM
That brings us back to the question of, is it poetry just because a person (poet) says it is"? That is a debate for another day.''

No, it is not. To rephrase my earlier point, the arbiters who ultimately determine whether or not a poem works as poetry are the readers.

I feel that this is a relevant addendum to the OP, because if we are talking about rules, we are also inherently talking about what is or is not a poem.

Prof
August 29th, 2011, 04:09 AM
Respectfully yes, it is. The question of whether or not a poem works as poetry is not at all the responsibility of the readers. They serve to to determine if it has value, is good or bed. The

poem does not stand or fall as poetry when that decision is made. A poem is what it is, good, bad, or otherwise. The question seems to me to require first determining just what a poet is.

Then we can learn what "rules" the poet follows.

Edgewise
August 29th, 2011, 06:40 AM
We are going to continue to disagree. It is the reader who confers any and all value to a poem. If all authors, as you believe, are free to define poetry on the basis of their own aesthetic preferences, than the idea of poetry as a distinct form is utterly meaningless. By your line of reasoning, by that criteria, there is no piece of writing that one cannot call poetry. If that is true, than it doesn't make any sense to discuss rules, let alone form, because by the previous definition poetry is formless.

You might counter that the same logic would apply to readers. I don't think it totally does. My response to that counterpoint would be that while it is true that readers view poetry through their own individual or collective prisms, like authors, it is readers who give value to a poem, not the opinions or intentions of the author, and not people who set arbitrary standards determining the value of a poem before it is even read. What, after all, is the point of a piece of writing that goes unread? If somebody tells you they have written a brilliant poem, does it make sense to believe them without having read it and judged for yourself? I don't personally think so. And it is just as ridiculous to say that a poem, even an unread poem, is a poem because it has the accouterments, and employs the devices, of poetry. Like I've been arguing, the prerogative of defining poetry can only logically belong to the readers, who give it poetic form by virtue of the fact that they have read it and called it poetry.

I have no idea why you would believe that the question of what a poet is should precede the question of what poetry is. A poet is naturally a person who writes poetry. Whether or not what that person writes IS poetry is a determination made by the readers, as are the qualitative judgements made about a poem. And if the readers decide that said person has not written a poem, than that person is not a poet. By my reasoning most people who write poems stand a good chance of being called poets. Hence, I dislike the term "poet" because it describes almost nothing. Not to mention the baggage people associate with the term, all of which is dead weight aside from the tautology that poets write poems.

The most important question is not what a poet is, but what is a poem, what are the rules of poetry? The answer is far from clear or easy, and I am not presumptuous enough to say anything except that it boils down to the preference, in my opinion, of readers. The only rules that seem to matter are the ones that make a poem work as a poem for readers. And good luck defining those to everybody's satisfaction.

Prof
August 29th, 2011, 03:04 PM
Let's continue to agree to disagree. I think much of our problem is one of semantics. For example we both use "value," but not in the same way. You seem to use in the sense that the value comes from readers and if they dislike the writing then it isn't a poem. I see value as a measure of how good or bad a poem is. That is to say first there must be a poem before any reader sees it. When the reader does see it the poem must already exist. That is why the question of "what is a poet" comes before "what is poetry." It is like saying i cut meat (carve as turkey for example) so that males me a butcher, or I painted a picture so that makes me an artist. In that sense writing a poem, or even several poems, does not make someone a poet.

As the Supreme Court judge said about pornography, "I can't define it but I know it when I see it." Poetry is the same, can't be defined but I know it when I see it.

Anyhow, this has been fun, but it has gone on long enough here. If you wish to continue, let's move to the Poetic Debate forum.

Once we establish what a poet is, then we can see the rules (guidelines, suggestions, devices, etc) which is what the original post was concerned with anyway.

Edgewise
August 30th, 2011, 06:38 AM
Let's continue to agree to disagree.

Agreed :).

Fossie
September 28th, 2011, 09:33 PM
I like to think there are no rules to poetry. As long as someone can look at it and say "That's poetry" then it is! Trying to write rules for poetry is as constricting as defining poetry.

Agreed

Bloggsworth
November 24th, 2011, 11:49 AM
I respectfully disagree Edgewise. First, guidelines are rules, or if not, then what are they?



Rules must be adhered to, guidlines point you in the right direction. There are different forms of poetry, but there are no rules of poetry, a poem is a poem if the writer says it is. To say that poetry MUST adhere to one way of doing things is to say that only croquet can be played with a round ball, all other games played with a round ball aren't games...

Squalid Glass
December 8th, 2011, 08:56 PM
"a poem is a poem if the writer says it is"

I agree with this. I think of poetry as a very personal exercise. To leave the definition of such a personal thing to the audience is, in my opinion, misguided. Now - whether or not a poem is "good" is certainly determined by the general readership, but I think it's dangerous to take away the personal freedom of labeling something as poetry. To do so is to defeat the spirit of what poetry is ultimately about - personal expression.

obi_have
January 7th, 2012, 12:15 AM
I love what you say here. I like the puzzling required by formal poetry. I think it's the same part of me that likes programming. It's not restrictive, it's constrained. Like what you can and cannot do in your "Sunday go-to-meetin'" clothes. You make different choices but they aren't automatically inferior or superior.

I'm a software developer and I enjoy formal structured poetry as well. I wonder if that's typical in our field. I like to take a thought or feeling I want to convey and make it fit into the meter and rhyme scheme of the form I'm trying to fill. It's a very satisfying feeling, like you've solved a challenging puzzle.

Bloggsworth
January 7th, 2012, 01:12 AM
The poetry comes first, verse forms are a guide not an imperative, that's the way I look at it. If, as an inexperienced poet you try to force the poem you may A) lose the joy of writing it and, B) write bad poetry as a result. The guide to verse forms is useful alongside whatever you are writing, just cross reference, see something with a similar pattern and use it as a guide. First and formost a poem should reflect the music of the language as she is spoke, fight against the language and it will be clumsy and difficult to read and understand; it is preferable in many instances if you show us what you are thinking, rather than you telling us what we think; the old show not tell mantra; no less true for its constant repetition. OK, if you are writing a ballad, a poem which tells a story rather than codes your thoughts, then telling is fine, and that is the type of poem which benefits from the more rigid pace inherent in strict form, as it is in many ways a song without a tune. But above all, have fun, it will at times be frustrating fun as you search for the exact word, the one you know is lurking at the periphery of your consciousness which, like the ball in the rough, is hard to find.

aj47
January 7th, 2012, 05:48 AM
It may be better for being forced if one is a neophyte. The reason for this is that it's too easy to settle for inferior wordings when you have no guides or constraints. At least, for instance, making words rhyme or fit a syllable constraint requires that the would-be poet actually apply some poetic voice to the work and not just blather their stream-of-consciousness ramblings onto the page. Once you know what you're doing, then you can elect to follow whatever guides you choose or none at all.

xlwoo
March 4th, 2012, 04:10 PM
although there are no definite rules for writing poetry, yet sth must be considered when you write a poem:
1. the line should not be too long, or it will read like sentences in a prose. I did see some poems that the lines are very long.
2. the poetic line should be read rhythmically.
3. the feelings you express or the facts you narrate should sound poetically when reading aloud.

jeffrey c mcmahan
May 13th, 2012, 09:50 PM
There has been a lot of good discussion on this topic. There has most definitely been some pearls. The information has ranged from opinions, long fought for experience, to personal style. In order to discuss this there must be a distinction between; rules, and conventions. Rules are basic and they apply as much to prose as to poetry; conventions are models, or templates, that a writer tries to fit his expression in with as much natural finesse as possible. Since this topic is about rules, I will dispense with my thoughts on the matter:

1) Never preface your piece with any thing but the title.
2) Titles should reflect and compliment the piece.
3) Punctuation when used must be correct and consistent.
4) There are just so many commas, use them sparingly, the end of a line provides a natural pause.
5) You can use no punctuation, but it must have a purpose, that works in the piece.
6) Capitals are a commodity, and follow the law of supply and demand.
7) Capitals signify the start of a sentence, reading the transition to the next line, finding a capital, and then finding out it continues the phrase, or image from the preceding line, makes me sad.
8) Try to compose a poem with an opening, the excitement, and then a resolution.
9) Read read read; the more words you have in your head, betters your expression.
10) Remember, it's all about presentation, proof read your work, correct spelling goes a long way.
11) Say as much as you can with as few words as possible.

General Rules:

1) Know when to quit, and if you don't, quit.
2) When the expression on the paper matches what is in your head, you've accomplished something.
3) When your happy with it, the whole world will be happy also.
4) Don't break the rules until after you have mastered them.
5) Don't exaggerate, no purple poems please.
6) Try to imagine your reader. Writing must conform to your audience.
7) Do express yourself in any way, shape, or form. After the writing, comes the rewrite, not before.
8) Read my poem Grace Land, it's over there on the main poetry board. He

Ha ha, promote myself later, dudes.

regards

jeffrey

P.S. eight followed by a closing parenthesis apparently expresses my emotive entourage.

Don V Standeford
December 4th, 2012, 10:02 AM
There are rules for poetry just as there are rules for all art. A painter learns his techniques from the experimentation and practice of other painters or critics. There are many techniques for writing prose, fiction, poetry, essays, drama, etc. Initially following the rules is a good idea. By following them you can learn them. As you learn them you stumble over their reasons for being. Once you understand the rules, and their reason for being, that understanding leads you to surpass the status quo and enter into fresh realms of imagination. In busting apart the rules to create new realms, you create art. But you cannot just bust them without knowing them or you end up with junk. You must master what is known to recreate it into something new and fresh.

Cran
December 7th, 2012, 09:28 PM
Don, that is the best explanation of Rule 2 I have encountered yet - well done.