Spaces and Shapes in Poetry

imagesOne more note on modern poetry: poetic space and shape.

By that I mean the way lines are positioned on the page; are you writing in verse format? Imitating the structure of Villanelles? Ballads? Odes? Sonnets? Long free verse? Or are you creating lines that when assembled create shapes that leave subliminal messages counterpoint to your poem?

Note on the last: I’d love to show examples here, but the limits of this blog format pretty much prevent that. Instead, let me make a reference to look into.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “A Coney Island of the Mind” shows what can be done with space and shapes in poetry.

If you browse through literary or poetry journals at the library with poem shape in mind, you’ll get this point. The images accompanying this post may be rather silly, but they might give you better ideas.


But my advice on considering poetic structure? Unless you’re attempting one of the specific forms above, just write, line after line. When you’re done – or deep into editing – consider where to leave white space between lines. It may come to you intellectually, or you might envision a shape superimposed on the poem. But don’t force this ; it’s not as important as writing good quality imagery with rhythm and rhyme. If nothing is obvious, stop! You won’t want to write cliches in poetry, and you don’t want to force cliches, rhythms and rhymes, and you won’t want to force spaces or shapes either.

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