Friday, April 26, 2019

Denise Low on Moods in Poetry: Line Lengths


Anger, joy, infatuation, grief: each casts a specific spell. Emotions may blaze or give off a slow warmth. When the poem is convincing, the emotion rekindles in the mind and body of the reader. Limericks set up expectations of humor, not elegies. Simple rhymes are for children’s verse, not odes to nightingales. Length of lines and overall length of poems can signal mood to readers without words. Here are some general examples:

Å     Spells: Repetitive short phrases and refrains to effect change
Å     Romance: Lyrical short poems, songs, and sonnets
Å     Anger: Personal and/or rage against injustice—quick and pointed
Å     Sorrow: Lyrical elegy (for lost love or lost souls), shorter poems
Å     Awe: Short expressions of intense surprise
Å     Occasional poems: poems to commemorate public events, medium length (long enough to lend gravitas). These have moods that vary.
Å     Humor: Mixed forms with contrasts, tricksters, rhymes, irony
Å     Whimsy: Games, riddles, word acrobatics
Å     Joy: Extended delight at a more conversational pace
Å     Celebration: The classical ode, a longer form
Å     Reflection: Compositions rooted in memory and observation
Å     Nature Poems or Biofilia: Patterns of nature’s processes
Å     Depression: Less intense poems, maybe with narration

Parallel, repetitive lines make this long-married love poem into a spell. Try this form with your topic.

I Marry Your    by Denise Low
I marry your late lamplight insomnia
I marry your pierced ear lobe with no earring, half closed
I marry your political views
I marry your stepfather who disappeared
I marry your warm hand’s fleshy comfort
I marry your sweet silky skin laid against mine
I marry your stereo system thumping acid rock
I marry socks, underwear, and shirts you cannot sort
I marry your slow-cooked pork with sauerkraut
I marry your tears when Uncle Buddy died
I marry your voice, its music of short vowels
I marry the twenty-odd years you have stacked your
    socks, underwear and shirts in the closet next to mine.

How does this format dictate how you write? What kind of emphasis is there, and how does that deepen mood?
Now take the same idea and rewrite it as a haiku (or other short form). Notice the changes in mood.

Moods in Poetry: A Guidebook for Writers (Mammoth, 2017). Denise Low is former Ks. Poet Laureate, professor, and author.