Recently the subject of poetry has come up more than once in conversations I’ve had with others. I was asked if I had seen any good poetry lately. Honestly, I can’t say I have. As a youth I read a lot of poetry. My mother used to buy anthologies of American poetry when I was young and I loved those books. I even tried my hand at writing a few poems in those days. Some of them are around here somewhere in an old journal book or two. One year in high school I entered a poetry recitation competition, I memorized and recited John Browns Body by Stephen Vincent Benet. Poetry influenced who I became as an adult.
Not long ago I read a poem out of a recently written book of poetry. The sentiment was well said, but, as a poem it did not meet my expectation of poetry in a classical sense. There was no organized meter and rhyme, no iambic pentameter or tetrameter to give it the lilting sound I love about poetry. I know that there are different types of poems each with their own rules for structure, the number of syllables in a line, the number of lines in a stanza, the pattern of rhyming in the stanzas. It has been a long time since I studied poetry and I’d forgotten the rules for different types of poems. I decided to do some research on the subject to refresh my memory.
I found a web site called Young Writers out of the U.K. and in their site was a list of types of poems and the rules for structure of each. It is a long list and I read the descriptions and examples of every type of poem on the list. Nothing in that list was anything like the poem I read from the recently written book of poetry mentioned above. Poetry that I’ve read on a few blog sites have the same problem, they fail to meet the traditional definition of poetry. The words are expressive, some with deep felt emotions, but none have the rhythm and rhyme of traditional poetry. Modern poets seem to have lost that structure and write flowery prose in a pseudo-poetic style. I suppose it’s called free verse. Does anyone write poetry in the traditional sense today? I’m certain that not all poetry fits neatly into the types listed in the Young Writers site. However, I want some kind of organization, if only a pattern of rhyming, or pattern in the number of syllables in the lines. It may be time to start reading poetry again to see if anyone remembers how to write classic poetry.
Can anyone write a sonnet or a ballad, or even a blank verse with iambic pentameter. Where has all the poetry gone?
If We Must Die
If we must die—let it not be like hogs Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot, While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs, Making their mock at our accursed lot. If we must die—oh, let us nobly die, So that our precious blood may not be shed In vain; then even the monsters we defy Shall be constrained to honor us though dead! Oh, Kinsmen! We must meet the common foe; Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave, And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow! What though before us lies the open grave? Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack, Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!