View Full Version : Can poetry be structureless?

Eowyn Eomer
11-08-2004, 05:27 AM
When I write poetry, it always rhymes. I know that not all poetry has to rhyme, but according to the class I took, it has to have some kind of structure for it to be identified as poetry. I liked poetry before I took that class because I would write down anything and just made it rhyme. But in that class, we had to follow all these different types of structures for poetry. Can something be poetry if it doesn't have structure or follows any of the set standards of what defines poetry?

11-08-2004, 07:08 PM
I think anything written has a structure by definition, by being words written down in an order acrtoss a space? Often the structure is innate and we aren't really thinking about it but i think it's still there.

mr mistook
11-11-2004, 02:08 PM
I'm not a poet, and poetry had always seemed mysterious to me. I think every other form of writing is defined by it's structure, and poetry also may have it's structures, but to me, the thing that defines it is it's ability to defy definition.

Poetry, to me, is always on the front lines.

11-17-2004, 02:30 AM
"Can" it be? Well, nowadays people call poetry that which is only prose with line breaks. Sometimes it doesn't even have line breaks.

Today, what defines poetry has more to do with language and imagery than structure, I think.

I value structure in poetry, but structure--particularly meter--is much spurned these days.

12-07-2004, 09:54 PM
Even free form poetry must have structure to survive. I think the first question to be asked is "what is your market?" When you know who you are writing for, then you can define your structure.

Kids learn things by rhyme, hence poems that kids will read, learn and quote will rhyme most often have good metre to boot.

Teenagers are always in and out of love, hence the plethora of love sick drivel that floods the net and most un-critiqued poetry sites. Teen love poems of today tend towards bad grammar and poor structure with lousy rhymes because the writer is more interested in scoring with the beau or belle than what the rest of the world thinks. i.e. they write for one. (or maybe two... plus the recycling on new love conquests lol)

Adults tend to be more discriminating in their reading these days and like to imagine, more than be told. Hence the focus on imagery in poetry. But don't think you can just write stuff across a page and whack in a line break at every eight or so words and have it called poetry. There are still rules, though often they are hard to come by.

Speaking of just line ends for example; each line end should finish with a strong word. This is because at the end of each line we pause and that word is imprinted in memory. Each line should build up to the line end, almost being a mini poem on its own that conveys a complete image or thought. Avoid articles, prepositions and 'be' verbs at the line end. Instead, wrap them to the start of the next line.

So you can see that even free form poetry is not free of structure.

12-09-2004, 11:32 AM

Who are your favorite poets? Do they rhyme?

While I appreciate rhyme, I love powerful imagery. One of my favorite poets is Mary Oliver and she doesn't use traditional structure, as a rule.

01-23-2005, 10:42 AM
No, poetry can not be structureless, because structure is embedded in language itself.

There are writers of prose--Winston Churchill is good for this, who, if we were to format his prose as if it were poetry, would allmost <em>be</em> poetry.

<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>We shall defend our Island,
whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields
and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender

You've got the use of meter, mostly sixes and sevens, repetition, parallelism--all of these are structures.

And someone mentioned the poetry of Mary Oliver; she is a fine poet, but she's also written books about writing and reading poetry, and they too are very fine.

MacAl Stone
01-23-2005, 12:59 PM
...Oh...I hadn't realized it, but that's precisely the sort of thing that makes both the better known JFK speeches (http://www.jfklibrary.org/speeches.htm) and the MLK speeches so ringing, evocative and memorable.

Careful pacing, balanced structure, and even the judicious use of internal accents and rhyming.

Nice! For instance, from the "City on a Hill (http://www.jfklibrary.org/j010961.htm)" speech:

For we are setting out upon a voyage in 1961 no less hazardous than that undertaken by the Arabella in 1630. We are committing ourselves to tasks of statecraft no less awesome than that of governing the Massachusetts Bay Colony, beset as it was then by terror without and disorder within.

History will not judge our endeavors--and a government cannot be selected--merely on the basis of color or creed or even party affiliation. Neither will competence and loyalty and stature, while essential to the utmost, suffice in times such as these.

Now, I know that was a rather long quote--and if I haven't bored everyone to tears--the same sort of thing Lisa did with the Churchill speech should be pretty possible with this, or parts of this:

Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us--
and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, state and local,
must be as a city upon a hill--
constructed and inhabited by men aware of their great trust
and their great responsibilities

For we are setting out upon a voyage in 1961
no less hazardous than that undertaken by the Arabella in 1630.
We are committing ourselves to tasks of statecraft no less awesome than that of governing the Massachusetts Bay Colony,
beset as it was then
by terror without
and disorder within.

Hmm. I'd actually have to know what I was doing and bash that around a bit more to make it work, but I can almost feel an underlying rhythm of accented syllables, as well as the near-rhymes.

Pardon me while I go and dig old textbooks out of boxes, now.

01-24-2005, 12:11 AM
I think that poetry and song can be without any structure what-so-ever. That is if you consider YOKO ONO a poet/songwriter. I think most poetry will have structure even if only minimal. I also feel that if you write poetry just to sell to a certain market, you reduce your creativity. Most poets, in my opinion, write what has feeling and meaning to them but, that is not to say most poets can't or don't write on many subjects. Just my 2 or I guess 3 cents worth.

10-21-2005, 01:05 AM