Examining the Elements of Poetry
Literacy work that has a distinctive rhythmical and exquisite structure is defined as poetry. When discussing poetry, one may notice the uniqueness poetry possesses compared to the alternative forms of literature. In fact, poetry is one of the oldest forms of literature. Poetry is generally used as a way for poets to express feelings and emotions. It is formatted by using lines and stanzas. Some poets even choose to purposely include grammatical and punctuation errors into their poem to enhance the originality. Several may view poetry as a form of literature that is difficult to comprehend. However, if the poem’s elements are analyzed and examined, one will have an overall broader understanding of the poet’s logic and intentions. A few elements of poetry that could be distinguished in a poem include tone, personification, imagery, theme, irony, figurative language, and musical devices. Stacy Alleyne, the author of an online article titled “The Importance of the Elements of Poetry” states, “While there are many poetic elements and devices, many poets are selective in their usage of elements and devices. They often choose the tool that achieves the effect they want to convey.” Viewing different poets’ poems, such as Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing,” Dorothy Parker’s “Resume,” and Billy Collins’ “Introduction to Poetry,” and observing the elements used will help acknowledge the importance and purpose of each element.
Walt Whitman’s poem “I Hear America Singing” gives the perfect example of a poem that embraces relevant elements of poetry. In this poem, Whitman is acknowledging the careers that America consists of, such as wood-cutters and carpenters. He also represents the pride that the workers have by stating that they are singing while working. Omer Asad describes Whitman in his online article by saying,
Walt Whitman sees a thriving American society from his happy go-lucky perspective. According to him, America is en-route to progress with all the members of society contributing with will and selfless zeal. As each character sings his songs as part of proletariat class, the poetry is simplistic and straightforward. The terms carols and songs refer to their uniqueness of character and work.
Throughout Whitman’s poem, he includes descriptive words such as “singing” and “melodious” which gives the poem an overall joyful and positive element of tone. Personification is also a noticeable element that Whitman incorporates into his poem. Personification is a type of metaphor that gives an impersonal thing qualities or characteristics of a human. Personification is used at the beginning of the poem, as well as in the title, when Whitman states, “I hear America singing” (1). Clearly, America is a country and cannot sing. Whitman is simply referring to the workers that make up the country that are singing. While the elements tone and personification have their significance in this poem, the element imagery, when a poet is describing something that appeals to the five senses, is the most used throughout Whitman’s poem. An example of imagery occurs when Whitman says, “The carpenter singing as he measures his plank of beam” (3.) This element allows for the audience to mentally create a picture of what Whitman is referring to. Each of these mentioned elements play a valuable role in contributing to the poem.
Dorothy Parker’s incorporates several elements of poetry into her poem “Resume.” The poetic element of theme is defined as the main idea or underlying meaning of a piece of literacy work. In the poem “Resume,” the obvious theme is death versus living. The poem makes the audience feel a sense of darkness and depressing, but at the end it seems as the poem took a turn. At the beginning of this rather short poem, Parker is listing ways to attempt to commit suicide:
Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Gas smells awful; (1-7)
While Parker is listing ways to commit suicide, it is important to notice that she is also implying that these suicide attempts are inconvenient, which creates a sense of irony through the poem. She is alluding to the unbearable pain that one must go through to commit suicide. Irony is established due to the fact that someone who is wanting to commit suicide will not be concerned if rivers are damp or if drugs cause a cramp. The last line of the poem states, “You might as well live” (8). This line is stating that these suicide attempts are discomforting and bothersome, so it is easier to continue living although you may not desire to. The way Parker chose to word the last line makes it seem as if her intentions were for it to be slightly humorous. An eBook titled, “A Study Guide for Dorothy Parker’s Resume” states, “Parker’s “Resume” is so shaped by irony that the reader almost has to forget how serious suicide is to follow the logic of the poem.” This short, although intense, poem is referring to suicide, and comparing the positives and negatives between living and dying.
“Introduction To Poetry” by Billy Collins is another poem that can be easily broken down and evaluated to detect the elements that are used. Collins’ poem regards to how poetry requires young people to stay open-minded and persistent in order to appreciate and understand the meaning of a piece of poetry. An article identified as “Analysis of Poem “Introduction to Poetry” by Billy Collins” expresses the purpose behind Collins’ poem, “Introduction to Poetry is a poem that is more than the sum of its metaphorical parts. Billy Collins wrote it in the hope that it would encourage readers and students to look, listen and react to a poem in subtle imaginative ways, rather than ride roughshod over it.” At the beginning of the poem, Collins’ uses the element simile. A simile is a figure of speech that openly compares two things that are typically considered different. Most similes are presented by using “like” or “as.” The simile Collins’ uses is effortlessly identifiable in the third line of the poem because of the word “like.”
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide (1-3)
In this simile, he is comparing a poem to a colored slide. He is representing how a poem should be closely observed. Then, when it is properly observed in the “light” the beautiful qualities will be shown, similar the color of the slide. Personification is used as well in this poem when Collins states: “But all they want to do / is tie the poem to a chair with rope / and torture a confession out of it” (12-14). Realistically, a poem would never be able to give a confession no matter the amount of torture it is given. Lastly, Collins also uses hyperbole, or an overstatement, in his poem. This evident element is used when he is exaggerating his personal opinion on how young people treat poetry: “They begin beating it with a hose / to find out what it really means” (14-15). The audience is able to see Collins frustration and irritation through the use of this hyperbole.
It is obvious that these poems have similar and different elements of poetry. Although each poem is nevertheless unique in its own way. Each piece of poetry is made up of necessary elements. Certain elements may easily catch the audience’s attention while others may require some contemplation. It is important for the audience to understand and recognize the reasoning behind a certain poet’s creation. The poet of the poem contemplates about what each element should consist of so that the poem is more enjoyable and meaningful for the audience. Analyzing a piece of literature not only advantages the comprehension of the poem but also explains why the poet chose to include certain characteristics to the poem. Once you take the time to explore deeper into a piece of poetry instead of only reading it, you will grow a greater appreciation of the piece of poetry. In the end, there is strong reasoning behind each element.