Poetry- Form Device


Performance Indicators:

P.S. ELA-1 Language:   Demonstrate command of the conventions of Standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

A. Notice and correct grammatical and mechanical errors in writing.
B. Demonstrate command of correct sentence structure and variety.
C. Apply standard usage to formal speaking and writing.

P.S ELA-5 Writing Craft:   Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Over the span of the next several days in English you will be required to compose several poems which will be collectively handed in on DAY 19 of the class syllabus.  The poems, along with their analysis will be assessed a performance grade.  Your composed poems represent significantly more than a stirring of creative expression.  As preparation for your final exam in English the poems will require you to comprehend and apply poetry concepts emphasized throughout this instruction, however, a far better explanation of the value of studying poetry for an English student follows.

The poetry terms that are referred to throughout these lessons will be emphasized on the final exam.

Earlier in the year, when reading Romeo and Juliet, we discussed how poetry relies upon three definable devices:  form, sound and figurative.  A poem is distinguished from prose because of its rhythmical expression; the complexity of that expression is often under appreciated by the disinterested reader.  The study of poetry makes you a better English student if you can discern the ability of the skilled poet to represent meaning through rhythmical imagery.

Consider the explanation by English teacher Andrew Simmons:

“In an education landscape that dramatically deemphasizes creative expression in favor of expository writing and prioritizes the analysis of non-literary texts, high school literature teachers have to negotiate between their preferences and the way the wind is blowing. That sometimes means sacrifice, and poetry is often the first head to roll.

Yet poetry enables teachers to teach their students how to write, read, and understand any text. Poetry can give students a healthy outlet for surging emotions. Reading original poetry aloud in class can foster trust and empathy in the classroom community, while also emphasizing speaking and listening skills that are often neglected in high school literature classes.

Students who don’t like writing essays may like poetry, with its dearth of fixed rules and its kinship with rap. For these students, poetry can become a gateway to other forms of writing. It can help teach skills that come in handy with other kinds of writing—like precise, economical diction, for example. When Carl Sandburg writes, “The fog comes/on little cat feet,” in just six words, he endows a natural phenomenon with character, a pace, and a spirit. All forms of writing benefits from the powerful and concise phrases found in poems.

Students can learn how to utilize grammar in their own writing by studying how poets do—and do not—abide by traditional writing rules in their work. Poetry can teach writing and grammar conventions by showing what happens when poets strip them away or pervert them for effect. Dickinson often capitalizes common nouns and uses dashes instead of commas to note sudden shifts in focus. Agee uses colons to create dramatic, speech-like pauses. Cummings of course rebels completely. He usually eschews capitalization in his proto-text message poetry, wrapping frequent asides in parentheses and leaving last lines dangling on their pages, period-less. In “next to of course god america i,” Cummings strings together, in the first 13 lines, a cavalcade of jingoistic catch-phrases a politician might utter, and the lack of punctuation slowing down and organizing the assault accentuates their unintelligibility and banality and heightens the satire. The abuse of conventions helps make the point. In class, it can help a teacher explain the exhausting effect of run-on sentences—or illustrate how clichés weaken an argument.

Yet, despite all of the benefits poetry brings to the classroom, I have been hesitant to use poems as a mere tool for teaching grammar conventions. Even the in-class disembowelment of a poem’s meaning can diminish the personal, even transcendent, experience of reading a poem. Billy Collins characterizes the latter as a “deadening” act that obscures the poem beneath the puffed-up importance of its interpretation. In his poem “Introduction to Poetry,” he writes:  “all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope/and torture a confession out of it./They begin beating it with a hose/to find out what it really means.”

The point of reading a poem is not to try to “solve” it. Still, that quantifiable process of demystification is precisely what teachers are encouraged to teach students, often in lieu of curating a powerful experience through literature. The literature itself becomes secondary, boiled down to its Cliff’s Notes demi-glace. I haven’t wanted to risk that with the poems that enchanted me in my youth. ”


The American poet, Robert Frost once remarked that “writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down,'” and “no verse is free for the poet who wants to do a good job.” Most poetry that’s considered free verse still works with rhythm, internal rhyme, metre and other structuring devices. Poetry that’s in a particular form functions according to more codified rules. Form can be a teacher, a mode of channeling, and an aid to memory, imbuing poetry with a more powerful music.

The History of Form Poetry

Form has always been a part of poetry. Repeating patterns of rhyme, metre and alliteration were particularly important in oral cultures. Anglo Saxon forms, for instance, are rich with alliteration, while Inuit or Native forms, as well as folk ballads, feature regular repetition of images or lines.

Form enabled the poet to remember their piece while reciting it. Form also assisted in creating audience participation and in weaving magic with language. Forms like the ghazal from 9th century Persia were communal, while forms like the haiku and tanka from ancient Japan were more intimate structures. Traditionally, no poetry was written without the incorporation of form.

The Importance of Form

Form poetry can often be viewed as an overly conventional or potentially clicheed style of writing. Using form is frequently disdained by post modernist or avant garde poets. Form is more flexible, versatile and integral to poetry though than many writers think.

Form Can Be a Teacher

Writing sonnets, villanelles, sestinas or many other forms instructs the poet on the connection of form to content. The rules of form aren’t random. They have a history connected to their substance. For instance, the sonnet frequently features themes of love or death with a turn of perception represented by the last two lines. The villanelle is perfect for a deeper comprehension of memory with its recurring first and third lines. The ghazal mirrors a state of inebriation, confusion, despair, or existential questioning with its swift turns between couplets.

Even if the writer doesn’t want to publish their form poetry, practicing forms will improve discipline and train the ear. The more adept one becomes at form, the more one can bend the rules and play with the structure.

Form Can Help Channel Subject Matter

Deciding how best to express content can be a challenge. Writing in a chosen form can focus subject matter in surprising and powerful ways. Needing to follow a rhyme scheme or a pattern of repetition, syllables or stresses can structure the content and free one from the uncertainties of its containment.

For example, knowing that stanzas must have the end rhymes ababcdcdefefgg (a Shakespearean sonnet form), makes the content falls into place more easily. At the same time, following the form allows for mystery and risk taking; fulfilling the rules may lead the writer to insights they wouldn’t have otherwise arrived at.

Form Can Improve One’s Memory

When you recite your poetry, you will be better able to recall its structure and aural patterns if you write in form. You will be able to engage more directly with your audience, spending less time looking down at your book or papers. Your poetry will become easier for your readers to memorize too, thus increasing the importance of poetry’s place in everyday life, outside the pages of a book.

The poems will sing more in the blood, partaking in what Thoreau referred to as breath and the body’s rhythms. Form can concentrate the word-music in your poems, drawing listeners and marking the uniqueness of poetry as a genre separate from prose.

You are to compose one of the forms of poetry represented here.  Along with the poem, you will include a paragraph that explains why you selected the particular form of your choosing, the qualities of the form that appeals to you and how your intended imagery is expressed in the verse.

List of Various Forms:

Rondeau Redouble
The Bop

1. You are to compose an original poem from the selected form.
2.  You are to explain what the appealing features are about the form you selected.
3.  Further explain how the selected form helps you to establish the desired imagery expressed in your poem.
4.  Include in your poem at least one application of personification, simile or metaphor.