Jack Myers / poetry / The Portable Poetry Workshop Project / writing

The Portable Poetry Workshop: Connecting Content – Thematic Shapes of Poems

pen and paper
Pen and Paper by mlpdesign via Flickr

I know poems have shapes. I’ve even seen a poem about a rabbit crafted in the shape of a carrot in forum for an online class I was taking. People can get creative with their forms, certainly, but I’ve never thought about a poem being organized in a thematic shape.

While I don’t think a lot of poems are crafted with this in mind, I find it interesting to observe poems with a possible thematic shape in mind. Jack states that in some poems, “the poet’s aesthetic sense and the perceptions stemming from the topic create the organizing principle that composes the poem’s thematic shape.”

The end of the chapter offers writing exercises according to both argumentative and natural shapes. I’ve shared one from each below along with the example Jack offers:

Argumentative Shapes – Centripetal 
Holding the thesis of your poem in mind, associate images, scenes, and tropes located outside the immediate situation but whose connotations move the material inward toward the unstated central thesis.
An example of this shape is Louis Simpson’s “The Silent Piano.”

Natural Shapes – Circular
In your closure, return to the same idea that your opining lines suggest, but do so as an “enriched restatement.” An example of this shape is one of my favorite poems, Mark Strand’s “Keeping Things Whole.”

And now, because it is Valentine’s Day, a centrifugal thematic shaped poem (I think): The Meaning of Zero: A Love Poem by Amy Uyematsu.

Do you have a favorite Valentine’s or Anti-Valentine’s Day poem or story?

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6 thoughts on “The Portable Poetry Workshop: Connecting Content – Thematic Shapes of Poems

  1. You always challenge me to think outside the box, Andee. I am too much of a newbie to poetry to have a favorite, but Wendell Berry has a very short poem to his wife that nearly makes me cry every time I read it. I can't remember the name, but it starts similar to this: Look at what you've done to me…I think he wrote if for one of their anniversaries and it's so simple in the way it conveys a steadfast love that it just wraps my heart right up :). Now I must go read these poems you link to.

  2. I love this discussion of the structural logic of poems…very thought-provoking. Happy Valentine's day! I love Marvin Bell's poem "To Dorothy" (I believe that is what it is called). About the beauty of imperfection.

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