Poetry In Motion, another brilliant and marvelous Quattlebaum poetry book, is full of vibrant and creative poetry that beautifully evokes its subject matter.
Poets are quite deliberate with their words when they’re writing their work. They do not simply sit down in front of a table with a pen and paper in hand, jotting down whatever words or phrases pass through their head, and go on with their days.
From the bulk of personal anecdotes, it is quite clear that most writers, be they poets or not, chew on their lines and ruminate on specific and individual words for hours and hours on end, wanting to know if it is a great fit or not.
The process by which writing commences is a very burdensome trial for a lot of poets–some would even change entire stanzas and verses just to include one particular word.
For poets, the ability to know how to convey their ideas properly in the right words is something of a precise and laborious art. One would even suggest it is quite an agonizing experience.
There are plenty of questions that storm a poet’s mind every time they scrutinize a word or a phrase: Is this manner of description accurate enough? Does this phrase convey the right amount of information with the right amount of words? Is this even the right amount of words? Where do you begin including symbolism? Is simplicity better than complexity with this theme? Etcetera, etcetera.
Writing Vivid Imagery
So, writing vivid imagery and learning how to choose which words to include and which ones to avoid during the writing process is extremely important. Good poetry requires time and effort, and there needs to be a good balance of both while also trying to make the product look as effortless as possible—as if it was only written half an hour ago.
As W.B. Yeats writes in his wonderful work, Adam’s Curse:
I said, ‘A line will take us hours, maybe;/
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,/
Our stitching and unstitching have been naught./
When it comes to poetry, language is critical. There is no poetry when there is no language. But does simply knowing how to speak a language make you a poet? No. It does not.
What differentiates a poet from regular language speakers is their mastery over language and their ability to make music with it–what does that mean? While meaning, resonance, and form are quite important for a poet, there is also a particular level of dedication to how the words sound and how they are heard when uttered. This is because there is an intrinsic musicality to poetry. It is easy to write a string of words, but it is quite difficult to make them sing on their own.
Writing vivid enough imagery and doing it in a way that the text becomes akin to a song is a goal every poet should have. And for aspiring poets, here is a primary means by which a poet can evoke music in their writings:
In music, there is the meter, which is the recurrence of patterns and accents such as bars and beats. There is also the meter in poetry, a pattern or sequence that denotes the sequence of stressed and unstressed syllables. It is the meter that gives poetry its rhythmic quality like the words are the beat of the drums or the notes from a piano. Dividing the meter is the foot, which is the basic repeating unit of rhythm in a poem. The most common feet are the syllabic pairs: iambic and trochaic. The iambic begins with an unstressed syllable and ends in a stressed one, while the trochaic follows the opposite.
In this sense, it is easy to look at the meter as indicating how much the foot is repeated. Thus, if one says the poem is written in iambic pentameter, a line in the poem has ten syllables in all and which are divided into five pairs of stressed and unstressed syllables.
For example, in Robert Frost’s Dust of Snow:
The way a crow/
shook down on me./
These lines are in iambic dimeter because there are two pairs of iambs in each line. Which syllable is stressed is marked in bold for an easier follow.
To learn more about poetry and writing vivid imagery, take a look at the Raymond Quattlebaum book Poetry In Motion.