Poetry is an artform which is dear to me. Long ago, I wrote many poems. For reasons I do not yet fully understand, I stopped writing poetry just before I graduated with an Associates degree in 2014. Yet now, as I continue my education seven years later, I have found once again that poetry is a portal to the deepest human expression.
It is my belief that poetry is the earliest form of knowledge transmission employed by the human race. We have anthropological evidence of human beings existing in complex societies as far back as fifty thousand years ago. However, the earliest written languages date back only around seven thousand years ago. How is it, then, that these ancient beings of our species were able to maintain uniformity of culture, language, stories, and histories without written words? They would have needed a system that was easy to remember, one that could be passed on orally for generations. Poetry fits that bill well. All other language art forms, novels, movies, stage theatre, even music, are the direct descendants of poetry.
One of the earliest forms of poetry of which we have record is Sapphic poetry. So named after the Greek poet Sappho, who is regarded as one of the most influential poets of all time (even earning herself the title of “The Poetess” among her people). The pattern employed by Sapphic poetry is that of three lines, broken into eleven syllables, with the fourth and final line composed of five syllables. Also important is the use of the metrical patterns. A Sapphic poem uses both the metrical patterns of trochee and dactyl. Trochee, pronounced troh-kee, means a two syllable piece within the text, referred to as a foot, with the greater vocal stress being placed on the first syllable. Dactyl, pronounced dac-til, means a three syllable foot with the greater vocal stress being placed on the first syllable. An example of a Sapphic poem, therefore, would look like this:
Hold to the spell lest into hell you find gods
Forgotten by hinter sky of lowly fears.
There are forever in us powers ancient
That can save all souls.
Where lies on men of earth an keen wet knowledge
Mired, hardened, eternal worth. In College
Hearts break upon the waking day. When we fail
Forever we cry.
That fearsome creature feasts on flesh and soft bone
Entombed upon an ancient throne where she lies
Cold, forgotten by time. When hearts fail, malign,
She will pass beyond.
Another particularly well known poetic form is the Sonnet. Credited to the bard William Shakespeare, the Sonnet is comprised of four stanzas in iambic pentameter. Iamb are similar to trochee, in that it has two syllables, however the vocal stress in an iamb is on the second syllable. The meter an iamb is set in means how many iambs are present in the line. Therefore, iambic pentameter means there are ten syllables in a line. The first three stanzas of a Sonnet follow an end rhyme pattern of AB AB, CD CD, EF EF. The final stanza of a Sonnet uses the end rhyme pattern of GG. Therefore, a Sonnet would look something like this:
How oft I seek transcendentalism
To become entangled in the Ethos
Yet, fall short of the fell mechanism.
Yes. How could I forget? It is Pathos
Which calls to me. Her light spread out like wheat
To thresh, refulgent in great harmony.
My fellows think it cruel to leave the seat
empty, and supplicate the surgeon’s fee
be met. Though vacancy delivers one
from lies. It is holy smoke, up the flew.
Freedom from vanity of emotion.
My fellows think it cruel to leave them, too.
Apotheosis to escape this earth.
But darkened skies forbid my reasoned mirth.
Both of these poems are original, my own work. It is my belief that by practicing particular styles, and making my best attempt to explain how they are formed, I can increase my own understanding of the craft. Poetry is one of my favorite writing styles. It is far older than the novel, far more refined than the script. And it is, truly, the portal to the greatest human understanding that can be achieved.