Leading Down a Different Path

The emblem structure seems to be a very basic form of poetry. I personally am not a big fan of this structure. I do not like the “God’s hand” aspect of this type of poetry and think it is quite under-minding to say that emblem structure “has” to have the aspect of God in it. There are many ways to approach writing in this way, but still being able to follow the basic outline of description and meditation. It is possible to reverse it where one would meditate and then describe. In my opinion, this doesn’t work very well, simply because the reflection part of the emblem structure tends to be quite philosophical, so knowing what the poet is mussing over helps to understand his/her abstract ideas. Another way to approach writing in the emblem structure is sit and stare at an object (art work for example) and just write everything you notice, and then spend sometime reflecting on what you saw and how it made you felt. When we took a class trip to the art gallery on campus I found this kind of writing quite interesting. I first wanted to walk around and just see what the gallery was about, at the same time trying to see what caught my eyes the most (and/or the least). Once I found something to write about I tired to stay with the classic emblem structure, but quickly found myself reflecting on the piece of art throughout my descriptions of it, instead of at the very end. I think the emblem structure takes a lot of patience to write well. I would rather have the poems be fully in the meditation state with a few descriptions thrown in here and there to add some spice.

The emblem structure does allow for some interesting directions in which a poet could turn from a description of the outside/natural/art-object world to that of a more pensive attitude. Take for example the exercise we did as a class. By looking at a piece of art and trying to describe it you are only looking at it from an outsider’s view. You may then turn in many directions. Some examples being, what you as the viewer of this piece of art feel, what you think was going through the creator’s mind as his/her art piece came to life, if you were the art piece what would you think about those viewing you, what if you were the piece of art being avoided next to the one you are viewing. All of these are interesting approaches to writing the reflection part of the poem. As I am in the process of revising what I wrote from the exercise, I am trying out different approaches to see which one ‘works’ the best. As it stands right now I am thinking that the most interesting approach is to describe the poem and then turn to the piece of art work sitting next to the one being described for the reflection. I find this interesting because it opens up many directions that the reflection can go, such asking questions, or provoking a strong emotion, or just a simple ‘this-is-what-I-think’ task.

On a side note, one of my major problems with the emblem structure is its predictability. For example, while reading “The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop for the first time, I could predict that the speaker in the poem was going to let the fish go. So by the time I got to the last lines, “I stared and stared / and victory filled up . . . And I let the fish go” I really wasn’t into the poem anymore (no matter how great the beginning descriptions are).

With all that being said, I’ve tried my hand at the emblem structure and I am fully ready to move on to more exciting structures.

4 Responses to “Leading Down a Different Path”

  1. Yes, but does “God’s Hand” have to literally be “GOD’S Hand?” If you think of God as life, then wouldn’t “The Gloriousness of Life” be the same exact thing?

  2. true .. but nonetheless it is still presented as “this is what it looks like” and “this is what it means” … not really interesting anyway you look at it … overall it takes a lot of patience to read and/or write with this, in my opinion at least, and I’m not a very patient person

  3. stephroush Says:

    I can agree to the predictability of letting the fish go, but if that seems a problem you might consider turning the poem in the opposite way to keep your attention (ie reasons to not let it go), however, when you think in that opposite direction it makes the prolonged staring and the “victory filled up” line work. The concept of conjoined victory, equation of the hooked fish and speaker, does present a revised view of victory even if it is foreshadowed.

  4. karlakelsey Says:

    I am curious about this notion of “patience” and wonder how many of you feel that patience is required of poetry…that it cannot be poetry without requiring patience. Almost by definition poetry asks us to slow down, to consider, to think through, to labor. Nearly every act of coming to read poetry–every act of really reading–requires it: looking up words in dictionaries (and I submit that one is in no way reading a poem if one does not do so….), reading the poem more than once–out loud and in silence, pondering over form and its relation to content, considering the ways in which the poem would not be itself if it were otherwise, etc. None of this can be done in a hurry and requires a kind of labor that we are not accustomed to in this day and age. I submit that even in reading simple poems, such as the work of Robert Creeley and some of Williams’s work, that one is simply not really reading the work if one moves through it quickly without investigation…if one skims the poem, taking the work at “face value.” I am showing my hand here, that with poetry patience is a virtue, (requiring patience is a virtue), but please feel free, of course, to disagree.

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