Poetic Forms

A tangent to symmetry focusing on poetic patterns.

The marvelous thing about humans is that we come at things from remarkably unique viewpoints. While Nathan may throw symmetry at you in the form of fractals or novels or reciprocity (a diverse mix of topics on its own), symmetry makes me think of poetic forms. Poetic forms vastly vary in the ways they come about–for instance, Lewis Carroll’s square stanza can be read both vertically and horizontally to the same effect.

Then there are forms like the sestina, which is my personal favorite. The sestina spirals the same six words around in each stanza with a new order each time. It often ends up being more subtle then you might imagine–the end words coming back in different ways each time and sometimes even in homonym form. Yet they continue to reappear and create a sort of aura for the poem.

Sestina spirals.

The sestina. It makes more sense when you write one.

I’m also incredibly fond of sonnets which brings me to another spiraling form–the crown of sonnets or sonnet corona. It’s a sequence of sonnets in which each subsequent sonnet begins with the last line of the previous one, and the final sonnet ends with the first line of the first–a beautiful circular connection generally bringing together poems that all relate to a common theme.

I think spirals and symmetry both have an inherent feeling of completion. There’s something about returning to where you’ve started or seeing a mirror of what already exists that has an appealing and comforting feeling to it. Something always draws us back to where we began–perhaps it’s a fascination with creation that’s inherent. I’m not sure there’s any way I could end other than bringing us back to that marvelous idea of perspectives and poetry we started with, and stealing a few lines from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets:

And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.

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