The somewhat prescriptive, neo-Augustan tone of much of this the reader will note Berry's eighteenth century-like capitalization of Nature is not surprising in a critic who has just spent a number of pages defending Alexander Pope's attitude toward nature against some rather ill-considered criticism by Robert Bly.
But it may seem surprising coming from a poet who for most of his career has practiced a form of free verse. Berry has always been one for consistency, however, and in Standing by Words he is bringing his critical thinking into line with certain philosophical attitudes puzzled out over the last twenty years. Thus, for a couple, marriage is an entrance into a timeless community. So, for a poet or a reader , is the mastery of poetic form.
Joining the form, we join all that the form has joined'' Standing by Words Berry does not luxuriate in currently fashionable notions of the indeterminacy of meaning. For him, form is not merely abstract or arbitrary, but is the animating structure of life as it is really lived in all variety. It stands as warp to the weft of raw and transient experience. In Sabbaths , the poet in Berry is attempting to work out the practical implications of these ideas, and it represents a daring move. It is always dangerous though perhaps also necessary for an artist to leave behind modes of expression he has found both congenial and serviceable.
Therefore, on a certain level, the technique of Sabbaths is less assured than that of The Wheel. Occasionally, there are lapses into hollow versifying, as in these lines: To sit and look at light-filled leaves May let us see, or seem to see, Far backward as through clearer eyes To what unsightly hope believes: The blessed conviviality That sang Creation's seventh sunrise Sabbaths 9 At moments like this, one has the impression that the meter and rhyme scheme are controlling Berry rather than the other way around.
Cars travel the valley roads below me, their lights finding the dark, and racing on. Above their roar is a silence I have suddenly heard, and felt the country turn under the stars toward dawn. The point here is not to make invidious comparisons, but to demonstrate something of the masterly free verse technique Berry has risked leaving behind.
A good part of Sabbaths , on the other hand, does attain to mastery of a different kind. But ancient song in a wild throat Recalls itself and starts to sing In storm-cleared light; and the bloodroot, Twinleaf, and rue anemone Among bare shadows rise, keep faith With what they have been and will be Again: frail stem and leaf, mere breath Of white and starry bloom, each form Recalling itself to its place And time. The language is concrete and colloquial, but the ultimate confines of the form nicely suggest the order of nature itself, which contains the explosion.
This order, together with the accommodations we must make with it as living beings within nature, is one of the main themes of Sabbaths , as it has become perhaps the central theme in all of Berry's varied work. The notion of nature as embodying a strict form of polyphonous spontaneity finds expression in a number of poems.
Keenly and delicately, Berry observes its outlines: Over the river in loud flood, in the wind deep and broad under the unending sky, pair by pair, the swallows again, with tender exactitude, play out their line in arcs laid on the air, as soon as made, not there. Indeed, Berry's use of prepositions throughout his work to establish a firm sense of place would repay critical study.
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Rest from your work. Be still and dark until You grow as unopposing, unafraid As the young trees, without thought or belief; Until the shadow Sabbath light has made Shudders, breaks open, shines in every leaf. This latter has been an issue of some contention. Berry has never been a writer to fit anyone's preconceptions.
Berry is suspicious of the tendency in certain strains of orthodox Christianity to exalt spirit at the expense of the body, which he considers ultimately corruptive of man's respect for nature. On the other hand, in Standing by Words he explicitly accepts a sphere of religious interest standing protectively above and outside the system of systems: there has to be a religious interest of some kind above the ecogenetic [i.
It is not knowledge that enforces this realization, but the humbling awareness of the insufficiency of knowledge, of mystery. I hear, but understand Contrarily, and walk into the woods. Sabbaths 10 What is new in Sabbaths is not a conversion to orthodox theology, but the acceptance of a traditional, Christian vocabulary, which enforces a certain measure or form on Berry's previously unsponsored religious expression. The book is sprinkled with references to Resurrection, Creation, Paradise, Heaven, Eden, the forfeit Garden, the Lord, the Maker, God and His sepulcher, and of course Sabbath, all with their appropriate, numinous capitalizations.
Berry makes discrete use, however, of this formal nomenclature. Resurrection, for instance, is not limited in its connotations to a doctrine of Christian theology, but serves to illuminate through its formal control the vast and spontaneous energy of spring: The tracked rut Fills and levels; here nothing grieves In the risen season. Past life Lives in the living. Resurrection Is in the way each maple leaf Commemorates its kind, by connection Outreaching understanding. Berry absorbs the Christian nomenclature in all its intricacy, as he does the devices of formal verse, in order to express his own sense of the delicate relations informing the system of systems and the religious mystery surrounding it.
The title of the book itself is redolent with specifically Judeo-Christian associations. It has come to suggest either the seventh or the first day of the week, and in Christian tradition it is synonymous with Sunday, a day of abstinence from work and the day of Jesus' Resurrection. All these senses are allowed play in Berry's work, which gives it an uncommon associative density. For Berry, the sabbath represents the formal closure of one of the chief cycles of time. It marks at once the end of the work week and the beginning of the new week. Its repeatability in difference makes it especially important to a poet like Berry, who has long been interested in cyclical time as manifested in days, in the seasons, and in generations.
The cyclical structure of Sabbaths is reinforced by its subdivision into eight parts, which refer specifically to eight years and by implication to eight days in the closed circle of a week, from Sunday to Sunday. Thus the sabbath connects meaningfully with the symbolism of the Wheel of Life and Berry's earlier work. That such singing should come as the harbinger of a great empire's destruction sets Berry's work subtly in a darker key.
The absent fellers of trees are by implication modern Americans as well as Babylonians, with relevant environmental overtones. This suggests, of course, one of Berry's central themes, exploiting man's possibly imminent destruction of nature. The new note is the implication of divine, retributive force, and Berry's own awe in the face of it: He steps Amid a foliage of song No tone of which has passed his lips.
Watching, silent, he shifts among The shiftings of the day, himself A shifting of the day's design Whose outline is in doubt, unsafe, And dark. One time, less learned in pain, He thought the earth was firm, his own, But now he knows that all not raised By fire, by water is brought down. Sabbaths , however, represents also a provisionally hopeful dissipation of Berry's fears through meditative attention to nature and its intricate balance: what is afraid of me comes and lives a while in my sight. What it fears in me leaves me, and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song. In free verse poetry, you have the freedom to play with meter, structure, and language. To generate content for your poem, you can write down a list of keywords and images that relate to your subject or theme. You can then string these words and images together to form lines for the poem. You may focus on specific moments in your life when you felt sadness and use these images to create the poem. If you are not sure how to describe a certain event or feeling, use the five senses sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound.
Create a first draft. Once you have a list of words and images, you should start to string them together to form a first draft.
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Describe one particular scene or a series of moments that connect to the theme of your poem. You should use devices like metaphor, simile, alliteration, and personification. You may start by stringing together keywords and then looking at how they play off each other. You may have keywords around sadness such as "mother" "death" "childhood" "lost" "poor" and then string them together, "I see my mother on her deathbed, I see my childhood, lost and poor.
For example, "My mother sits like a broken bowl on her deathbed", or "My only toy is a doll I shared with sister, as torn up as we were poor. Edit the draft. Look over your first draft and edit it. You can read it out loud and mark down any lines or sections that are working well as well as any lines where a word or phrase sounds off or not as strong as other lines in the poem.
Avoid using generalizations and cliches. Get creative and try to think of a description that sounds different and unique.
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If you are describing a roller coaster ride, for example, you may want to have the line spacing look like a roller coaster on the page, with the words moving up and down. Or if your poem is about feeling trapped or claustrophobic, you could condense the lines so they appear as one solid block of text. Method 2.
Be aware of the guidelines around chance poetry. Chance poetry is a way of generating poetry independent of the will of the writer. It originated during the Dada movement in Western Europe. In this type of freeform poetry, you use activities based around chance to generate content for your poem and arrange the content randomly or at will. You will then use a chance operation, such as throwing darts or rolling dice, to rearrange the original text or play off the original text to create your poem.
You leave the arrangement and content of the poem mostly up to chance. This method also allows you to create unusual images and syntax you may not have come up with on your own. It can also create more space for the reader to interpret the results of your chance operation, where the reader has to actively participate in the poem by interpreting, dissecting, and musing on the results of the chance operation. Look at examples of chance poetry. To get a better sense of the possibilities inherent in chance poetry, you should read several known examples of chance poetry.
Select your chance operation. To write a chance poem, you will first need to determine which chance operation you are going to use to generate content for the poem.
You should use an original text written by you or by someone else and manipulate it in some way to generate a new text or poem. Then, place the text in a bag and shake the bag up. Take out a cut out word and record it. Then, take another cut out word and write it down next to the first cut out word. Continue to do this until you have a poem of a certain length. Other chance operations involve rolling dice to determine how many words you skip over or move in the text.
For example, you may roll six on the dice, which means you only include every sixth word from the original text in your chance poem. You can follow a similar procedure with throwing darts. Some chance poets use randomizing computer programs to create chance poems.
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You can plug in the original text and then hit randomize in the program. You will then have a chance poem that has been randomly rearranged by the program. Create a first draft of a chance poem. No matter what type of chance operation you choose, often the fun part is doing the chance operation on the original text. The only real rule in chance poetry is to commit to the chance operation, even if it creates a text that may not make sense or be clear on first read. Following the chance operation can also allow you to create unique images and lines that you may not have thought of on your own.
For example, you may have chosen to cut out words from an original text and putting them together to form lines of a poem. If you choose a newspaper article, you may have terms like "tragic" "accident" "news" "I" "reported" "street" "woman" "alone".
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You may then arrange these words so they form a new image, such as: "Tragic news of a street woman alone" or "I reported a woman alone". Avoid adjusting the poem too much. Once you have completed the chance operation on the original text and have generated a poem, you should read it over. Read it out loud and consider how the words sound together on each line.
Note any interesting images or phrases that appear in the poem. Though it may be tempting to edit the poem so it fits a certain idea or theme, you may want to consider not adjusting it too much.
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A big part of chance poetry is allowing the words to exist on the page as they appear, by chance. Adjusting them too much would conflict with the chance aspect of the poem and potentially ruin your chance operation. Method 3. Look at the common themes and ideas in surrealist poetry.
Surrealist poetry originated out of a manifesto written by poet and painter Andre Breton in Surrealist poetry uses surreal techniques, like automatic writing and word games, to try to tap into the subconscious. Surrealist poets are interested in creating surreal states, such as a dream state, for the reader and play with language to understand their psyche a bit better.
The goal of this type of poetry is to create a surreal experience for the reader and allow the reader to interpret the content of the text on their own, or based on their own experience of the text. Read examples of surrealist poetry. To get a better sense of surrealist poetry, it may help to read examples.