When it came to brainstorming ideas for this column, I had a bit of writer’s block. I’ve already covered my favorite weirdly organized novels and the joys of nonfiction and horror novels, so what on earth could I discuss next? In a way, I feel more and more like an official author every time I write one of these, and with consistent writing comes the inevitable loss for words. So, I took out my hefty collection of every written work of Edgar Allan Poe to get inspired and, sure enough, I was.

Although Poe is perhaps best known for his collection of short stories, such as “The Tell-Tale Heart”(1843) and “The Black Cat”(1843), I enjoy his writing most in his poems. My favorite is “Annabel Lee”(1849), which follows an unnamed narrator as he relives the pain and lifelong love he feels for the titular character after she dies. Poe perfectly intertwines desire and pain, employing beautiful imagery in each stanza as he describes the eternal longing to return to the ocean that colors their life together.

Poetry is a fascinating form of literature. For one, it provides a huge amount of creative freedom. Formal writing in novels, even if lacking punctuation or traditional formatting, still requires sentence structure to convey well-defined messages to the reader. Poetry, however, can be anything under the sun. Some forms, from Shakespearean and Petrarchan sonnets to haikus, have strict rhyming, syllable and stressing rules. Although stricter in formatting, poems actually have incredibly creative layouts, as the author must meticulously choose the perfect words and phrasing in order to create the overall desired presentation. It takes a lot of effort and resourceful adjusting to cut down ideas swirling in the author’s mind and put them into the stiff boxes defined by custom.

In addition, reading poetry is hardly a passive activity, as it requires more than the comprehension of words on a page. So much of the work in reading poetry is understanding the deeper implications interlaced between the printed words. Poetry requires readers to bring in past experiences and related emotions to add to the story. Readers respond differently to various poems because each one brings in personal details that are nonexistent in other readers. It’s an incredibly active role that readers are able to take and one that is rarely present in longer novels. I have always thought of poetry as being short, incomplete sentences just waiting to be completed. They’re waiting to be finished and changed, only to be erased and rewritten when read by someone new.

Poetry is full of exciting possibilities as well. Because there’s no strict formatting or limits for freeform poetry, anything could happen. I particularly enjoy shape poems — works that create visual shapes on the page as they describe events related to those shapes. Poetry is also interesting as it masterfully uses very few words to say a lot. Because poets can’t reasonably spend dozens of words describing the way the light hits a person’s face, they must utilize their linguistic repertoires to find the one word that fits perfectly.

Another interesting quality of poetry is a typical lack of significant character development. Narrators and characters are often unnamed, and the descriptions of characters are usually blatantly emotionally biased. Poems focus on connecting with deeper emotions and interactions with people and events in the readers’ lives, rather than focusing on the elaboration of fictional characters.

Poetry uses its descriptive powers to relate the fictional with reality, blurring the lines between them until they’re almost inseparable.


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