The poetic imagination



“Most importantly, the example shows that we cannot draw a sharp boundary to distinguish some language as intrinsically poetic.  We can apply our poetic attention to commonplace language, and thereby give that language unexpected depth and importance.  Indeed, poets such as William Carlos Williams purposefully challenge us to extend our sensibilities and find the poetry in everyday language, whenever they construct poems with familiar vocabulary and cadence.

How do we cultivate the poetic imagination?  We must attune ourselves, however we see fit, to the features we notice in a poem, as a prompt to experience its language more deeply.  This search for significance can target any noticeable feature of the poem—regardless of the meaning, if any, the feature might literally encode. We can listen to the sounds and rhythm of the poem. We can feel its syntax and structure. We can even attend to its visual shape and layout before us, as the poet e. e. cummings often invited his readers to do.

However, even when we explore the familiar domains of sound, meter, rhyme and line, we must be prepared to explore the variable and open-ended significance of each observation.  We saw, for example, the different effects of lineation in the Missed Connections poem.  There is no one meaning or effect for parsing lines; for annotating lines; or in juxtaposing the two. What we find in all these cases is just a formal contrast, an echo of further differences, which we can appreciate more deeply only by probing the poem further. This variability underscores the creativity poets and readers bring to their art.”


O mighty-mouth’d inventor of harmonies,
O skill’d to sing of Time or Eternity,
     God-gifted organ-voice of England,
          Milton, a name to resound for ages;
Whose Titan angels, Gabriel, Abdiel,
Starr’d from Jehovah’s gorgeous armouries,
     Tower, as the deep-domed empyrean
          Rings to the roar of an angel onset—
Me rather all that bowery loneliness,
The brooks of Eden mazily murmuring,
     And bloom profuse and cedar arches
          Charm, as a wanderer out in ocean,
Where some refulgent sunset of India
Streams o’er a rich ambrosial ocean isle,
     And crimson-hued the stately palm-woods
          Whisper in odorous heights of even.

Glossary of poetic terms




Accentual verse

Verse whose meter is determined by the number of stressed (accented) syllables—regardless of the total number of syllables—in each line. Many Old English poems, including Beowulf, are accentual; see Ezra Pound’s modern translation of “The Seafarer.” More recently, Richard Wilbur employed this same Anglo-Saxon meter in his poem “Junk.” Traditional nursery rhymes, such as “Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake,” are often accentual.

Accentual-syllabic verse

Verse whose meter is determined by the number and alternation of its stressed and unstressed syllables, organized into feet. From line to line, the number of stresses (accents) may vary, but the total number of syllables within each line is fixed. The majority of English poems from the Renaissance to the 19th century are written according to this metrical system.


An early 20th-century Russian school of poetry that rejected the vagueness and emotionality of Symbolism in favor of Imagist clarity and texture. Its proponents included Osip Mandelstam and Anna Akhmatova.


A poem in which the first letter of each line spells out a word, name, or phrase when read vertically. See Lewis Carroll’s “A Boat beneath a Sunny Sky.”


A four-line stanza invented by the Classical Greek poet Alcaeus that employs a specific syllabic count per line and a predominantly dactylic meter. Alfred, Lord Tennyson imitated its form in his poem “Milton.”


My husband has a rubber face


    Short love poem

My husband has a rubber face,
He’s from a species of the human race.
Some men have faces fixed and set;
My husband’s face is not like that.

He imitates our politicians,
Just like Rory Bremner can.
Though he has no wig or hair piece,
He can look like anyone.

Some nights I waken for I am laughing
While I am quite sound asleep.
I am dreaming of his mobile features,
Contorted to a different shape.

He is skilled at telling jokes.
And he loves a good cartoon.
If I am feeling flu style blueness
I he can get me up again.

He has a rather noble visage.
He gets attention he abbhors.
In the bar on King’s Cross Station—
I was asked was he a Lord!

He’s a Lord of Fun and Humour.
He’s a Lord at Listening Well.
He’s unique, but so are you,
And all creatures that on earth do dwe

Muslim immigrant saves a child in Paris

France grants honorary citizenship to hero ‘spiderman’ migrant who saved toddler-(video)


With a crowd below cheering him on from the street, the migrant  pulled himself from balcony to balcony at risk of life and limb, and managed to grab the four-year-old as a neighbour unsuccessfully tried to reach the boy from the nearest flat.

President Emmanuel Macron invited Mr Gassama to the Elysee Palace on Monday morning to personally thank him. During their filmed conversation, Mr Gassama said that he was trembling like a leaf after his courageous act.

Afterwards, Mr Macron announced that he would be granted French citizenship and join the French fire brigade.

People My Age by John Gorka

People my age have started lookin’ gross
I cannot say all, and I shouldn’t say most
I’ve seen ’em in the grocery, I’ve seen ’em up close
People my age have started lookin’ gross

People my age are showing some wear
There’s holes where their teeth was and their heads have gone bare
Their brains are shrinking, faces sinking into fat
And as for the mirror, we won’t be looking into that

People my age have started looking gross
Maybe not in Colorado, or up the Silicon coast
Back in Pennsylvania, I’d eat scrapple on toast
Those were my first steps on the road to looking gross

People my age are looking over-ripe
Some are getting operations to tighten up what ain’t tight
What gravity’s ruined, they try to fix with a knife
What’s pleasant in the darkness is plain scary in the light

John Gorka
This is a song of his, so it may not ‘read’ as well as if it would with you knowing the tune.

Behind the mask

Behind the mask our nature lies concealed
But with a mask no human can be healed
When to show and when to hide , who knows?
Secrets,lies,manoeuvres, run  the show
Faust with  the old devil made a deal
While the angels tottered ,unrevealed
And so the pact was made and then was sealed
Behind the mask
Off the face, the make up’s nightly peeled
While we  dream our Plays  from all we feel
Underneath our facade, waters flow
We join the sea of life to undergo
The transformation  by the miller’s wheel
Without the mask

When there is no need to speak or sigh

When there is no need to speak or sigh
When the loved one sees with a true eye
Then the art of living is restored
The world is seen anew ,no more abhored
But lovers  each grow old and  one will die
We cannot hide the truth or tell a lie
No more could we grow wings and hope to fly
We’re no angels nor a God adored.
How are we living?
The time moves on and humans can’t delay
Nor is God affected by dismay
Life is truth and humans can’t defraud
We must pay the price we can’t afford
Until we join the stars and need no more
The art of living


USA and Hamas

america american flag architecture bridge
Photo by Lex Photography on

Originally posted on Alternet, January 3, 2009

The United States bears much of the blame for the ongoing bloodshed in the Gaza Strip and nearby parts of Israel. Indeed, were it not for misguided Israeli and American policies, Hamas would not be in control of the territory in the first place.

Israel initially encouraged the rise of the Palestinian Islamist movement as a counter to the Palestine Liberation Organization, the secular coalition composed of Fatah and various leftist and other nationalist movements. Beginning in the early 1980s, with generous funding from the U.S.-backed family dictatorship in Saudi Arabia, the antecedents of Hamas began to emerge through the establishment of schools, health care clinics, social service organizations and other entities that stressed an ultraconservative interpretation of Islam, which up to that point had not been very common among the Palestinian population. The hope was that if people spent more time praying in mosques, they would be less prone to enlist in left-wing nationalist movements challenging the Israeli occupation.

While supporters of the secular PLO were denied their own media or right to hold political gatherings, the Israeli occupation authorities allowed radical Islamic groups to hold rallies, publish uncensored newspapers and even have their own radio station. For example, in the occupied Palestinian city of Gaza in 1981, Israeli soldiers — who had shown no hesitation in brutally suppressing peaceful pro-PLO demonstrations — stood by when a group of Islamic extremists attacked and burned a PLO-affiliated health clinic in Gaza for offering family-planning services for women.

The elements of poetry

two orange tigers sitting beside each other
Photo by Thomas B. on



An important method of analyzing a poem is to look at the stanza structure or style of a poem. Generally speaking, structure has to do with the overall organization of lines and/or the conventional patterns of sound. Again, many modern poems may not have any identifiable structure (i.e. they are free verse), so don’t panic if you can’t find it!

STANZAS: Stanzas are a series of lines grouped together and separated by an empty line from other stanzas. They are the equivalent of a paragraph in an essay. One way to identify a stanza is to count the number of lines. Thus:

  • couplet (2 lines)
  • tercet (3 lines)
  • quatrain (4 lines)
  • cinquain (5 lines)
  • sestet (6 lines) (sometimes it’s called a sexain)
  • septet (7 lines)
  • octave (8 lines)

: A 
poem may or may not have a specific number of lines, rhyme scheme and/or metrical pattern, but it can still be labeled according to its form or style. Here are the three most common types of poems according to form:

1. Lyric Poetry: It is any poem with one speaker (not necessarily the poet) who expresses strong thoughts and feelings. Most poems, especially modern ones, are lyric poems. 

2. Narrative Poem: It is a poem that tells a story; its structure resembles the plot line of a story [i.e. the introduction of conflict and characters, rising action, climax and the denouement].

3. Descriptive Poem: It is a poem that describes the world that surrounds the speaker. It uses elaborate imagery and adjectives. While emotional, it is more “outward-focused” than lyric poetry, which is more personal and introspective.

Come here darling, come here quick

Come here darling, come here quick,
‘Cos your Daddy’s very sick.
Run as fast as fast, you can,
Get the priest, get Father Dan.
Run,run went my eight year old feet,
Down the lane and up the street
I ran right up to Father’s door,
[Does God live there any more?]
“Come please, Mam said Daddy’s ill”
“Oh”,said Father,”that I will.”
Revving up his motor bike
With The Sacrament beside;
He lifted me  onto the back
And roared off up the church-side track.
It was the best thrill of my life;
If only Daddy had not died.

The still small voice

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The still, small voice no longer can be heard.
The  sacred, silent space  unoccupied
No burning bush nor tempest speak The Word.

We centre our   whole self on the absurd
For iPads cannot pass through any eye
The still, small voice no longer can be heard.

God no longer feels inclined to share.
The golden cloud  of angels  cannot fly
No burning bush nor tempest speak The Word.

The altar’s stripped,  the rituals are nightmares.
The ancient priest says Mass and wonders why
The still, small voice no longer can be heard.

A  virtual wall stops grace from being shared.
Jesus is made flesh and  silent dies
No burning bush nor tempest speak The Word.

No one is an island, John Donne cried
But now there is no truth to satisfy
The still ,small voice no longer can be heard.
No burning bush nor tempest speak The Word

The dove

At Whitsuntide we celebrate
The Holy Dove who  will remake
The life within the human soul
With intent to make us whole
For our life is no mistake
We’re here to live, be not afraid
For  virtue is why we  are made
But also laughter, be not staid
At Whitsuntide
Some  are  silent ,some create
Some are  cruel and devastate
We tell stories new and old
The dove brings peace  which us enfolds
At Whitsuntide

Headless hearts


Beginning of the article

Robert Lowell’s place in the literary imagination is that of the natty New England colossus who fathered confessional poetry. In his 30s, Lowell began to exhibit symptoms of bipolar disorder (then called manic depressive reaction) that plagued him for the rest of his life and resulted in more than a dozen hospitalizations. The illness also inspired some of Lowell’s most famous poems, including the widely anthologized “Skunk Hour.” The poet W.D. Snodgrass depicted Lowell as a puppy dog: “[T]hough tall and powerfully built, he seemed the gentlest of mortals, clumsily anxious to please.” But Lowell’s sweet, somewhat absentminded euthymic self was wildly distinct from his manic self, according to Robert Lowell: Setting the River on Fire, Kay Redfield Jamison’s recent biography-cum-psychological case study. When Lowell was manic, Jamison writes, he was “unkind, arrogant, and incomprehending [sic].”

In his review of the book for the Washington Post, Michael Dirda notes that “Jamison recognizes that Lowell damaged other people’s lives, but she excuses him because he had no control over his own behavior. … Lowell got away with a lot.” During his manias, Lowell drank heavily, got into altercations with police, and beat at least one of his three wives, the writer Jean Stafford. His world was shattered by temporary insanity, then restored, only for the poet to find himself yet again overwhelmed by gloom, hopelessness, and humiliation. Despite bouts with mental illness, he won two Pulitzer Prizes and a National Book Award. He was the sixth United States poet laureate. He taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and at Harvard. He earned astute and compassionate scholarly attention.

But another poet—one who didn’t look, talk, or act like Lowell—might not have survived mental illness the same way. Another poet might have been abandoned by friends, evicted, or even killed by police. Another poet might not have had Lowell’s financial privilege, without which finding the time and resources to write prolifically and enjoy critical acclaim is difficult.

Just as it’s a privilege to recover from a manic episode assured of one’s friendships and stable finances, so too is it a privilege for one’s madness to be the object of scholarly inquiry instead of noted on a police report. “When power intersects with mental illness, it becomes romantic,” says Okezie Nwoka, a friend of mine and a fellow writer living with a mental health condition. When a poet of Lowell’s stature—Boston Brahmin rich, white, able-bodied, straight, and cisgender—is mentally ill, the illness is often considered inextricable from his brilliance. Yet no one has written a major medico-biographical tome about Etheridge Knight, a Black, formerly incarcerated poet whose addiction could be framed as having galvanized his brilliance. The lists of luminaries who lived with mental illness likewise often leave off Reinaldo Arenas, the queer Cuban poet who suffered from AIDS and committed suicide in 1990 after years of persecution by Castro’s communist regime. We hear of Theodore Roethke and Sylvia Plath but only rarely of their queer, trans, disabled, or non-white counterparts. It seems that only straight, cisgender white men—and sometimes straight, cisgender white women—are canonized as mad geniuses. The peculiar exclusivity of this category has legitimized, and even celebrated, a neurodivergent few while compounding the shame and isolation experienced by the neurodivergent many.

Consider Naadeyah Haseeb, a 29-year-old novelist and poet living in North Carolina. Like Lowell, Haseeb is bipolar. (Full disclosure: Haseeb and I struck up a friendship in 2016 after bonding over our mutual diagnoses.) Her novella, Manic Depressive Dream Girl (2015), dramatizes the fraught romance between a white man and a bipolar Black woman. Her next chapbook will be a collection of blackout poems about mental illness. “A certain kind of person is allowed to act that way, allowed to be the mad genius,” Haseeb tells me. “I don’t think that I am for so many reasons, being a Black lady.”

Though Haseeb feels rejected by the mad genius archetype, it still informs how she thinks about herself. She justified her teenaged sadness, for example, with the excuse that artists are supposed to be moody. The link between creativity and mental illness is so prevalent that Haseeb worries artists now see the two as indivisible. Years ago, when she had trouble writing, she stopped taking her meds and went without sleep in an effort to induce mania, which she hoped would result in a burst of creative productivity. Instead, she landed in the psych ward. She’s found that her writing habits fluctuate with her moods: sometimes the very thought of writing makes her anxious; at other times, she’s too depressed to open her laptop. And whereas a deadline is a fantastic motivator when she’s euthymic, it can be paralyzing when she’s not.

Haseeb isn’t alone.

I miss the  loving journey we began

I miss you eating with me,my dear one
You always smiled when reading in your chair
I miss the conversation now you’re gone

I wish some days that  my own life had run
But  I must live and  this  strange  heart I bear
I miss you eating with me,my dear one

I’m happy then I’m sad and that’s no fun
My temper loosens yet I do not swear
I miss the conversation now you’re gone

I wonder when my own last day will come
I hope I shall be conscious of who’s near
I miss you eating with me,my dear one

Does no-one love me  now my looks don’t stun?
I  fear not God, to disgrace I’m inured
I miss the  loving journey we began


The Sacred Heart of Love we  must revere
Be grateful for the moments, shed our tears
I miss you eating with me,my dear one
I miss those conversations now you’re gone