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Poem: 'I Am Not A Poet"

I am not a poet.

Words don't spill like a river.

An eye for a rhyme? Not I.

I own neither quill nor floppy beret,

Say sad not 'sorrow' and happy not 'gay'.

I know Yeats and Keats, or is it Keats and Yeats?

Wordsworth, Byron, Tennyson, all the greats.

I don't get caesura. Or daft word play

Like enjambment or what they taught in class.

We read Nicholls, Agard, Baldwin, Hughes,

Then Duffy, Armitage, rhythm, and Plath,

About Gorman, meter, and Angelou,

About Haiku, Limerick, and Sonnet;

Words have a power; don't tell it, show it.

But, of course, you know, I am not a poet.


I actually don't think I'm a 'poet', in the stereotypical or exaggerated caricature sense, some budget Byron, but I do think everyone has the capacity to enjoy poetry and thats the message with this poem.

I intended to play with the structure of a sonnet by emulating if not replicating it and incorporating other poetic tropes; couplets, limericks, and haiku. That's why the opening three lines match the 5-7-5 syllable structure of a haiku before being immediately followed by a limerick. The intention here was to use the Romanticism of a haiku to suggest that the narrator's own nature is, for wont if a more apt word, natural. We hear and recognise rhythms which give us feelings of joy, melancholy, and so on. Our consciousness is often compared with a flow, a meandering existential narration of our world and all of its external stimuli. The limerick serves two purposes - to signify the ironic humour, which good limericks burst with, and to land on the volta of the sonnet where the narrator changes tone from denial and rejecting any idea of having anything in common with a poet to reeling off the techniques and practitioners that both accomplished and novice poets may be familiar with.

I wanted to use the names of poets who many will be familiar with and, for adults, these names might conjure up memories of English lessons. I hope to leverage this nostalgia to imbue notions of poetry with a positivity, not for dry, over-analytical lessons, but for the feeling of being in a classroom with friends or the 'eureka' feeling of figuring things out for oneself. I had to play around with the order somewhat but liked to idea of pairing Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath at the end of two lines. Whilst the two were married - the idea of the two lines loosely symbolising this - and this is one of the few facts some pupils may take away, it never tells the full story of their relationship, just as this short poem cannot possibly relate the full poetic canon.

The intentional simplicity of the poem is to make it relatable and engaging, without a great deal of figurative language or complex style. This is meant to support the purpose of the poem which is a reminder of how universal poetry is. After all, it can be said to be music without instruments.

Lastly, the added line at the end serves several purposes. It adds an extra line to the sonnet, as if justifying the narrator's incomplete memory of poetry by making a Petrarchan or Shakespearean sonnet form one line too long. It extends the coupler to a triplet, suggesting some recognition of rhyme patterns and challenging any idea that a couplet might be accidental good fortune on the part of the writer. Finally, it repeats the opening line, creating a circular conclusion to the poem, implying both more skill than the narrator has than they realised and a pattern which, after all, is the first thing most people can identify in simple poetry.

Trying to make the whole thing an acrostic poem might have been a step too far!


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