Regarding Style: The Bones Of Your Poetry And What They Mean

All writers have a style of writing, whether they write poems, stories, articles, songs, or any other form of literature. Young writers will quickly get used to being critiqued on not only what they say, but how they say it. To me, style is the characteristics of the poemʼs structure and the words that one chooses. However, I think itʼs good that most people define style differently than others define it, because style is about how you define things, too. Style is a helpful and harmful device that can be utilized in the writing process. It adds character and personality to your writing, but it can also make your writing all sound the same. By looking at what great poets have done with their sense of style, we can better understand ours.

For example, look at Jim Harrison, author of more than 30 books: novels and collections of poetry: he has a very cynical style. His poems seem to fly off the earth like birds that will never want to come home. He doesnʼt try to disguise the darkness within them or stop them from going where they want to go. He often talks about the minds of animals and compares them to the human world, and sometimes sees himself among the animals. In one of his poems he states, "I was a dog on a short chain, and now there is no chain." As you can also see in this quote, he will use the simplest language possible when needed to show the bare bones of the poem to the reader. His style of poetry is raw and artistic and gives us insight to the world that he lives in. The style of Harrison has been compared to the Great American writer Ernest Hemmingway. Both of these men admired northern Michigan for its raw beauty, and both wrote about it often.

Another great poet who knows how to navigate the vast ocean of style is Robert Hass, who has a style very unlike that of Harrison. Using more complicated similes and words, Hass weaves a web of words that are all very unique and differently worded yet all of them fit together to tell beautifully cut and rounded stories. One of my favorite lines by him goes, "ten bundles and four great piles of fragrant wood/ moons and quarter moons and half moons/ ridged by the saw's tooth" One of my favorite things about this poem and many of his others is the way that he introduces new topics into one poem, carefully and slowly, and the thick, rich language that he uses to do so. Robert Hass has a finished and carefully crafted quality to his poems. It also is some of the most intricate poetry that Iʼve ever read, but itʼs simple enough so that the average person can understand it.

Ted Kooser is another wonderful example of a poet who knows how to control his style. He can build one small idea into a grand poem. He uses poetry to make what he wants to say seem like the only thing that matters while you read one of his poems. He is one of the best poets that I have read at making a small object like a mitten left in the snow or a bird in a lonely tree into an amazing poem. He also has a way of ending a poem so perfectly that it resounds through your head afterwards, like this ending from a poem of his called At The Cancer Clinic, "Grace/ fills the clean mold of this moment/ and all the shuffling magazines grow still ".

If you arenʼt satisfied with the way that your writing is currently going, maybe you should try pushing the boundaries of your style. Even if you are happy with your current poetry style, it never hurts to try something new. Over time your style will evolve and adapt to suit who you become, and usually, the more it evolves, the better it will become.

Through the 3rd Eye was supported in its inception by the Grand Rapids Humanities Council and is currently made possible by continued volunteer effort and private support. Copyright 2013.