THE FOLLOWING IS A REPOST, FROM MY POETIC DEVICES SERIES...
The following is part of series on poetic devices.
I hope you enjoy my write and please feel free to correct me, comment and share your thoughts and views about these poetic tools. Discussion is welcome. Who knows what we will learn from each other?
I thought we could take a look at contrast, what it can bring to a write and how it can draw and hold the reader's attention. This is a device that when used well can add ‘movement’ to your poems, build a subtle tension and underscore a theme.
When used to its full advantage, it can also add emotional elements of your write. A well contrasted line can be like designing a rollercoaster ride, culminating the delightful sense of climbing and plummeting / holding tight and letting go.
Some of my favourite artists play with light and dark. There is something profoundly beautiful about a bright sunbeam highlighting one aspect and a shadow hiding yet another. Poets, too, use this sharp juxtaposition, some masterfully.
Here are four types of “contrast” that can add “shades” to your any form of verse:
1) Contrast: Two opposing thought, ideas or sensations that are purposefully placed adjacent to each other. This opposition can be intense or more subtle.
One great example of this approach is
Always Marry an April Girl
by Ogden Nash
Praise the spells and bless the charms
I found April in my arms,
April golden, April cloudy,
Gracious, cruel, tender, rowdy,
April soft in flowered languor,
April cold with sudden anger,
Ever changing, ever true –
I love April. I love you.
I used some contrast within my sonnet, Recast. I’ve bolded the lines with contrast.
My heart was muffled by a thick layer of rust,
Warm feelings edged out by a much colder season,
Foiled by naivety, draped in deception’s dust,
And trust that lies scattered dwells not within reason.
Defenceless I was, for love can’t be evaded,
It slips into our souls without invitation,
Softly, it pillows both the hardened and jaded,
Then wakens hope with a billowing persuasion.
The life breathed into me was a sweet, painful save,
For a soul atrophies when a longing’s denied,
And time pauses for neither the coward nor brave,
It races past trepidation, sorrow and pride.
I once was an effigy cast from clouded stone,
Then your blazing kiss melted me clear to the bone.
2) Synthesia - using an adjective, adverb, verb or noun in conjuction with a sense where this or these words would not be expected – a form of poetic licence that can add bring a lushness to a simple write.
Here is an example
Speak to Me with Your Hands
by John Smith
Speak to me with your hands,
Speak to me with your eyes,
White in the reeds the swan sings
An hour before it dies.
Speak to me with your heart
And your simple breath
The cactus blooms in the desert
An hour before its death.
Over the dark water
Flies the returning dove,
Holding the morning in its beak,
Speak to me with your love.
3) Oxymoron – a figure of speech that combines contradictory terms.
A Shakespearian example From Romeo and Juliet:
'O brawling love, O loving hate,
O any thing of nothing first create!
O heavy lightness, serious vanity,
Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms!,
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!'
A poet must be very careful of oxymorons as so many are just clichés. If it rolls off your tongue, you’ve heard it a million times, it is advisable to not use these within your own body of work.
Examples of cliché oxymorons, overused and unimaginative, best avoided:
• controlled chaos
• open secret
• organized mess
• alone in a crowd
• accidentally on purpose
• Bitter sweet
• Deafening silence
• Dry Drunk
• Forward retreat
• Irregular pattern
• Noisy silence
• Quiet riot
• Serious joke
• Sweet sorrow
4) Paradox: In the writing of poems, paradox is used as a method by which unlikely comparisons can be drawn and meaning can be extracted from poems both straightforward and enigmatic (wikipedia). Something which seems impossible because of accute contradiction comes to reveal a startling truth and/or a profound moment of clarity.(Cyndi) I used a subtle form of paradox in the last two lines of my sonnet Recast (see above).
I dwell in a lonely house I know
That vanished many a summer ago,
And left no trace but the cellar walls,
And a cellar in which the daylight falls,
And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow.
O'er ruined fences the grape-vines shield
The woods come back to the mowing field;
The orchard tree has grown one copse
Of new wood and old where the woodpecker chops;
The footpath down to the well is healed.
I dwell with a strangely aching heart
In that vanished abode there far apart
On that disused and forgotten road
That has no dust-bath now for the toad.
Night comes; the black bats tumble and dart;
The whippoorwill is coming to shout
And hush and cluck and flutter about:
I hear him begin far enough away
Full many a time to say his say
Before he arrives to say it out.
It is under the small, dim, summer star.
I know not who these mute folk are
Who share the unlit place with me--
Those stones out under the low-limbed tree
Doubtless bear names that the mosses mar.
They are tireless folk, but slow and sad,
Though two, close-keeping, are lass and lad,--
With none among them that ever sings,
And yet, in view of how many things,
As sweet companions as might be had.
These devices are intriguing, truly worthy of exploration and manipulation.
Some time ago I got into a conversation with a poet about irony. Irony is a large part of poetry and the poet often finds material in the ironic, which surrounds us. Contrast truly IS irony. It is up to the poet to use these tools with intent, deciding how and where it is needed and if less should be employed.
Have you enjoyed using these techniques?
Have I accurately described these devices?
Anything to add?
Whatcha think, chums?