by Terry J. Coyier
In Ancient Greece, the most important form of entertainment was provided by the bards. Bards, or poets, traveled from place to place reciting poetry, often accompanied by a cithara or lyre. As time passed, poetry took on a written form and orators fell by the wayside. This took hundreds of years to happen, but happen it did. Soon books of poetry flourished and the educated could read at their leisure. However, poetry was still written to be read aloud and still is today.
Most poets choose their words, punctuation and spacing of their poetry for very specific reasons. Besides their meaning, the sounds of the words play an important roll in the poem. If the poem requires a faster pace, then shorter words with sharper sounds can be used. If the poem is meant to be softer, then longer words with more delicate sounds are used to portray the feeling of the poem.
Punctuation and word spacing also aid in the recital of the poem. For example, a dash requires a longer pause than a comma and no punctuation at the end of a line indicates a very short pause or sometimes none at all. Some poets, such as e.e. cummings used a variety of spacing techniques to slow or quicken the pace of poems.
"In Just-" by e.e. cummings isn't a poem meant to be read silently. Of course, the first time you read any poem, you often do read it silently, to get a feel for it. Your next step, though, should be to read it aloud. Follow the punctuation, white spaces, and indentations as you read. Use a natural, conversational voice and don't rush. You will notice in this poem that you can almost hear the long whistles of the balloonman in the beginning because of the white spaces in between far and wee. Then you quicken the pace as the children come running from their games since the names are mashed together. In the end the last far and wee is also at a quickened pace due to the lack of white space. This poem wouldn't be near as interesting or effective if it were written in basic stanzas with even spacing.
So remember, as you write a poem, you are writing something that is intended to be read aloud. Use all of the tools available to you to make your poem sound the way you, as the writer, have it in mind to sound. And, don't be afraid to experiment!
Terry J. Coyier is a 37-year-old college student studying for an Associates of Applied Sciences degree. She is also a freelance writer who writes about a variety of topics. She lives with her son in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex. Terry is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/ which is a site for Writers and her personal portfolio can be viewed here.
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