too old for this party
I am wasted muscle and
broken heart, drained brain
with plates drifting apart;
I am the body beautiless, the
soul without mercy, and it seems
that I must, without my consent
live on, as a relic, past thirty.
— Delilah Des Anges
So far this month I have talked about the sounds and rhythms of poems, things which are most evident when reading aloud, reciting from memory, and so on. It seems only fair to note that the way we recognise poetry in written format – usually the way it is composed, regardless of whether or not it is for performance – is by the way it is presented; usually (in Roman alphabets) with short lines, stanza breaks, and a narrower width of the page which allows the eye to skip more quickly through the written words. The narrow width and short lines become emblematic of a poem.
Some poets are renowned for their visual presentation of their work: e. e. cummings, the darling of Tumblr that is Richard Siken, with whom the iconic/immediately recognisable nature of their work derives in part from unusual layout. Sometimes changes in presentation are designed to work with the content of the poem, turning the reading experience into an Easter Egg Hunt for a specific word that has run away, or spreading or condensing the kerning of various words in order to stretch or compress the experience of the word and corresponding sense of how long that word is to be held for.
With the work of Richard Siken and others like him there is also the consideration of aesthetics, the poem as a work of visual art as well as literature. Some lines are given precedence by their promotion before the baseline of the margin, others set back from it, and in their position on the page form new alliances with other lines occupying similar distances from the margin; in effect, they create new patterns within the poem visually.
For a lengthy but worthwhile demonstration of visual poetry, have a read of Shots in the Dark.
Throughout this month I will be nagging readers to donate to MSF