People often take inspiration for their choices of self-expression from looking at their past and recognizing the progress made. A similar phenomenon is observed in poetry, where past experiences define the changes affecting modern pomes, both in terms of their content and their formal elements. The latter is especially peculiar as a type of change that might seem insignificant, yet, in fact, affects the readers’ perception of the intended meaning and the underlying ideas. Based on these observations, one could predict the future of poetry, particularly, in regard to the formal aspects of it, such as form and function. In this essay, three poems will be considered, namely, “How Prayer Works” by Kaveh Akbar (2021), “The Cinnamon Peeler” by Michael Ondaatje (2017), and Ezra Pound’s (1913) “In the Station of the Metro” will be analyzed to demonstrate the gradual change that poems experience in terms of their formal elements. The poems in question might seem completely unrelated to one another due to the drastic difference in themes and emotions that the authors seek to elicit in the reader. However, from the perspective of the poems’ form, one can observe a clear continuity that represents the future of poetry. Specifically, transitioning from bold experiments with form, such as the use of exceptional minimalism in the number of words and stanzas in Pound’s poem, to more measured approaches to experimenting with the form by disrupting the meter (Ondaatje) and the very structure of lines (Akbar), indicates that future poems are likely to challenge the form to an even greater extent as the means to draw the reader’s attention to the main statement.
Michael Ondaatje’s and Ezra Pound’s Works
Changes in the complexity of the text, the length of the lines and the structure of stanzas, which can be observed in the poems in question, indicate the future alterations to poetry and, specifically, the poetic form, are quite predictable when considering the examples above closer. The difference in the formal approaches to building a poem in all three examples raises the question of what makes poetry change in its form and structure. The specified question may be answered in a multitude of ways, yet the search for new expression tools represents the shortest and the most comprehensive answer (Machado & Hartman, 2019). Indeed, research on permutations that poems have undergone throughout history indicates that structural and formal shifts typically reflect a creative search for the form that matches the intent ad allows amplifying the initial message (Machado & Hartman, 2019). Specifically, a study by Chamberlain et al. (2018) establishes that the increase in the complexity of poetry necessitates a search for new methods of structuring a poem and developing its form. In turn, the introduction of new themes and ideas that has been observed in the realm of poetry can be ascribed to the shifts in cultural perspectives (Machado & Hartman, 2019). Indeed, research by Chamberlain et al. (2018) explains that, with the rise in the extent of globalization and the intensity of cultural exchange, voices of minority groups have become more pronounced, thus, enriching poetry with new ideas and necessitating a shift in the development of the poetic form. For instance, the abruptness of Pound’s (2013) poetry, namely, the shortness of “In a Station of a Metro” especially with its lengthy title in mind, contrasts starkly with the extended form of Ondaatje’s (2017) and Akbar’s (2021) poems. The specified difference is justified by the need to introduce the reader to the specifics of Ondaatje’s (2017) and Akbar’s (2021) cultures, to which general audiences have not been exposed previously and, therefore, require greater insight to embrace the nuances and uniqueness of other cultures’ perspective and perceptions. A similar justification can be used when considering the trend toward living the tradition of using rhymes as a necessary attribute of a poem. Due to the focus on the narrative aspects of poetry, as seen in Ondaatje’s (2017) and Akbar’s (2021) works, the use of rhymes as a restrictive tool that minimizes expressive potential of a poem appears to become quite rare. Thus, it can be considered that in the future, rhymed poems may become obsolete.
Considering the poems in question closer, one will notice a significant shift in the form. The issue of brevity mentioned above, which appeared to be the core attribute of modernist poems, has been gradually replaced with expanded and prolonged reflections on the narrators’ experiences, particularly, those related to their culture. For instance, Akbar’s “How Prayer Works” delves deeply into the description of the author’s childhood, particularly, his experience of praying with his brother, which is achieved by using the long form of a poem. Namely, “How Prayer Works” incorporates long sentences that blur the lines between poetry and prose: “The room was so/small our twin bed took up nearly all of/it, and as my brother, tall and endless,/moved to kneel, his foot caught the coiled/brass doorstop, which issued forth a loud/brooong” (Akbar, 2021, lines 21-26). Similarly the rhythm of Akbar’s poem is quite different from that one represented in Pound’s (2013) modernist work. Specifically, Akbar (2021) replaces the idea of a clear rhythm and meter in a poem with a more prose-like cadence, where rhythm becomes nearly indistinguishable: “My brother bit back a smirk and I tried to/stifle a snort but solemnity ignored our/pleas” (lines 28-30). A similar trend is observed in Onndaatje’s (2017) “The Cinnamon peeler,” where the rhythmic structure is shifted significantly, making the form of the poem more pliable. Arguably, “The Cinnamon Peeler” features a more coherent approach to rhythm and meter: “Here on the upper thigh/at this smooth pasture” (Onndaatje, 2017, lines 12-13). Namely, even though both seem to dissolve into a more abstract narrative form in the specified example, the poem still maintains a certain logic to the choice of the length of the lines and the meter thereof. For instance, in the following lines, a certain trochee-esque meter can be spotted: “Here on the upper thigh/at this smooth pasture/neighbour to your hair” (Onndaatje 2017, lines 12-14). However, the specified instances of coherency in the meter, structure, and overall form of the poem are becoming quite scarce in Onndaatje’s (2017) work, compared to a smoother meter in Pound’s (1913) work: “The apparition of these faces in the crowd” (line 1). Therefore, the trend toward embracing the diversity of approaches to creating a meter and setting the rhythm within a poem becomes more evident. Finally, the specified trend culminates in Akbar’s (2021) almost narrative-like form of the poem and its inexistent meter: “We prayed together as we had done/thousands of times, rushing ablutions/over the sink, laying our janamazes out” (lines 10-12). The observed changes occurring to the poetic form can be considered natural given the gradual progression toward abandoning the use of meter in its current interpretation as a rigid structure and a choice between an iamb, a trochee, an anapest, a dactyl, or a spondee as a means of keeping the rhythm consistent. Instead, a more relaxed and freeing perspective on the choice of metric structures and forms for a poem is likely to surface in the nearest future.
The transition from dramatic experimentations with poetic form, especially in terms of the number of stanzas and the choice of the meter, to a more flexible approach to writing poems that can be compared to structuring a narrative, can be seen as one of the key trends in present-day poetry that is likely to define the future refusal to restrict one’s choice of form by any specific meter in general. As the examples under analysis have shown, the tendency to utilize a less rigid meter and structure as the foundation of creating a poem has become quite prominent in contemporary poetry. Specifically, the poem by Akbar demonstrates the refusal to follow any specific meter or align the poem with any rhythm at all. Instead, the author allows the poem to flow naturally, which makes it assume a narrative form and implies the relevant changes to its structure: “My brother bit back a smirk and I tried to/stifle a snort but solemnity ignored our/pleas – we erupted, laughter quaking out/our faces into our bodies and through the/floor” (Akbar, 2021, lines 28-32). As the example above shows, lengthy, complex sentences are represented in abundance in “How Prayer Works,” which suggests that contemporary poetry subverts the traditional metric expectations, as well as any structural cohesion. A similar trend is observed in “the Cinnamon Peeler,” which is slightly more cautious in its choice of the metric structure and rhythmic patterns, yet is simultaneously significantly bolder in its structural choices than Pound’s (2013) work. For instance, in the lines “I could hardly glance at you/before marriage/never touch you,” lines 21 and 20 clearly struggle to maintain consistency in the overall framework and structure of the stanza, both being characterized by brevity and meter. Specifically, both feature an iambic dimeter (two-feet), thus, representing a traditional cadence of sounds usually attributed to poetry. However, the 19th line at the beginning of the stanza disrupts the specified harmony, causing the form of the poem to dissipate and, eventually, return to a more chaotic nature. Thus, Ondaatje (2017) is much bolder with his choice of form and, specifically, meter and rhyme, than Pound (1913), yet Akbar (2021) takes it one step further, challenging the traditional structure of a poem. For this reason, it would be legitimate to make a supposition concerning the future of poetry by stating that further development of poems will involve abandoning the conventional metric system altogether and avoiding the use of traditional rhythm in poems.
Overall, the current future of poetry appears to be grounded in subverting the stereotypes regarding the rhythmic and metric structure of poems. Namely, the trend toward using a narrative construction for poems as opposed to a more concise and ambiguous framework is becoming apparent. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that, in the future, poems are likely to assume a structure that will be significantly closer to a narrative one, therefore, relaying the authors’ experiences more precisely. The described change will allow for more nuanced cross-cultural experiences for readers, allowing them to find out more about the perspectives of poets from diverse communities.
Akbar, K. (2021). How prayer works. Granta.com. Web.
Chamberlain, K., McGuigan, K., Anstiss, D., & Marshall, K. (2018). A change of view: Arts-based research and psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 15(2-3), 131-139.
Machado, E., & Hartman, P. (2019). Translingual writing in a linguistically diverse primary classroom. Journal of Literacy Research, 51(4), 480-503.
Ondaatje, M. (2017). The cinnamon peeler. LyricLine. Web.
Pound, E. (1913). In a station of the metro. PoetryFoundation. Web.