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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Painting poems with light and shadow

Where would a painting be without light, shadow, color? An artist must study, practice, and experiment to develop a unique and effective use of those elements of art.

Not surprisingly, a unique, effectively written poem requires something similar. The words of an overly introspective poet, for example, might come across as dark enough to lead readers down a black hole. A socially-sensitive poet aggravated by political debates or moral dilemmas might come across as too heavy-handed for readers to escape the wrath.

Let there be light!

Levity in poetry appeals to most readers, but with or without humor, a light touch often engages people more than a lengthy monologue.

Let there be shadow.

Glare brings discomfort, and too much light can blind. Various degrees of shading will tone down the light whether in a personal confession or a realistic suggestion of the dark surrounding us. Such tones of “we’re all in this together” will enable readers to relate and integrate the poem into their lives.

Let there be color.

A fresh image or exquisite use of language adds color to a poem - something readers can sense and see. Similes comparing this to that or metaphors saying “this IS that” help readers to experience what we’re trying to convey.

Let there be brevity.

As the old adage says, a picture is worth a thousand words, so the more you focus on helping your readers picture your poem, the less words you’ll need. Poems with active verbs and easy-to-picture nouns need fewer words too.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018, poet-writer