Shaped Poetry

I wouldn’t call myself a poet, but I do write poetry and do pursue publication of my poems. One weakness I have for poetry is shaped poetry. I’ve tried my hand at it many times, but outside of one shaped poem I’ve completed, I haven’t really fell in love with any of my shaped poems.

John Hollander, a well known American poet, makes some fascinating shaped poetry. For example, his cat poetry:

I want to pet his words.

It’s like the same cat, but a different poem. Consequently, I want to pet this poem too.

One of his more famous poems is his Swan and Shadow poem. It was the first poem of his I encountered in my intro to poetry class (which seems like eons ago, now).

I imagine the cats are staring at the swan because that’s what cats do.

John Hollander wasn’t the first shaped poet. Back in the 1600’s, a poet by the name of George Herbert wrote a shaped poem called “Easter Wings.”

They don’t look much like wings here.

If you flip this poem sideways, the two stanzas look like a pair of wings.

See? Wings.

What I like about all of these poems is the readability of them, despite the shape. These poems aren’t just meant to be seen but also to be heard. While the shape contributes to the whimsy and overall meaning, these poems do not rely on the shape alone.

So what contribution do I have to this medium of poetry? I have one poem, titled Narcissus.

Well, it’s not quite a swan or a cat, but it’s in some sort of a shape!

What do you think? I’d love to hear some feedback on the shape and content.


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