What Makes Art Art? Analysis of a Yeats Poem using Russian Formalist Shklovsky.

In Shklovsky’s essay, “Art as Technique,” he introduces the concept of defamiliarization when pinpointing what makes art “art.” For Shklovsky, art is created when the subject matter of that particular piece of art is presented to the audience in a way in which they had not considered the subject before. This process takes the habitualized and mundane and transforms it through a new perspective or consideration of the subject matter. Shklovsky offers many processes through poetic language defamiliarizes the reader with the subject matter of the poem through breaking the habitualized behaviors of prose language. Prose, according to “Art as Technique,” is vague and relies on assumptions to convey meaning, is delivered quickly and effortlessly with unhindered language, and has an inherent rhythm. Poetic language, or artistic language, as used in poems like William Butler Yeats’s “A Coat,” has the opposite effect.

Foremost, poetic language is not used to describe an idea, but rather to create an image of the idea through which the reader can view the subject matter of the piece of art differently. Shklovsky notes that poetic language’s “purpose is not to make us perceive meaning, but to create a special perception of the object” (781). In Yeats’s poem, “A Coat,” the very first line of the poem accomplishes this special perception of the object he is writing about, or in this case, a piece of art – a song. Yeats writes “I made my song a coat.” For this line, song is either personified and is being made a coat to wear, or is being made into a coat. Either way, we have something artistic, or conceptual, with no physically tangible state (except that on paper) being mixed with something practical, tangible, and functional. A song serves an ascetic purpose of pleasure while a coat serves the everyday purpose of warmth and protection from the elements outside. The juxtaposition of realm – the realm of art and the realm of the practical – are being combined in a way unfamiliar to the reader, which serves to defamiliarize both familiar objects within the poem by reconsidering how the two might work together as purposed by the author.

Why Study or Write Poetry?

I’m a fan of poetry. I read it, I write it, I talk about it, write about it, and share it as often as I can. I’m also an advocate of poetry being taught to students in primary, secondary, and higher education, even if English isn’t their major.

Poetry offers a lot to the students that study it. Like other literary forms, poetry allows students to analyze and critically engage with the text, but poetry offers something other literary forms don’t—conveying meaning with as little words as possible.

The point of poetry is to convey an image or impression with controlled, specific, and brief language. While I can tell you a story in broad, complex, compound, or complex-compound sentences, poetry shies away from grammar conventions and tries to construct a new meaning of words through the misuse of grammar conventions to make the reader really slow down and contemplate what is being said within the poem.

Reading poetry is like solving a puzzle—and often times, that single poem can paint many true and varying pictures. Developing reading and critical thinking skills through poetry makes one an overall better reader, and these reading skills can be transferred to other realms as well. Being a critical thinker that can see multiple outcomes to the task at hand is a very marketable skill.

Writing poetry is also different than writing a story. Understanding the nuances of poetry can help one become a better story teller because it allows the writer to convey the same message or meaning with fewer words, but it can also help an author make better choices in diction, add rhythm to enhance the flow of a story, and give another layer of meaning to a text that can be picked up on a second, third, or fourth read of the work.

Let me tell you a story:


Easter Poetry

Happy Easter everybody! I think this is the day that zombie Jesus saved humanity by not eating their brains. Or something similar. There’s also an egg-pooping rabbit involved somehow. Did the eggs stop zombie Jesus from eating brains?

Zombie jokes aside, Easter is a great day for poetry. Because it’s national poetry month and Easter, we thought we’d share some Easter poetry with you on this fuzzy-bunny themed Sabbath.

Easter Day
by Oscar Wilde

The silver trumpets rang across the Dome:
The people knelt upon the ground with awe:
And borne upon the necks of men I saw,
Like some great God, the Holy Lord of Rome.
Priest-like, he wore a robe more white than foam,
And, king-like, swathed himself in royal red,
Three crowns of gold rose high upon his head:
In splendour and in light the Pope passed home.
My heart stole back across wide wastes of years
To One who wandered by a lonely sea,
And sought in vain for any place of rest:
‘Foxes have holes, and every bird its nest.
I, only I, must wander wearily,
And bruise my feet, and drink wine salt with tears.


Our Favorite Poems for National Poetry Month

It’s our birthday this month. The Poetics Project was started by myself and Melanie Figueroa and launched the 1st of April to celebrate National Poetry Month. Because this blog started out as a community of writer’s sharing poetry in a Facebook group, we thought we’d share some of our favorite poetry with you to celebrate both our blog’s birthday and National Poetry Month.

Amanda’s Favorite Poems

“O Do Not Love Too Long”
By W.B. Yeats

Sweetheart, do not love too long:
I loved long and long,
And grew to be out of fashion
Like an old song.
All through the years of our youth
Neither could have known
Their own thought from the other’s,
We were so much at one.
But O, in a minute she changed—
O do not love too long,
Or you will grow out of fashion
Like an old song.


“Nobody Knows this little Rose”
By Emily Dickinson

Nobody knows this little Rose—
It might a pilgrim be
Did I not take it from the ways
And lift it up to thee.
Only a Bee will miss it—
Only a Butterfly,
Hastening from far journey—
On its breast to lie—
Only a Bird will wonder—
Only a Breeze will sigh—
Ah Little Rose — how easy
For such as thee to die!


“Mr. Darcy Piñata”
By Mark Grist

The reception was without incident
Until, bobbing through the doorway
Came a piñata the shape of Mr. Darcy.

He drifted across to the canapés
Where, dipping occasionally, he melted
The hearts of several young women

Who thought ‘that is not just a Mr. Darcy piñata.
For me he will be different; he will change.
And so they left their clotted boyfriends

For this rugged, frowning effigy.
Laughed coyly over cocktails, suggesting
Weekend breaks, theatre trips and lingerie.

The piñata gave nothing back in dashing fashion.
His narcissism unable to compete with the fact
That he was only a piñata after all.

Unwilling to accept the state of things,
The girls began to scratch at his casing, stealing strips
Of him. Desperate to create a wound that would

Tie the piñata to them after they had gone.
Force him to phone them at 3am for no reason
Other than to recover something of himself.

This was never going to happen. In the end
The piñata sank under their blows.
Shiny wrapped sweets skittered across the floor

Etched deep with words like ‘bastard’ and ‘user’.
The young women snatched these; went back to their tables
Sucking them for years till their sweetness grew bitter.


Literary Paraphernalia: 10 Poetry-Inspired Pieces of Etsy Gear

Happy National Poetry Month! To get you in the mood to celebrate this wonderful time of the year, we thought we’d share some Etsy gear inspired by some of our favorite poets.

Emily Dickinson tank top – $20.
(Credit: Etsy.com)

Don’t be a nobody—or do. I think she preferred it if you are a nobody, actually. But be a nobody in an awesome Emily Dickinson tank top.

T.S. Eliot inspired necklace – $45.
(Credit: Etsy.com)

Let us go then, you and I, and buy this kind of super awesome necklace inspired by The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.

Sylvia Plath flats – $85.
(Credit: Etsy.com)

Be all a-flicker with these Poppies in July inspired shoes. Just be sure to do no harm while wearing them.


Bite-Sized Literature

Many of you might not have heard of Maurice Sagoff or know of his success from his only book, ShrinkLits: 70 of the World’s Towering Classics Cut Down to Size. If you have some free time or need a bit of light humor to distract you from today’s to-do list, you should check his book out. He condenses classic literature into humorous verse in a cutesy sort of way that many bookworms can appreciate. His venture into mock literature started out with a piece on Alice in Wonderland published in Mademoiselle magazine, which, attracted the attention of editor Elizabeth Charlotte. ShrinkLits was first published in 1970 by Doubleday and quickly made it to the New York Times best-seller list.

Here is a section taken from ShrinkLits:

Mary Shelley

In his occult-science lab
Frankenstein creates a flab
Which, endowed with human will,
Very shortly starts to kill.
First, it pleads a lonely life
And demands a monster-wife;
“Monstrous!” Frankenstein objects,
Thinking of the side-effects.

Chilled with fear, he quits the scene,
But the frightful man-machine
Follows in hot pursuit
Bumping people off en route,
Till at last it stands, malign,
By the corpse of Frankenstein!
Somewhere in the northern mists
—Horrid thing — it still exists…
Still at large, a-thirst for gore!
Got a strong lock on your door?


5 Reasons Why I’m Excited for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Translation of Beowulf

J.R.R. Tolkien, noted author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, has a new book coming out this May, eighty-eight years after he wrote it. Also, I should probably mention, the book itself is a story written between 975-1025 AD. Yes, I know those numbers can be confusing, but they are accurate. In 1926, Tolkien finished a work of passion—a translation of Beowulf, the oldest Anglo-Saxon poem still in existence and the earliest example of English literature we have.

Translations aren’t an easy gig—the subtleties of language and the nuances of meaning leave a lot of room for differences between translated texts. Don’t believe me? Play with Google Translate for a few minutes, and you’ll get what I mean. Enter in a phrase and run it through a few languages, then back to English, and you’ll see how meaning can change.

Anglo-Saxon wasn't an option, but you get the gist. It's a subtle change, but subtly is a big part of story telling.
Anglo-Saxon wasn’t an option, but you get the gist. It’s a subtle change, but subtly is a big part of story telling.

All that being said, J.R.R. Tolkien’s version of Beowulf has me excited, and I’ll tell you why, in no particular order.


Movie Haikus

Buzzfeed ran a cute listicle (list+article, emphasis on the list part) turning Disney movies into haikus. We all found it pretty amusing:

(Credit: Buzzfeed)
(Credit: Buzzfeed)
(Credit: Buzzfeed)

I liked these so much I figured I’d making a writing exercise based off of this article—I was going to turn other movies I liked into funny haikus.

You see, this week I’m going to revise and edit some of my own poetry and submit it for publication. I know that writing these haikus will help warm up my creative bone, and I plan on having fun with it all at the same time. In my book, warming up and having fun at the same time is a win-win.

Haikus are a great poetic form to warm up with. They have a controlled meter that force the writer to not only think of syllabic count, but to be extra careful when selecting words. Each word used in a poem adds meaning and counts towards the overall message/theme of the poem, but this is especially true with a haiku where there are so few words, a writer really can’t spare any.

Without further ado, here are some movies I made into haikus:

Star Wars:

In a galaxy
Far, far away. Incest and
You know, clones and stuff.


Found Poems, Take 2

One of my classes this quarter requires a creative element for our final, so I decided to do some found poetry. The book that I took the poems from is called So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ. It was hard to do this project because I really liked the book and what I wanted to do ripped the book apart, literally, to appropriate her words and pages to create a new thing.

This is what my final poems looked like:

Found Poem #1
Found Poem #2

I have to say, despite ripping apart a book with my bare hands and the pain it caused me as an English major, this was a really fun project, and I really like the poems that I found within the text. I used stamps, glue, colored pencils, a razor, and of course, my secret talent of crocheting (I made the pink elephant head) for the final project.


I Would Totally Take my Panties off For The Right Poem, Part 1

You read the title right. Today I’m exploring the use of poetry as seductive tool. So anyone who has had a British Lit class or has taken a Poetry course of some sort will be familiar with The Flea by John Donne.

Mark but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is;
It sucked me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;
Thou know’st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead,
Yet this enjoys before it woo,
And pampered swells with one blood made of two,
And this, alas, is more than we would do.

Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, nay more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our mariage bed, and marriage temple is;
Though parents grudge, and you, w’are met,
And cloistered in these living walls of jet.
Though use make you apt to kill me,
Let not to that, self-murder added be,
And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.

Cruel and sudden, hast thou since
Purpled thy nail, in blood of innocence?
Wherein could this flea guilty be,
Except in that drop which it sucked from thee?
Yet thou triumph’st, and say’st that thou
Find’st not thy self, nor me the weaker now;
’Tis true; then learn how false, fears be:
Just so much honor, when thou yield’st to me,
Will waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee.