Dimensional Poetry

Brooke Davis

Dimensionality as applied to poetry adds meaning as well as beauty. So called calligrams or concrete poems appear as a shaped silouhette on the page. The words do not always read left to right as we are used to. The poet has license to twist the page , such that the words are vertical, spaced far apart, or crushed together.

In some cases, the shape of each verse gives added meaning to the poem, as in "The World Owes Me a Living 'Cause I'm Short" by Daniel Pinkwater. Here, the first, second, and fo urth verses are laterally compressed-- the margins on either side are wide. These verses concern the poet resenting his short stature. The third verse, by contrast, is very wide. It mirrors the content of the stanza, which is about his desire to be tal l.

In "Easter Wings" , George Herbert uses the overall figure of words on the page to create two pairs of wings. Each verse begins with a long line, tapers to two lines with two w ords each, and then elongates again. Each verse is symmetrical about its vertical center. Herbert further plays with shape and significance by imaging a rising motion while elongating the first verse. As the lines begin to get wider, the text reads "Wi th thee/ O let me rise/ As larks...". In the second verse, as his pride is cut down by the Lord, the lines narrow and the text reads, "Thou didst so punish sin/ That I became/ Most thin."

In Roger McGough's "40-------------------Love", the shape of the poem calls to mind not only the image of a tennis court, but that of the separation felt between the couple playi ng. McGough even divides some words: "ten... nis" and "be-... tween", emphasizing the disconnection within the unit of the couple.

In the concrete poem "Watching..." , we see a very creative use of space and compression. The author uses punctuation and typeface to emphasize "...!!YELL!!..." and spaci ng to mimic the meanings of "falling", "crushed", "crumpled", "marching", and "blown". This poem's shape is unpredictable moment by moment, as would be a falling leaf.

The poem "It's Raining", by Guillaume Appollinaire is a great exaple of a poet's freedom to use the space of the whole page without actually filling it with text. The lines re ad from left to right, line by line, but vertically within the line. the reader's eye moves in a different way than the usual to read this and many other shaped poems. The effect is that the reader spends more time with the poem, since she cannot skim t he words as with normal text.

The poems that are linked to this page have been scanned in as units. While hypertext markup language does present a tempting fourth dimension for poets, there is a drawback. It cannot be used as a language to write the actual poem, because it would compress the shape on the page as if it werenormal text. Still, as poets work through the frustrations of computer technology, we realize that the struggle is worthwhile. No longer confined to the page, space is becoming more boundless than ever.