'Energy' in a poem


Just a few ideas, well questions really, about energy or movement in a poem.

Certainly that can be directed through syntactical choices - paratactic, discontinuous, or hypotactic, continuous.

It may be how tense is used. Can simple present tense lead to a kind of flattening of the poem’s energy? Possibly, though I presume that may well be mitigated by other factors, including syntax.

What place is there for speculation in the poem via tense (subjunctive?), or mood (not grammatical mood so much as atmospherics), or aspect?

There is also the force of the prepositional, the way prepositions place and direct.

Does the poem rely more on monosyllabic (or close to) words or prefer the polysyllabic and depending on which, how the stresses then operate. Do polysyllabics clutter, or do monosyllabics become boring rhythmically? Again, other factors, such as syntax, enjambment, stanza will change these effects.

Then there is the way the poem might move between the continuous (not just syntactical but as narrative, ‘flow’, etc) or whether it is built of parts/modules/fragments, and the way the poem moves between those parts. A connection is a connection, a network.

Networks are often hierarchical (not always, of course). If so, what is the hierarchy of the book a poem might appear in, that is, as a network with centres and peripheries?

Poems also have hierarchies, eg. first line, last line, and other ways that certain formal procedures work. Therefore, the ways the poem declare or sets up its hierarchies: title, enjambments, repetitions (such as anaphora, parallelism), etc. will also affect the energy.

Of course, I could ask myself, what do I mean by ‘energy’? It’s a metaphor, for .. what? The poem’s conversion of language forms into ‘heat’ (to think of it as a kind of physics), or its dynamism, its positive force, its action or power, its intensity. It may simply mean what is it in the poem that attracts interest from a reader, what is surprising or refreshing in it. So, a ‘quiet’ poem can obviously still have energy or intensity.

But I wonder, though I like the idea of it, whether energy is the right word. For instance, I haven't touched on theme, or subject matter at all. And whether that is even relevant. All for further thought.


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