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POETRY. by Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen. Unconventional Poetry:. Alleen’s Poetry Day at A.S.U. Poems are for sharing out loud. The difference between prose and poetry is rhetorical density: schemes and tropes. Poems are emotional and sensual. EDMUND CLERIHEW BENTLEY.

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by Don L. F. Nilsen and

Alleen Pace Nilsen

alleen s poetry day at a s u
Alleen’s Poetry Day at A.S.U.
  • Poems are for sharing out loud.
  • The difference between prose and poetry is rhetorical density: schemes and tropes.
  • Poems are emotional and sensual.
edmund clerihew bentley
  • Edmund Clerihew Bentley invented a satiric verse form called the “clerihew.”
  • When their lordships asked Bacon
  • How many bribes he had taken
  • He had at least the grace
  • To get very red in the face.
gelett burgess
  • In 1901, Burgess wrote a playful parody of Emily Dickenson’s “I Never Saw a Moor.” Burgess’s poem went as follows:
  • I never saw a Purple Cow,
  • I never Hope to See one.
  • But I can Tell you Anyhow,
  • I’d rather see than Be one!
Burgess was forced to recite this ditty so often that in desperation he wrote a new poem:
  • Oh Yes, I wrote “The Purple Cow.”
  • I’m Sorry now I Wrote it.
  • But I can Tell you Anyhow,
  • I’ll Kill you if you Quote it.”
lewis carroll
  • Lewis Carroll wrote parodies and nonsense verse:
  • ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  • Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
  • all mimsy were the borogroves,
  • And the mome raths outgrabe.
allen ginsberg
  • When Allen Ginsberg ushered in the age of “Beat” poetry with “Howl,” people were amazed that a poem about depression and suffering could also be exuberant and exciting and filled with such fresh and humorous images as “angel-headed hipsters,” from “Zen New Jersey,” eating “the lamb stew of the imagination,” and being “run down by the drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality.”
edward lear
  • Edward Lear wrote “learics.” The name of the genre was later changed to “limericks.”
  • There is a young lady whose nose,
  • Continually prospers and grows;
  • When it grew out of sight,
  • She exclaimed in a fright
  • “Oh! Farewell to the end of my nose!”
james russell lowell
  • Lowell was a Harvard professor who was opposed to the Mexican War. He invented a character by the name of Birdofredum Sawin as a satiric spokesperson for his anti-war sentiments.
  • Birdofredum had lost an arm, a leg, and an eye in the war, so he planned to go into politics as a way of cashing in on his “disfigurements.” His political speeches went like this:
If, while you’re lectioneerin round, some curious chap should beg
  • To know my views o’ state affairs, just answer WOODEN LEG!
  • If they ain’t satisfied with that, and kinda pry and doubt,
  • And ax for somethin’ definite, just say ONE EYE PUT OUT!
  • In talking about his “platform” Birdofredum continues:
Then you can call me “Timbertoes”—that’s what the people likes!....
  • “Old Timbertoes,” you see, ‘s a creed it’s safe to be quite bold on,
  • There’s nothin in’t the other side can any ways get hold on.
julia moore
  • Julia Moore, the “Sweet Singer of Michigan” wrote funeral poems:
  • One morning in April, a short time ago.
  • Libbie was alive and gay;
  • Her Savior called her, she had to go,
  • Ere the close of that pleasant day.
  • While eating dinner, this dear little child
  • Was choked on a piece of beef.
  • Doctors came, tried their skill awhile,
  • But none could give relief.
Mark Twain confessed to studying Julia Moore’s poetry to learn the art of writing “funny” poems. He is said to have used Moore as the model for Emmaline Grangerford, who wrote “Ode to Stephen Dowling Bots, Dec’d,” in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
matthew prior
  • Matthew Prior was a 17th-century poet who wrote epigrams:
  • Sir, I admit your general rule,
  • That every poet is a fool:
  • But you yourself may serve to show it,
  • That every fool is not a poet.
dr seuss
  • Theodore Seuss Geisel wrote under the names of Theo LeSieg, Rosetta Stone, and Dr. Seuss.
  • When Dr. Seuss was awarded an honorary doctorate at a college graduation, the entire audience stood up and recited Green Eggs and Ham.
col d steamer
  • Col. D. Steamer was the pen name of Harry Graham, an English soldier who produced a book of “Little Willie” or “Little Billie” poems.
  • Billy, in one of his nice, new sashes,
  • Fell in the fire and was burned to ashes.
  • Now, although the room grows chilly,
  • I haven’t the heart to poke poor Billy.
engagement and transcendence
  • Good poetry usually contains much sensual imagery. Poetry is usually about the interaction between a human being and the human being’s senses of smell, taste, touch, sound, and sight.
  • But good poetry is also often transcendent.
the jasmine lightness of the moon by william carlos williams
The Jasmine Lightness of the Moonby William Carlos Williams

To a Solitary Disciple

Rather notice, mon cher,

that the moon is tilted above

the point of the steeple

than that its color

is shell-pink

Rather observe

that it is early morning

than that the sky is smooth

as a turquoise.

Rather grasp

how the dark

converging lines

of the steeple

meet at the pinnacle—

perceive how

its little ornament

tries to stop them--

See how it fails!

See how the converging lines

of the hexagonal spire

escape upward—

receding, dividing!


that guard and contain

the flower!


how motionless

the eaten moon

lies in the protecting lines

It is true:

in the light colors

of morning

brown-stone and slate

shine orange and dark blue.

But observe

the oppressive weight

of the squat edifice!


the jasmine lightness

of the moon.

poetic license schemes and tropes
  • The syntax of poetry is just as structured as is the syntax of prose, but it follows different rules.
  • Poetry is usually structured in terms of end-rhyme, internal rhyme, scansion, alliteration, assonance, and rhythm. These surface-structure repetitions are called “schemes.”
  • Robert Frost writes poetry that is based on schemes.
  • In addition, poetry might have metaphor, paradox, enigma, symbolism, double entendre, parody, irony, satire, deadpan, or antithesis. These deep-structure meaning-based concepts are called “tropes.”
  • e. e. cummings writes poetry that is based on “tropes.”
stopping by woods on a snowy evening by robert frost
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Eveningby Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the wood and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep

And miles to go before I sleep.

And miles to go before I sleep.

poetry structured by tropes
  • In “love,” e. e. cummings breaks almost all of the rules not only of grammar but of poetry.
  • He also uses Irony, Antithesis and Enigma to exploit the paradoxes and contradictions of “love.”
  • Note that cummings also uses slant rhyme in order to break normal poetic conventions.
love is more thicker than forget

more thinner than recall

more seldom than a wave is wet

more frequent than to fail

it is most mad and moonly

and less it shall unbe

than all the sea which only

is deeper than the sea

love is less always than to win

less never than alive

less bigger than the least begin

less littler than forgive

it is most sane and sunly

and more it cannot die

than all the sky which only

is higher than the sky

Humorous poetry is based on tropes. Here are some examples from Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends
  • Jimmy Jet and His TV Set (28-29)
  • Smart (35)
  • Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout (70-71)
  • The Dirtiest Man in the World (96-97)
  • Lazy Jane (87)
the best poetic trope deadpan humor
The Best Poetic Trope: Deadpan Humor

Mary Maxwell’s Deadpan Prayer: