The Sum Is Greater Than the Parts: Take in the Entire Poem
When reading a poem, or when teaching a poem, we run into the danger of the same dilemma in the parable of the blindfolded men and the elephant. Each blindfolded man feels only a part of the elephant and cannot agree what they have just touched. One says a rope (the tail), a spear (tusk), a snake (trunk), a fan (the ear). When we look at a poem and search only for its parts, we run the risk of not "seeing the elephant," that is, not experiencing the entire poem.
A poem is not a scavenger hunt; it is its own event. While looking closely at the parts of the poem can help us to experience the poem better, it is not the same as the entire experience of the poem in itself.
With that very important caveat in place, let's explore what, to my mind, the parts of a poem are.
The Parts of a PoemThere are lots of components that make a poem a poem. Here is one way of thinking about the parts of a poem:
The Interior of a Poem - what comes from the writer of the poem
Texture - the materials of a poem
Structure - the organization of the materials; the architecture
Form - the final arrangement; the complete execution
Texture (Structure + Form) = Interior of a poem
The exterior of a poem - what comes from the poem being read
Substance - what the poem is
Function - how a poem works as art
Spirit - why the poem exists
Substance + Function + Spirit = Exterior of a poem
And throughout the whole poem, both the exterior and the interior is...
Energy is often the thing that gets lost when we only look at one part or another and do not keep in mind the whole.