In his book, Richer Entanglements, Gregory Orr suggests that there are four temperaments to a poet. He explains:
I’d like to propose that poets are born with a certain innate form-giving temperament that allows them to forge language into the convincing unities we call poems. This form-giving gift is more important than any other a poem might possess. Different poets are born with different temperaments, and the nature of their temperaments determines essential qualities of the poems they write.
To my way of thinking, there are four distinct temperaments. If a poet is born with one temperament, then he or she grows as a poet by developing that temperament, but also by nurturing the others. The greatest poem is one in which all four temperaments are present in the strongest degree, though no one in English but Shakespeare could be said to exhibit all four in equal vigor. The main point is, great poems show the presence of all four, though in varying proportions.
To celebrate poetry month, I challenge you to write four poems. Each poem will concentrate on a specific temperament. (Think of this as going to the poetry gym to lift mental weight–isolating parts of your poetic self to make a healthier writer.)
Please post your poems in the comments for feedback. And enjoy the process.
A Glance at Characteristics and Dynamics
The four temperaments are: story, structure, music and imagination.
- Story: dramatic unity—beginning, middle, and end. Conflict, dramatic focus, resolution.
- Structure: the satisfaction of measurable patterns. It is akin to higher math, geometry, theoretical physics—the beauty and balance of equations. It manifests itself in sonnets, villanelles, sestinas (closed structures) and, to a lesser extent, in metrical lines, rhymed couplets, and repeated stanza patterns (open structures).
- Music: rhythm and sound. It includes syntax, the syllabic qualities of English that determine rhythm (pitch, duration, stress, loudness/softness), and the entire panoply of sound effects (alliteration, assonance, consonance, internal rhyme, ect.). (I realize that music is an old metaphor for the texture of rhythm and sounds in a poem, and perhaps not a very adequate one, but I’m going to use in anyway.)
- Imagination: the flow of image to image or thought to thought. It moves as a stream of associations, either concretely (the flow of image) or abstractly (the flow of thought).
(Gregory Orr, Richer Entanglements, Pages 3-4)