Poetics of Structure

Some people may know, and some people may not, but I’m full blown Portuguese. Pure bred, no ancestry anywhere else, my hair and eyes are raven-black and my skin is multi-colour.

That being said, it is natural that my poetry is heavily influenced by the Pantheon of Portuguese Poets, a very important group of figures in general portuguese culture, and with that, comes a certain stiffness very much our own. Portuguese people are known for their subtle and muffled speech, without melody or variations, and our culture deep-rooted in sadness and an overall sense of abandonment.

From that, many common feelings have bloomed in poets like Fernando Pessoa, Cesário Verde, Eugénio de Andrade, Florbela Espanca, Natália Correia, Sá-Carneiro, and many others, installing within their compositions a general sense of chaotic order. Although contradictory, it works well in our favour. Our poetics are strict, direct, respectful of the general laws of lyricism and composition and deep-rooted in the headwaters of emotion.

I would sooner stake my heart than compare myself to the Great Pantheon, but of course, like most aspiring portuguese poets, I have troubles discerning my style from these greats that came before, especially when they are regarded as the paragon of lyric and structured poetry. My education, however, was very english-based and anglocentric, exposing me to the vast beyond of chaotic chaos often present in many current and old English forms of poetry.

WordPress is a vast source for many of those poems – which I’m all for – and the contact I’ve had here with them gave me a lot of grasp about my vision of poetry, both future and past. As an attempt to clarify what I mean with chaotic order and chaotic chaos, I will use two examples:

The wind, into my wounds it bled,

In a striking weep of distilled pain

Through cobalt tears destiny has shed,

In a luck of the draw without gain.

This stanza from my own “Phagora” is a good example of the above mentioned chaotic order. It respects the common rules of crossed rhyming, lyrical consistency and syllabic composure, however, it is incredibly chaotic on what it attempts to display. This stanza was a far out allegory to say “pain of longing is a game of chance unending”, which would be equally lyrical if placed in the right setting.

But what of the river nymphs

with flowing hair of company,

good company

that springing love

doesn’t die with age

rather splashing into your eyes of prism

candour, my adored, I’m fiery demon

turning to steam the river within you

This improvised poem (not meant to be taken seriously), was composed without poetic structure in mind, but has a flowing divinity within it’s content. It’s followable, understandable, and retains some lyricism among it’s chaotic chaos. Unfortunately for me, I’m not gifted at writing well using free verse or zero-stanza formats, again, mostly because of my cultural origins and natural language.

I would like to, however, throw a challenge to anyone out there that would like to absorb poetics with me, to write in full structure like my first example. May you do so, I will attempt to use your poem as base for a more english “free verse” poem, and you would have my thanks.

Much love,


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A tick clinging to the bristles of a purple boar.

7 thoughts on “Poetics of Structure”

  1. I’m a bit shy about this…having those doubts about my writing as usual🙈… but let me try a few lines:
    Distilled thoughts on memory’s path
    Lends virtue to undressed emotions
    Yet, moral sobriety vents its wrath
    Baring naked unfaithful devotions

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I quite agree with you. Writing free form poetry is not in our Portuguese “blood”… I much prefer using the iambic pentameter (http://manuelaantao.blogspot.com/2016/03/world-poetry-day-2016-march-21st-rub.html). Of course, I’m no Shakespeare…

    I strongly believe strongly in the importance of craft in poetry, the writing that really does it for me is that which bends and stretches the rules to breaking point in order to make something new. The depressing thing about someone modern poets like Bukowski is just how dull it all becomes. There’s some notion that “out there” content is what makes for radical writing, but actually it’s just paint-by-numbers decadence. Like you, I was heavily influenced by the Anglo and German-vision of the world from a very tender age:

    I’m much more versed in Anglo and German writers than I am in Portuguese ones as I said. I’ve been trying to rectify this, but I still have a lot of catching up to do…so, I know where you come from…

    I’ve always found that the process of writing poetry heavily depends on the language you’re writing in. I made that experiment in 2016 trying to translate “O livro e Flor” (The book and the flower) by Cabral do Nascimento into English and German, one of my favourite Portuguese poets, and it was an eye-opener for me: http://manuelaantao.blogspot.com/2016/03/erhabene-poesie-borboleta-vermelha-by.html.

    I’ll leave you with a post/poem I wrote 3 years ago, connecting Brönte, The Police, and Shakespeare: http://manuelaantao.blogspot.com/2015/11/shakespeare-and-i-what-does-bard-police.html. Nowadays, I’m not in the right mood to dabble again in poetry…

    NB: Sorry to have to have populated your post with links. It’s easier than rewriting stuff I’ve already written before.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Replying just to say that I rescued them from spam, not all is lost!
      I will read all the links as soon as I’m able, and give you a more structured answer. Grazie mille Manel!


  3. i am absolutely learning about poetry from you, johnny. thanks for the lessons about chaotic order and chaotic chaos, and how your portugese literary heritage informs your creations…maybe i’ll take you up on your challenge, because i find myself in the opposite situation from you; i feel most comfortable in free verse, and find that the boundaries of formal schemes sound contrived and unnatural coming from my thoughts. i’ll think on it and perhaps post something here a little later.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. so here’s a four-line excerpt for you, johnny (the full poem will be on my page on monday…do you mind if i mention you in the post?):

      On heady notes of lavender and lime
      Bucolic afternoons do find their home
      So comfortable, we dare not think to roam
      In clouds, we note unhurried flow of time

      Liked by 1 person

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