, , ,

Welcome poets and Happy Independence Day to those of you from the United States. For today’s Meeting the Bar: Critique and Craft we will be reviewing atmosphere, also sometimes referred to as mood. Atmosphere is the feeling of a poem and diction, style, tone, theme, sound devices, enjambment or punctuation, length of line, setting, imagery and subject can all contribute to creating a mood. Consider the following two poems and how they present contrasting atmosphere on the same subject.

Langston Hughes by Carl Van Vechten (public domain)

Langston Hughes by Carl Van Vechten (public domain)

In Time Of Silver Rain
Langston Hughes

In time of silver rain
The earth puts forth new life again,
Green grasses grow
And flowers lift their heads,
And over all the plain
The wonder spreads

Of Life,
Of Life,
Of life!

In time of silver rain
The butterflies lift silken wings
To catch a rainbow cry,
And trees put forth new leaves to sing
In joy beneath the sky
As down the roadway
Passing boys and girls
Go singing, too,

In time of silver rain
When spring

And life
Are new.

Anne Sexton by Elsa Dorfman (fair use)

Anne Sexton by Elsa Dorfman (fair use)

Wanting to Die
Anne Sexton

Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
Then the almost unnameable lust returns.

Even then I have nothing against life.
I know well the grass blades you mention,
the furniture you have placed under the sun.

But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
They never ask why build.

Twice I have so simply declared myself,
have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy,
have taken on his craft, his magic.

In this way, heavy and thoughtful,
warmer than oil or water,
I have rested, drooling at the mouth-hole.

I did not think of my body at needle point.
Even the cornea and the leftover urine were gone.
Suicides have already betrayed the body.

Still-born, they don’t always die,
but dazzled, they can’t forget a drug so sweet
that even children would look on and smile.

To thrust all that life under your tongue!—
that, all by itself, becomes a passion.
Death’s a sad bone; bruised, you’d say,

and yet she waits for me, year after year,
to so delicately undo an old wound,
to empty my breath from its bad prison.

Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet,
raging at the fruit a pumped-up moon,
leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss,

leaving the page of the book carelessly open,
something unsaid, the phone off the hook
and the love whatever it was, an infection.

In the first we are left uplifted, renewed and in the second there is a mood of melancholy and resignation. The short, crisp lines of the first, without punctuation, drive us forward and present an optimistic energy. Here the variation in line length gives a sense of novelty. The second poem is weighed down by its longer lines, heavy punctuation and uniformity, giving a sense of monotony to its subject. Words like new, silken, singing and wonder propel the first while still-born, wound, prison, and infection tell us about the second poet’s attitude toward life. Hughes uses repetition like a rallying cry, Sexton avoids sing song sounds to permeate the poem with intensity. In addition you may have noted that In Time Of Silver Rain uses its outdoor setting to instill a sense of expansiveness and space. In contrast, Wanting to Die plays into its interiority to fill the reader with a sense of claustrophobia and stifling sadness.

As you work on your offering reflect on how all your poetic tools contribute to mood. If you’d like, please tell us a bit about your process and choices at the end of your post. While reading others consider giving them feedback specifically about how the poem made you feel, which things stood out in creating atmosphere/mood, and anything else you’d like to add. This will help the author know what was effective in establishing atmosphere and will be useful feedback.

To participate:

• Copy the direct link to the URL and paste it, along with your name, in the Mr. Linky at the bottom of this post.
• Engage in community building, a primary principle here at the pub, by investigating the work of others, reading and commenting. One of the best ways to become a better poet is to read and reflect on the work of your peers. Please provide positive, constructive feedback and appreciation. It’s how we show respect for one another at the pub.
• Share your work and that of others on your social networks. Encourage other poets to join us here at the pub.