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Even though it's Allesandro Volta's 270th birthday he did not invent the poetic Volta

Even though it’s Allesandro Volta’s 270th birthday he did not invent the poetic Volta

In writing poetry (and also in fiction) one of the most important thing is the or turn in emotion or perspective that change the meaning towards the end of the text. In poetry this is often called the Volta, from its use in sonnets where it is present towards the end of poem. For many the volta is the most important part of the sonnet, and overrides rhyme schemes and meter making the sonnet a sonnet, in a Shakesperean sonnet for instance the last couplet is often seen as a resolution and in a Petrarchan sonnet between the octet and the sestet. Many of you might have heard of kigo or season-word in the haiku, but there should also exist a cutting word, where perspective shifts is important. In the Sijo it is a change of perspective in the third line.

But for many the volta is so essential that it is the essence of all poetry, and I can see examples of it in all your writing. But I think many times we do it without clear awareness of how to do it to create maximum effect.

The volta can be of many different types, it can shift a serious view into something amusing or ironical, it can turn the scene from serene to sinister, It can move the poem from scenery to an extended metaphor, or it can move from general to personal or the opposite, or it can present a resolution to a problem stated in the beginning of the poem. It can be a sharp juxtaposition that create a poetic effect or the twist can be more subtle.

Look for instance at William Wordsworth, were the first part states the problem of London 1802, and the last part a resolution on why Milton would be a savior.

London, 1802

Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.

Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
So didst thou travel on life’s common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on herself did lay.

Try to make it as sharp as you can today. Though there might be strict rules on where it should be on some forms – for today it is enough that you have it. You do not have to write a sonnet with meter and rhyme, but try to make it 14 lines.

When I read a well-made Volta in any poem it almost always makes me gasp, and read it once again. Make me do that.
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