What is the difference between "closed form" poetry and "open form" poetry? Please explain.
In terms of poetry, there are two kinds or forms, based upon the "structure or pattern of organization" that a poet adopts when writing his verse.
These are called "open" or "closed" forms. When looking at a poem's form, you can observe the following; with more than one of these in a poem, there is probably a set pattern. Look for the rhyme used: it may be end rhyme (where a word at the end of one line rhymes with the word at the end of another line). There may be a rhyme scheme (which is a specific pattern of rhyme, such as ABAB, where each letter represents a sound, and the pattern is followed in a stanza or an entire poem). The meter is the poem's beat (which is found in sonnets, where, for example, iambic pentameter is often used: ten syllables in a line, with emphasis on the second syllable). There may even be stanzas used (which are often groups of four lines, but not always). There are other elements as well: these are only a few examples.
When a poem has a closed form, the poet has adopted a pattern that the poem will follow in more than one area, such as those mentioned above. As an example, a Shakespearean sonnet is a fourteen-line poem. It has three quatrains (which are four-line stanzas), it ends with a rhyming couplet (a pair of lines that rhyme with each other), it follows a specific pattern of rhyme (ABAB CDCD EFEF GG), and is written in iambic pentameter. In composing this kind of sonnet, the poet follows these parameters. Other examples of a closed form poem are the traditional haiku, the tanka, the limerick, the cinquain, and the villanelle.
Note the haiku below. It is about nature; it has three lines; and, the syllabic pattern (number of syllables) per line is 5-7-5; (note that this is the traditional Japanese format of the haiku):
“The Rose” by Donna Brock
The red blossom bends (5)
and drips its dew to the ground. (7)
Like a tear it falls (5)
In contrast, the open form poem does not follow set guidelines. There is no required rhyme scheme, rhyming pattern, or set number of lines in a stanza. One stanza, for instance may have four lines, as may the second, but a third stanza may have five lines. A concrete poem is one that is spaced out so that it creates a picture. As an example, a religious concrete poem might be shaped like an altar. However, for Halloween, a concrete poem might be written in the shape of a pumpkin or a bat. This may be the only guidelines present, and it is considered a poem with an open form.
Note the lack of form (or the "open" form) of the following poem:
“American History” by Michael S. Harper
Those four black girls blown up
in that Alabama church
remind me of five hundred
middle passage blacks,
in a net, under water
in a Charleston harbor
so redcoats wouldn't find them.
Can't find what you can't see
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