Help me compare the structure of Marianne Moore’s poem “Poetry” to that of traditional sonnets and ballad. thank you

Expert Answers
sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An easy comparison is to compare "Poetry" to that of the structure of a standard sonnet.  By definition a sonnet is a 14 line poem.  Moore's poem is 31 lines.  So, it's not a sonnet.  

A Petrarchan sonnet will have a specific rhyme scheme over those 14 lines.  The first 8 will be abbaabba.  The next 6 will typically be cdcdcd. A Shakespearean sonnet will be abab, cdcd, efef, gg over the 14 lines.  Moore's poem doesn't follow a rhyme scheme, so it doesn't compare nicely to a sonnet in that regard either. 

Any English sonnet is also almost always written in iambic pentameter.  Moore's poem doesn't follow a set rhythm.  It is written in free verse.  However with that said there are specific syllable counts.  Line one of each stanza is always 19 syllables.  More often than not, line 2 is 21-22 syllables.  Again, more often than not, the third line of each stanza is right around 10-12 syllables.  

The other cool thing to note about her poem is that because of her goofy line breaks (enjambment), each next line continues toward the right of the poem a little bit further than the previously enjambed line.  Looks like a stair case of sorts.  And it gives the effect that her thoughts and words are gaining a sense of momentum.  

Comparing "Poetry" to a traditional ballad doesn't get much better.  A traditional ballad typically tells a story.  It has a main character and plot. Moore's poem doesn't do that.  It's a telling of the speaker's thoughts and emotions about poetry.  Ballads are also broken into 4 line stanza with abab rhyme scheme. As I said before, Moore's poem does not rhyme.  But you might be able to make a claim that each stanza is grouped into 4's.  The enjambment happens four times per stanza. 

droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Moore's poem "Poetry" deliberately avoids recourse to the traditional rhythm and rhyme believed by many to constitute "poetry," choosing instead to use free verse as a means of interrogating what is "genuine."

A sonnet is a fourteen-line poem which will adhere to one of several set rhyme schemes, with each line written in iambic pentameter. Ballads are traditionally composed of quatrains which rhyme in an ABAB or ABCB format, with regular rhythm. "Poetry," very deliberately, does not adhere to either of these structures or rhyme schemes. It is, however, structured in its own way: for Moore, the line breaks can be used to isolate important words or concepts. Note the section:


because
they are
useful;


which has the effect of breaking up this phrase to add emphasis to it. Evidently, this is a key part of the poet's argument.

So too does Moore use rhyme in what is primarily a free-verse poem: to isolate specific words and add emphasis to them. Rather than rhyming for the sake of it, which could be seen to show "triviality," Moore's rhymes are irregular and catch the reader by surprise. "A tireless wolf under / a tree, the immovable critic . . . like a horse / that feels a flea," is one. "The base- / ball fan, the statistician--case after case," is another. In the final stanza, there is rhyme within the line "if you demand on the one hand," leading up to the core point of the poem: that insisting upon "rawness" and what is "genuine" is what really makes a person "interested in poetry."

rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

“Poetry” is unlike the sonnet form, either Shakespearean or Petrarchan. A Shakespearean sonnet consists of three quatrains and a couplet; the Petrarchan sonnet is an eight-line stanza followed by a sestet. Both are written in iambic pentameter; both have established rhyme schemes.

Moore’s poem, on the other hand, is much longer (five six-line stanzas), and the meter is very different. It’s not much like a ballad, either; it doesn’t really tell a story, and there aren’t any characters to speak of. There is a sense in which it resembles a Petrarchan sonnet, in that Moore also is posing an argument in her poem, about the worth of poetry. Petrarchan sonnets usually pose a problem or make a point in the first eight-line stanza, then propose an answer in the final six lines. In this sense, Moore proposes a problem: the poetry of “half poets,” which transforms the “genuine” into the “unintelligible.” If the reader is able to continue his pursuit of the genuine “in defiance of the opinions” of the half poets and critics, Moore concludes, then they are “interested in poetry.”