Language and Content in Poetry

Part 1

            Poetry to be effective must make the most out of language and it content - Language and Content in Poetry introduction. Apparently, one can observe the relationship of the two in terms of how these two elements contribute to the whole poem. For the most part, the relationship rests on the idea that any poetic content must make use of language.

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However, this language must not necessarily be any specific language such that, for instance, only the English language is the sole measure for a poem to have substantial content. Quite on the contrary, any language can be used as a measure of the poem’s content. What is important is that the content of any poem has a large dependence on the manipulation of the language being used.

            Although the substantial content of any poem depends, to a certain extent, to the language being used, it does not necessarily follow that the content of the poem is entirely language-dependent. What can be said is that oftentimes there is a sort of dependency of content to language. Oftentimes, too, language can become dependent on what content the poem is to have. For instance, a poem intended to have a content that effectively relates to the Spanish experiences must use the Spanish language.

            In essence, what makes poetry different from other literary genres is its ability to use language. This can be seen in how the poet is able to specifically use several poetic techniques such as rhythm, rhyme, line breaks, metaphor, simile, symbols, connotation, sound, and other figurative language. Considerably, a large part of what makes a poem good is how well poets use such techniques and how well they fit the use of such techniques to the content of their poems. Although it is not an imperative for the poet to use all of the existing techniques in writing a poem, an efficient use of some of these techniques allows the poet to further substantiate the poem, establish a strong rapport with the reader, and effectively communicate the message embedded within the content of the poem.

            Poets shape their language to communicate their selected workplace themes. It can be observed that poets do not simply or randomly select a language in order to relate their message through their poem. Rather, the very fact that language plays a crucial role in shaping the totality—especially the content—of the poem sends the presumption that poets greatly consider the language they will be using in writing the poem. The idea that ‘poets shape their language’ suggests that poets are able, and are willingly able, to ‘bend’ the language so to speak so as to send the precise message they want to create. For instance, the poet may use a certain word and expand its meaning by using it in a different context. One effective example in achieving this end is through the use of similes, metaphors, and other figurative languages. The word ‘bird’ in the sentence ‘hope is a bird’ may not exactly mean to say that ‘hope’ is a ‘bird’ in the literal context of the word.

            Jima Daniels’ Factory Jungle is a classic example of a poem that uses the technique of personification in order to navigate the world of modern machineries in the context of humanity’s workforce reminiscent of the industrialization of the central parts of the world. Throughout the poem, Daniels employs the first person narrative suggesting that the story behind the poem is being told from the point of view of the narrator. In this case, the narrator of the poem gives certain objects mobility such as “the sun is on its way to the time clock”. The poem also uses metaphors throughout the text such as “the ropes start shining down”. Hyperbole is also seen in the lines “My vein fill with welding-flux”, “Thinking about what that mad elephant can do to a hand” and “fly out the plant gate past the guard post and into the last hour of twilight”.

            Another classic example of a poem that uses the technique of hyperbole is Ruth Collins’ The Song of the Factory Worker. Much like other poems, Collins’ rendition of several literature techniques help the poem achieve its substance and expand on the workplace as its central theme by putting a premium emphasis on the elements that compound together as one in creating the environment of the workplace. The author effectively uses language in bringing specific and lively characteristics to the things which can be experienced in the workplace not only for the worker but even from an outsider’s viewpoint. The author’ rendition of language efficiently creates a certain pace in the poem, as if the reader is most likely expected to catch through the pace and read every word juxtaposed with another in order to bring together the continuous momentum of the poem.

            The Song of the Factory Worker appears to consist of short length lines that provide a strong illustration or description of what can be observed in the workplace. This approach seems to be efficient in a least two ways. First, it enables a brief and easy comprehension of the state of affairs in the workplace. And two, it provides an easy way for both the author and the poet to express and absorb the meaning and connotations of the poem respectively. For instance, the lines “the red-haired girl,” “the click of the tacker,” and “watching the clock” are just few of the poem’s lines that illustrates the simple approach in writing ad expressing the meanings although apparently the lines nevertheless hid away from immediate view the meanings implied or entailed by these short but vivid lines.

            Lastly, Phil Hey’s poem Old Men Working Concrete is a poem that attempts to express through the words how old workers do their functions in the workplace. Owing perhaps to its considerably short length, there is quite a limited contention in the poem although it can also be understood a measure for achieving the aim of sowing how old men behave and act in the workplace. It ca be noted that the language used by Phil Hey is not the same as with Ruth Collins’ poem. The comparison can be based on the fact that, while the latter poet’s style embodies that of a typically simple yet straightforward approach, Phil Hey’s style variably differs in that it appears to not only describe the facts of the matter in the workplace; Hey’s style also explores the continuity of the working behaviors and practices of old men as they get about their day, more like ordinary days with their seemingly infinite daily routines at work.

            With regard to the themes of the three poems, it can be observed that they tackle the lives of individuals in the workplace with variation as to what specific context in the workplace their poem target to expound on. In the Factory Jungle, the poet used language and manipulated it in order to illustrate the life of an individual in the workplace which the author literally compares to a jungle. In the poem The Song of the Factory Worker, the context of the poem treats language more of as a tool in appealing to the emotions of the reader than just by simply describing the workplace of the ‘factory’ and the people involved in it. Lastly, Old Men Working Concrete assembles the life of old men in the workplace as they go about their lives finishing tasks and remaining happy although it appears that the happiness they get is not from the work they do but from the ‘other’ things they do while doing their work.

            In essence, all three poems used language in a variety of ways, owing perhaps to the fact that the authors have varying writing styles made evident by the respective poems they wrote. Although it is the case that the three poems tackle the imminent and appalling situations in the workplace, the poems were nevertheless able to succinctly and effectively describe and explore the situations underlying the workers in the workplace when taken from an individual perspective, from the viewpoint of old men seeking ways to enliven their lives while at work, or from the perspective of a ‘factory’ which attempts to regain and gather its workers, not letting them go and treating them more of a ‘property’ which properly belongs to the ‘factory’. The last observation further treats the ‘factory’ as an entity comparable to that of an individual who is a capitalist.

Part 2

Factory Jungle

            Jim Daniels (b. 1956 in Detroit) wrote the poem Factory Jungle which most likely describes or illustrates a hint of the Detroit City workplace. He is known for his first two poetry collections which center on the reality behind Detroit factories as well as on the unsentimental depiction of the life of the working individuals. He also won from the University of Wisconsin Press the Brittingham Prize for Poetry.

            Factory Jungle may appear to be quite a difficult read upon first reading. Yet, one can eventually absorb the intensity of the poem with a substantial reading and comprehension of the poem’s content. The poem, it seems, is a fast-paced piece of literature that narrates or unravels the succession of the events in the narrator’s experience.

            Further, the poem seeks to establish a comparison between the jungle and the factory as its title would suggest. More dominant is the theme of the workplace being compared to the jungle with regard to some of the notable features of the workplace. Daniels uses several literary techniques such as satire (e.g. thinking about what that mad elephant could do to a hand), and hyperbole (pound my chest trying to raise my voice above the roar of the machines). The poetic techniques, in general, amplify the workplace theme. With these in mind, one can assume that the response of the reader will be one that reveals and elicits an understanding of the poem’s content as it really happened for the poem in its entirety is as real as it gets.

The Song of the Factory Worker

Ruth Collins wrote the poem The Song of the Factory Worker which primarily features how a factory worker is placed under the temptation of going back to the factory. There are several elements in the context of the content of the poem which brings the idea that the factory worker will not be able to resist the forces of the factory. Some of these elements are expressed in terms of literary techniques. These elements featured in the poem include the red brick building which is being compared to a vampire for the reason that wherever the factory worker goes the factory is certain that the worker will return and work again like he or she used to.

            There are certain notable literary techniques employed within the poem. Some of these techniques include hyperbole (e.g. “the pieceworkers, sewing fast, so fast till it makes you dizzy to watch”, “when the sun set her head aflame”), personification (e.g. “when the sun set her head aflame”, “you say to me ‘Oh, you may leave but you’ll be back”), and metaphor (e.g. “you’re like a vampire”) among others.

            The use of several poetic techniques in the poem helps in creating a lasting effect on the content of the poem while not compromising the artistry and symbolism of The Song of the Factory Worker. If one is to take away the poetic techniques used and substitute instead plain language, the content of the poem and the manner in which it generates responses from the reader will also vary since much, if not all, of the responses elicited stems from the poetic techniques involved.

Old Men Working Concrete

            Lastly, Phil Hey (b. Philip Hey) wrote the poem Old Men Working Concrete who also works as the fiction editor for the Briar Cliff Review while teaching at the Briar Cliff University. In the past, he has been nominated twice in the Pushcart Prize and has won a Rainmaker Award. Phil Hey has also been awarded the Literacy Award by the Iowa Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts.

            The poem Old Men Working Concrete appears straightforward in terms of narration and uses very minimal poetic techniques. Although there is no mentioning as to who the narration is being referred to, the title nevertheless gives us a hint: the content of the poem primarily entails the manner in which old men workers finish their labor.

            The poem is basically filled with denotations meaning the words in the poem make the impression of direct reference without casing much of triviality in the sense that the words simply point to exactly what is being referred.

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