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Ode to Elegy
Poetry and Loss
One of the most common subjects that poets of all eras have explored is loss. Poetry is an invaluable tool to express grief in an approachable and artful manner. Many famous wordsmiths are so well-known precisely for producing content in this subject matter and every successful writer should at least make an attempt to add it to their arsenal. Understanding the different directions that verse can take is the keystone to this process whether you are a writer or a reader. In this article I hope to shed some light on this with examples (including one original) and explanations of three of the most common variations.
The Elegant Elegy
Originally from Greece, Elegies are traditionally metrical. Metrical refers to a poem having metre or a regularity in its rhythm. Also traditionally, an elegy expresses three stages of loss. First, grief and sorrow at the loss, followed closely by exaltation or admiration and eventually a sense of comfort makes its way onto the page. Some more modern works are penned out of a broader sense of sadness rather than a specific loss or source of grief. An example of a traditional well-known elegy is by Walt Whitman for Abraham Lincoln titled "O Captain! My Captain!"
The Eulogy In Verse
The Eulogy is most often thought of as formal prose. It's something people say at the funerals of deceased friends and relations. There is no reason, however that a eulogy cannot be composed as verse or even given metre. Most often, a eulogy is a remembrance of the life of the deceased as well as recognition of the speaker's loss. It can be joyful, intensely saddening or upon occasion satirical. I've written the following, "Eulogy For A Saint" in verse because I find it more personally satisfying than prose. I've written it speciffically about Saint Alexandra who was martyred the year 300 in Paphlagonia. (Now Turkey) However, I've added my own conjecture and spin to make it applicable to the modern age. I hope my readers enjoy it!
Eulogy For A Saint
She grew marigolds and melancholia
Her faith, the very soil she worked, unlikely jailers.
In the night, she wept for ransacked youth
And cursed her fictional progeny in frenzied despair.
She had dreams of Egypt and Rome
Of finding an asp to press against her breast.
Like needles, like knives
The depth of her contempt for her balance beam existence.
She couldn't find inside herself the germ
The one poem suitable to be her thesis.
Up or Down
An unequivocal sound, remorse.
A scaremonger; in harried angst, harborage
Seeing no disparity between this and her ambiguity.
She made bread every Monday
Loaves thick, heavy because she worked the dough too long.
Widows alone flail for succor
In the strangest places; cults, charities and prison doors.
She survived rape, starvation, drowning
Taken eventually to a rubble-girded isle of clasping crags.
Her fame, the end, a martyr
Nay, a suicide, finally to purge all doubt in flame.
The Ode of it All
An ode is not always about loss. An ode is an expression of exaltation for someone or something in verse. Odes are often romantic, humorous or thoughtful. An example of a very famous ode is "Ode to a Nightingale" by John Keats.