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How To Understand Poetry

Updated on February 27, 2013

Sun Dragon

Eastern scene painted by a student in the school.
Eastern scene painted by a student in the school. | Source

A poem finds layers of meaning, parallels, and patterns

In such a way, poetry is musical and mathematical. Here is one of my favorite poems, written for one of my black belt examinations during an intensive 7-year training course.



Through the mists of time and place, it

Is always so--

Many journey after the truth

And many fall from the confused and

Meandering path

Of pitfalls and potholes

Left unfilled by the Empty Way.

Before time was conceived, unchanging Truth has waited

For those strong enough to seek it,

Humble enough to accept it, Spirited enough to live it:

Those Who Will Walk the Narrow Way.

These youth of the flowering spirit and Knowledge

Forge across the firmest footholds,

Avoiding the sinking sands of falsehood

And compromise -

Unblinded by the world.

They will truly know the dragon.

They will not be crushed in the claws of Deception

Nor bow down to small ideas,

But when the debris of the world

Seeks to bury and devour

A bud appears, and then a blossom,

And Truth will be as Dragonflow'r.

Grandmaster Patty Inglish; 9th Dan, current

US Representative to Supreme Council for Sports in Africa-Zone 3

Homer International Society of Poets; August, 1986

Published for 3rd Dan Black Belt Test requirement

Wind and Water

Painted by myself and a student,
Painted by myself and a student, | Source

One Type of Dragon Flower


A Dragon Flower Vase

Another Type of Dragon Flower

Cultural Traditions: Poetry

Cultures throughout time and across the globe have developed and appreciated poetry in a myriad of forms. The official types of poetry in the English language may illustrate those having the greatest numbers of rules and set patterns. Free verse is a breaking away from all this. Japan offers at least two forms in its Haiku and Tanka. Korea produces Sijo, although the years 2000 - 2010s hold changes and variations in this traditional style that I have not seen previously. The Chinese and Koreans have long histories of writing to win political offices - essays and poetry, high art forms in those countries.

"Pattern poetry" is what I prefer to call the works of e.e. cummings and some other poets, all of which make patterns or even pictures out of the words as they line up on the page like a marching band at Half Time. These are interesting and can follow a set meter and rhyming pattern as well as to march on entirely in free verse. Some of mine have taken shape as swords, flowers, trees, and other forms.

The result is quite nice if the image reinforces a theme in the poem.

Other pattern poems can be done without words at all, but only numbers, colors, shapes, or what have you.

This is a poem:





Binary lineups can be poetic:





Rows of colored blocks may take the form of a poem as well.

Shakespeare and Homer are historic poets. And we have the tone poems and symphonies of all our musicians. The drumming patterns of percussion create poetry. Fractals - these are poems set by equations.

Four calling birds, three whales singing, two elephants trumpeting, one cricket chirping in the rafters -- It is all poetry and pattern.


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      I think you're right -- and yes - groundlessness. I am familiar with this.  

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 9 years ago

      Dearest Patty!!

      It might be that all the flowers that bloomed right after the tragedy of Hiroshima, and all the babies born nine months after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center are evidence of a strong and unlikely will of all organisms to live, to grow, to thrive!!

      Where I think we have a tendancy to suffer is in our relentless pursuit of "solid ground" where there is none! It is a difficult concept for many, to live with groundlessness!!

      I have read your Dragon Flower poem again this morning!! It is just so lovely!! Yes, you have a true mind, heart and spirit!

      Thank you again for sharing!!

      Blessings always, Earth Angel!!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      Earth Angel - I am always awestruck when someone understands and responds to this poem. Thank your for your appreciation and response. This poem represents to me the way to survival in an uncertain world and universe, with peace and serenity.

      After the Hiroshima bombing, about which I have writtten, the grass and flowers rebloomed immediately. I did not know that until after I wrote this poem and am glad that what was in my mind & spirit was true.

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 9 years ago

      How very lovely Patty!! This dragon walks the middle path as well!! Your talents are endless!! I am touched by your words! I have printed them out to sit on my desk!! Blessings to you sweet dragon!! Earth Angel!!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      AuraGem, that is certainly kind of you, plus it begins to more firmly link up some poetry on Hub Pages. I hope wehave a large poetry forum very soon. I enjoy uouir poetry real estate and have commented there as well. Superb!

    • AuraGem profile image

      AuraGem 9 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      hi again Patty - I remembered your poem when I just posted my latest hub "Poetry is the Best Real Estate on the Market". I thought your poem made a lovely connection with my "take" on poetry! So, I have provided a link here!

      Smiles and Light

    • profile image

      Iðunn 9 years ago

      I look forward to it :)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      Thank you Aura and Iounn. I have another titled Art of Night and must dig it out. I also wrote it for my 3rd degree black best test.

    • profile image

      Iðunn 9 years ago

      I'm so glad I followed aura here. I hadn't seen this yet. marvelous!

    • AuraGem profile image

      AuraGem 9 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      I love the powerful sense of mystery and legend in the poem.

      Smiles and Light

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 10 years ago from North America

      Guru-C, Prince Maak, and Bellza, thank you for understanding and appreciating this poem! I loved doing this Hub for you all.

    • Belleza profile image

      Belleza 10 years ago from A Tropical Place

      Filled with depth and strength.

    • Prince Maak profile image

      Prince Maak 10 years ago from Just Above the EARTH and below the SKY


    • Guru-C profile image

      Cory Zacharia 10 years ago