Judith Beveridge: Form in Poetry

What did you learn about the importance of form in poetry through Judith Beveridge’s lecture?

Poet Judith Beveridge gave a lecture this week on some of her work giving us insight into the process of poetry writing. One aspect she covered was the form of poetry. Form in poetry is something some authors give as much consideration to as the words themselves. Form impacts the flow of the poem as well as how an audience reads it. 

Some tradition poetry, such as Banjo Patterson’s “The man from Snowy river” have very clear, predictable forms. Each stanza of four lines contains two rhyming couplets, and the set is complete sentences with a full stop. It makes his poetry very rhythmic and pleasing to the ear,

THERE was movement at the station, for the word had passed around

That the colt from old Regret had got away

And had joined the wild bush horses – he was worth a thousand pound,

So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.

Beveridge’s the Saffron picker deviates from such recognisable structure, but there is a still a continuous form being applied. Each stanza contains three lines, making it a tercet. Beveridge explained she wanted the poem to have a sense of order and routine to reflect the nature of the work of a saffron picker as she is describing. Unusually, sentences run from one stanza into the next. It doesn’t have the same rhythm as Patterson’s work, but it creates better flow, where the stanza breaks are less pronounced. Beveridge did this to show a flow of time, as well as mirror the continuity of the labor of the saffron picker. A particular interesting aspect of Beveridge’s The Saffron Picker is the fact listed at the top of the poem: It is necessary to pick 150,000 crocuses/ in order to produce one kilogram of saffron. Not only does this provide context for the poem which helps the reader understand, but it was the line that inspired Beveridge to write it. This is a rare insight into where poets can draw inspiration from. 


The Saffron Picker

It is necessary to pick 150,000 crocuses
in order to produce one kilogram of saffron.

Soon, she’ll crouch again above each crocus,
feel how the scales set by fate, by misfortune
are an awesome tonnage: a weight opposing

time. Soon, the sun will transpose its shadows
onto the faces of her children. She knows
equations: how many stigmas balance each

day with the next; how many days divvy up
the one meal; how many rounds of a lustrous
table the sun must go before enough yellow

makes a spoonful heavy. She spreads a cloth,
calls to the competing zeroes of her children’s
mouths. An apronful becomes her standard –

and those purple fields of unfair equivalence.
Always that weight in her apron: the indivisible
hunger that never has the levity of flowers.


feature image: http://seesearch.me/spoiled-by-spice/

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