September 21, 2016 by Ray Yanek
Lamps gleaming into life on a wooded path. Gas light flickering in the fog. A street light casting a golden halo down onto a deserted brick street corner.
All of these images make me feel.
I associate lamplight with stillness. Quietness. A sense of calm eases down over me, making me want to close the shutters and disappear into the calm of a room lit by candles–which are really just tiny lamps themselves, I suppose.
Even to just think about these scenes and images brings me that sense of comfort and security.
And that’s what I’ve been trying to instill into my high school creative writing students. Poetry–good poetry–creates those images that spark emotion in the reader. It’s those images, as well as careful word choice and choice of detail, that conveys the dominant, emotional impression of a poem.
Take, for example, the poem “Park Going to Sleep” by Helen Hoyt that I’ve posted below. Look at how the images convey a distinct, palpable feeling.
I really wish I would have remembered this poem earlier in the semester…
Park Going to Sleep
The shadows under the trees
And in the vines by the boat-house
And the lamps gleam softly.
On the street, far off,
The sound of the cars, rumbling,
The rocks grow dim on the edges of the shore.
The boats with tired prows against the landing
Have fallen asleep heavily:
The monuments sleep
And the trees
And the Smooth slow-winding empty paths sleep.