The Long and Short of Poetry

workstation for writing poetry

The long and short of sounds within poetry, is that they can be used to slow or speed up the time of poetry. Long vowel sounds slow down a line of poetry, which can be used to make it sound more somber. The ‘oo’ sound in poetry can be quite gloomy sounding and short vowel sounds tend to be more springy.

If we were concerned with sounds alone this would be nothing more than interesting, and could possible be useful to some effect.

The thing is though, there is more to it. What makes assonance so special is that not only can it slow or speed up time, it also can be used in conjunction with the words actually written on the page to create a sonic mirror of an idea.

There are other ways poets use sound to create sonic mirrors of ideas, like D sounding consonants are used a lot to slow down things.

Below is a line from one of Jennifer Grotz’s poems where she does just that, uses “down the dulling of daylight” to slow the end of the line and the sun setting. What’s more is that sunset also mirrors late summer.

I am pretty sure this poem is in copyright, and as I do not have permission to post it, I can’t. It is available on poetry foundation. I do not support that website, but it is a source to read on.

where your steps count down the dulling of daylight.” — Jennifer Grotz’s poem Late Summer

In the above line the poet uses D sounds to slow things down a mimic what she wants us to see in the world she is describing, but there is another use of sounds within the poem that does something different than speeding up of slowing down of time.

First, remember, short sounds speed up and long sounds slow down.

Then, there is more magic, in her poem she uses ‘S’ and ‘C’ sounds to mimic a circle:

View poem here: https://structureandstyle.org/post/28927687998/late-summer

Before the moths have even appeared
to orbit around them,
Jennifer Grotz’s poem – Late Summer

“along the ring of garden that circles the city center,
where your steps”
Jennifer Grotz’s poem – Late Summer

“At your feet, a bee crawls in small circles like a toy unwinding” – Jennifer Grotz’s Poem – Late Summer

“Summer specializes in time, slows it down almost to dream” – Jennifer Grotz’s poem Late Summer

In the last line it becomes painfully obvious that the poet is aware of what we are taking about right now. For me this is the beautiful thing about words, there can be layers of meaning if wanted, they can mimic things in the world around us, and when it is done well it is something special and yet gets read over like it is not even there. There are also long and short syllables that have nothing to do with the two things talked about here but would do that same thing or assist in it.



  • Both Sides
    They came, they saw, and they conquered; we stayed and witnessed, and they abused us.
  • We
    Since first we rose from ocean’s active mud, since fins became the bending of legs, since legs hadn’t yet the strength,
  • I See a Darkness
    I will not be remembered, not in the history classes or in the breath that fogs rose colored glasses when widows weep at dawn.
  • Dad’s Shadow
    On workdays he’d get up, worn as the mattress’s springs, and put on his dad face. I’d sometimes see him through the cracks
  • A Carpenter’s Tools
    How many year ago did the carpenters tools become useless to understand the world?
  • Blacker Than Black
    Reading the newspaper: It said, new material blacker

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