Hank Aaron. Reggie Jackson, Mr. October. Willie McCovey. Heavy hitters all. Swinging the bat with power and grace. All wore number 44. The big hitters in baseball are often those that are best remembered. The utility players or the defensive second basemen fade into oblivion for all but the most studious of fans, but the big hitters are known even by those who don’t particularly follow the game.
There are big hitters in the world of poetry, too – those names that everyone knows, despite only a required spate of English classes in high school or college. Shakespeare. Whitman. Frost. Shelley. Keats. Yeats. Today we are going to use some lines from heavy hitters to inspire some writing. Let’s get started – I will give you three options.
1. from Bright Star by Keats
“The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores”
Here Keats imbues water with a spiritual quality, partially by using the religious diction of priestlike and ablution. Choose one of the four elements (fire, water, earth, air) and write about it with diction specific to another area of thought or profession. For example, use weaving terms to write about air or baking terminology to write about fire.)
2. from Mutability by Percy Bysshe Shelley
“We rest.—A dream has power to poison sleep;
We rise.—One wandering thought pollutes the day;”
Shelley is the king of pessimism here. But he does it with such beautiful sound. The w-r combinations that start the lines. The pop of the p sounds, the d sounds as bookends for the lines. So write a pessimistic poem where something always turns the good to bad, trying to focus on the repetition of only 3 to 4 dominant consonant sounds (i.e., the w,r,p, and d of Shelley’s lines.)
3. from “Easter 1916” by W.B. Yeats
“Too long a sacrifice
can make a stone of the heart.”
Yeats uses the “of machine” here, something that most contemporary poets try to avoid. (If you don’t know what I mean, the “of machine” is a construction where the poet compares by saying the _______ of the _________ . Here, a stone of the heart.) So how can we use the of machine successfully? Sound, for one. Yeats lets the s sounds dominate these two short lines, letting the two items being compared mirror each other in sound. Write some lines using this strategy.