Stanza Exercise

Greta Musacchio, Engl 220, 9/12/11


A Dark Thing Brightens Us

I like to call it the cave.

It’s a place most people would never stutter a glance on.

It’s dark and damp and sometimes spits water on your head.

Well, sometimes it would get too cold on 2 am walks back from the library

And we would complain like the children we knew we no longer were

And hold our helpless hands in our shallow pockets.

But we would finally get to the cave

And we were brightened.

Warm and thick air from the washer and dryer vents

Was our nighttime sun,

Giving us back what the weather and stress had taken from us.


Critical Analysis

My stanza, A Dark Thing Brightens Us, is a free verse stanza.  Free verse entails very little in terms of form.  There is no set rhyme scheme and no set meter.  However, that does not mean a free verse stanza like this one cannot contain several important literary devices.  A stanza is simply a “paragraph” of a poem, so this could only be one small component of a larger poem.  In this stanza, I thought very carefully about my diction.  I chose words like stutter, helpless, and shallow to describe a certain feeling – a feeling that the cave helped us escape from.  I also chose words like dark and damp and bright and sun to set up the big contrast that I first introduce in the title – that this dark and damp cave brought warmth back to my friends and me after long winter days and nights.  In this stanza, I also use a few similes and metaphors to bring the descriptions to that next level.  “And we would complain like the children we knew we no longer were…” is an example of a simile and “Warm and thick air from the washer and dryer vents was our nighttime sun…” is an example of a metaphor.  Similes and metaphors in this stanza allow the feelings that my friends and I had before we got to the cave and the warming qualities of the air to be more vivid for the reader.  I also utilized alliteration in this stanza.  “Helpless hands” is my favorite example of alliteration in the stanza.  I used alliteration to give the poem a little bit of a steady beat despite its free verse nature.  The lineation in this stanza contains enjambment and end-stop patterns.  When I used end-stop lines and the clauses ran over from line to line, I did it to add emphasis to certain lines of the stanza because it adds a small pause before the second half of the clause.  For example, in the clause “But we would finally get to the cave,/ And we were brightened.”, “And we were brightened” has emphasis due to the enjambment, which works with this stanza very well because the brightening aspects of the cave is an important part of the larger idea.  The use of both enjambment and end-stop lineation to me shows the sort of jumping around aspect of the stanza.  The stanza also contains symbolism, as the cave is a larger symbol for refuge in disguise, which is never explicitly said but should be assumed by the reader at a certain point.  Even for a small stanza like this, critical analysis and close reading can happen because every bit of writing has literary devices that are put there for a purpose.

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