The Medium and The Message

I’m pretty sure that when Marshall McLuhan said that the medium was the message, he was thinking more about social media than about poetry. However …

Marshall McLuhan

I’ve been playing around with my  ode, and observing how this is so true of writing. While experimenting with free verse structure and language, I’m noticing how much more approachable the subject appears to be. The changes really aren’t that drastic, yet they make a significant difference in the way you read the poem. In this case, the formal elements of classical poetry distances both the writer and the reader from the subject. My students also noticed this. Some were stumped by the challenge of writing within a specific framework; some found the task an inspiring challenge; and some chose to ignore the structure completely in favor of simply “getting the poem out”. While I prefer the simplicity of free verse, I enjoy the mental challenge of implementing classical structure. It teaches me more about language; keeps my vocabulary fresh; and surprises me with complex thoughts that may never have surfaced if I had written in a freer medium.





carving granite troughs through boreal groves

of shadowed fir, mossy pine     cease

your swirling dance



amidst the opulent, black-stockinged adiantum pedatum.


of pragmatic and poignant travels … serpentine, green and darksome

teal coated transient of veiled origin




~ until elsewhere bidden ~




maids of spring

budding into frilled, black-gartered madams

of summer              linger long

in cascading


of effervescent freedom

impudent coquettes  wayward tomboys

furl your pinnate fans…

dip your emerald skirts into depths unfathomed


“Oh, you red-shoed girls with faces aglow

teasing cool Ishkinish to sweet furlough.”


curling round

through sun-sweet shadow

and dawn’s breaking mist

the colonial beauties his measure plumb ~  all ~ to charm

inscrutable Ishkinish

fruitful in part

the mighty river pools

in shallow eddies on their fields of green

and the marshy maidens let down their hair

~ tenfold ~

then brackish and spent

trickling, seeping, flowing

Ishkinish rejoins the solitary stream

of leaping, lunging, laughing

adamantine spray…


2 thoughts on “The Medium and The Message

  1. masterbias says:

    So what is the structure of THIS poem that you have shared?

  2. The structure of this poem is free verse. I had been speaking to my students (most specifically) about: writing something the way you want it to sound; of using line breaks as a way to draw attention to an idea; and to consider the effect of line length. Longer lines generally creating a slower pace, and shorter lines a faster pace. Once they got the hang of it, their writing improved by leaps and bounds, especially for those who had never written (or read) a poem before. For some of them, it was easier to write the formal ode using iambic pentameter and end rhyme after they worked it out in free verse.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s