Mrs. Barnhart's Poetry Page
Elements of Poetry
Syntax refers to the word order of words in a sentence, phrase, or clause. Poets use syntax as they use any other rhetorical device --to create meaning. Poets can create emphasis, tone, or show state of mind by the order of the words, the repetition of words, or the sudden breaking off of words. The word order may also be rearranged in order to create rhythm or sustain a rhyme scheme.
In conventional English, readers are used to seeing a certain pattern of sentence parts: subject-verb-complements. We readers are used to, therefore, looking for the "who or what the subject is about" at the beginning of the sentence. When a writer changes that pattern, the reader may have to work harder to establish the meaning of the sentence. Consider the following poem and what the writer has done in using an inverted syntax.
"Me up at does"
Me up at does
out of the floor
a poisoned mouse
still who alive
is asking What
have i done that
you wouldn't have
In order for you to make sense of the poem, you may first need to put it into conventional syntax, but keep the punctuation and the capitalization the same.
Compare the subject-verb-complement of your rearranged sentence to the poem above. What order did the poet use?
What word has the subject spot? What is the significance of the word?
What is unusual about the poet's use of punctuation? Why do you think the poet made the choices that he did? What id the effect of his choices?