Not Waving but Drowning’s Persona

Nobody heard him, the dead man, 
But still he lay moaning: 
I was much further out than you thought  
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,   
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always   
(Still the dead one lay moaning)   
I was much too far out all my life   
And not waving but drowning.

This poem gives me the feeling of a being who seemed to always be searching. Or always crying out for help, even if silently, through actions. Someone who seemed to be waving for help or showing these emotions of delight or contentedness but in reality was drowning – waving for help in a vast sea of voices, being unheard. The poem gives me a sense of someone who wanted peace and people to care for him but no one acknowledged it until it was too late (Still the dead one lay moaning).

For this poem, I chose this piece by Vincent van Gogh: Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat. Van Gogh was a depressed man, searching for peace and love and he was an emotional guy. He wanted to depict beauty and emotions through his paintings and he did a phenomenal job with the use of color and his brush strokes. He seemed to cry out for help through his paintings and actions so I think this poem is an accurate representation of how he may have felt before and after death.

I chose this painting specifically because of his use of colors and subject matter. In this painting, he uses lots of warm tones, yellows, oranges, greens, reds. It has an overall warmth to it which I can feel from his choice of hat too. He has some other paintings with different hats and this straw hat gives me a feeling of being in sunny weather. This warmth reinforces the fact that he did see a beauty in the world that he wanted to be able to express in painting as well. Poor chap, he always loved larking

And now he’s dead.

Van Gogh’s actions cried out desperation. He even cut off a piece of his ear and gave it to a prostitute in the hopes she would see it as a gift and want something more with him. His painting of Starry Night is also and expressionistic way he called out for help – he was the large dark cypress tree contrasting against the vast sky full of bright stars.

His paintings didn’t get much recognition until after he died of suicide (according to many people at that time). He couldn’t take it anymore. It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way. By the time he got recognition, it was too late.

Poetry as a Genre: Class Consensus

“Poetry is like a languages of emotions.  Lastly, novels can have many characters or situations with each having their own emotions and stories.  Poems, on the other hand, mostly illustrate the feelings behind a event, situation, or experience.” – Catherine Fu

Catherine makes a great point in talking about how poetry does a good job of conveying emotions on a broader spectrum rather than just conveying emotions through characters. I will say that in novels oftentimes the setting can set the tone as well but poetry does this in a way that is like an illustration as Catherine mentions. This almost makes me compare novels to movies while poetry might be more like a set of drawings. With poetry less can be more but the words that the author chooses can really amplify how the entire message is conveyed.

“Poetry conveys messages through the lyrical use of techniques and words and is appreciated because of its selected use of words, rhyming scheme, language and intensity of feelings or moods while novels and plays tend to more of a peculiar structure, separation through the use of chapters, and often prosaic language.” – Rubén Pagán-Ramos

I love that Ruben touches on the vast amount of techniques that can be used in poetry to get behind the overall meaning of the poetry or what the author is intending to convey. Poetry, no matter with what technique used, always seems to have some lyrical sense to it which I think is a great point that Ruben makes. According to Google, the word lyrical means expressing the writer’s emotions in an imaginative and beautiful way, in the sense of literature, art, or music, and poetry does this in every way.

“Rather than emphasizing the story as a novel would poetry emphasizes the use of language and provoking a response much like a painting would. Poetry can be abstract, straight-forward, convey a story, or have no semblance of a story but this is what makes poetry stand out as an art form. The freedom that an author is able to express is what differentiates poetry from traditional writing.” – Jimmy Figliola

Jimmy makes an interesting point that poetry provokes a response from the reader the same way a painting would which circles back to Catherine’s idea of poetry being able to illustrate feelings. These points justify that poetry is truly an art form. Jimmy makes a great point that poetry allows the writer freedoms and this can be empowering for the writer.

Audre Lorde Illustration

Part 1

In my last post, I defined poetry as words and phrases composed in a way that rolls off the tongue and uses figurative language to paint a feeling. It stimulates emotion and feeling through figurative language by using appetizing words. A great example of this is the poem Coal by Audre Lorde.

Some words are open

Like a diamond on glass windows

Singing out within the crash of passing sun

Then there are words like stapled wagers

In a perforated book—buy and sign and tear apart—

And come whatever wills all chances

The stub remains

An ill-pulled tooth with a ragged edge.

Sorry I’m not sure how to shrink this text. If anyone knows, please let me know!

Anyway, my interpretation of this poem is that the author is talking about how impactful words can be; the versatility and range of emotions that words can create. The author is able to reach my senses by writing in a way that uses my imagination. “Like a diamond on glass windows,” is something I can hear in my head. “An ill-pulled tooth with a ragged edge,” is something painful enough to feel. These similes and metaphors are some figurative language this author uses in her piece. At the same time the words are enticing and hold my attention. They feel nice to say aloud. This poem is just one example that sustains my definition of poetry on a broader spectrum.


Part 2

Natalie was also able to apply her definition of poetry to this poem by Audre Lorde. Her definition was “that poetry uses words to express something (often intangible) in a way that isn’t hindered by the traditional laws of language or storytelling.” This is notes on a key point that I did not mention in my definition which is mentioning that poetry doesn’t tell stories in a traditional sense that novel and plays might. It doesn’t have to follow as many rules as these genres might. She mentions in her example from Coal that this nontraditional formatting can really add to the poem, and in this case, providing a sense of clarity and separation.

She did present the point I made in my definition saying poetry is rooted in visualization and figurative language.  This is something that’s key to my definition but I would also very much agree that the freedom poetry has in formatting is something that separates in from it’s counterpart genres and can really add to the overall emotion that the author might be trying to convey.

Defining Poetry as a Genre

Defining poetry as a whole is difficult because there are so many forms it can take and so many sub-genres poems can fall into, but is it not impossible. In essence, poetry as a whole seems to be words and phrases composed in a way that rolls off the tongue and uses figurative language to paint a feeling.

Between all of the examples posted, they all have vivid imagery. They also all have a certain rhythm as well but it varies between all of them. I think the best way to define poetry is that it stimulates emotion and feeling through figurative language by using appetizing words.

Here are some examples of this:

“She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet. She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;” – W. B. Yeats, “Down by the Salley Gardens

“That half a rood of rock, a no-man’s land; Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.” – Patrick Kavanaugh, “Epic

“For oft, when on my couch I lie, In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye. Which is the bliss of solitude;And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.” – Stevie Smith, “The Heavenly City

^^These quotes don’t give the poems justice but they all absolutely paint a picture and emit emotions through words and this I feel is how to define poetry.


Tuesday, May 19th

I connected with Alyssa’s definition of poetry: “Poetry, as a genre, as a literary work that conveys the essence of a time, event, memory, or abstraction in such a way that appeals to the senses, often to project an experience or tell a story.”  I always feel like poetry allows us to experience the emotions and intentions of the writer. I see it a bit differently in the way that poetry can feel abstract but usually has some meaning behind it. It doesn’t have to hold meaning but I find it hard to feel abstraction through writing, maybe because my version of abstraction is visual or even audible but even with poetry I have never seen it entirely abstracted, although I may just not have read enough poetry!

I also related to Jimmy’s definition of poetry: “Poetry to me is an art, a literary form that as a sense of musicality.” I feel a sense of rhythm to all sorts of poetry but prose poetry does fall into a weird spot where the sentences may feel more like a soliloquy, sentences running together. It may not always have the same rhythm that I associate with music and this may not have been Jimmy’s intention of even associating rhythm with musicality, but poetry does seem to have a way of guiding the reader to navigate it a certain way through the use of structure, punctuation, and rhyme sometimes. 

Jay’s definition also caught my attention: “In its most fundamental form, a poem is a collection of words artfully arranged, usually with an underlying purpose.” I do see poetry as a form of art as well (although everyone’s definition of art may be different), and I think poetry lives well as art with how it’s presented visually and also how the words live together and can invoke a response from the reader. The underlying purpose.. does there have to be one? Again I would like to see a more abstract poem, one without purpose. Does everything serve a purpose? These are the questions I ask myself daily lol.

I loved seeing everyone’s responses to defining poetry – it’s a hard task. Like art, poetry seems to be subjective but poems still share a few similar qualities, fewer than novels and plays might share with their own genres.


I’m very excited to take this course and to dive into visual poetry. I took this course as it’s required for my major, which is Kinetic Imaging within VCUarts. I was interested in this specific English course because I love reading and analyzing text. I think so much can be accomplished with words and also through stylization – I do enjoy typography quite a bit as well.

I will be completing work when I can during the day – potentially during breaks at work or when I get home from work around 7 pm or so. I do work around 36 to 40 hours a week at a healthcare clinic and have an epileptic dog that I care for at home so these are my main obligations. This course should be able to fit into my schedule nicely. I check my e-mail regularly so it’s best to reach out to me through there at

I am fairly familiar with poetry and I have read and analyzed it in the past but I’m rusty on it. I need a refresher. I’m looking forward to checking out different styles and works of visual poetry.