Personal Statement


There is a connection between language and content in poetry. It is the particular way that poets use their language that conveys the particular message that they wish to. This is well captured in Paul Valery’s words when he says that “poetry is a language within a language” (Gwendolyn: 12). The content or meaning of the poem is conveyed by the language that the poet utilizes. The content of the poem, according to Gwendolyn, is not to be found on what the poem communicates, rather, it is to be found on “how it is communicated” (12).

This paper is going to analyze the relationship between language and content in poetry. The writer is going to achieve this by analyzing three poems. The first is Old Men Working Concrete by Phil Hey; the second will be

The Closing of the Rodeo

by William Jay Smith while the third is

5000 Apply for 100 Jobs

by Jim Daniels. All of these poems have work place themes.

Shaping Language to Communicate Workplace Themes

Poets are known to shape the language so that it communicates what they want the audience to get. Some poets use the sound of the spoken language, rather than its meaning, to pass along an idea to the audience (Hayden: 20). One of these techniques is alliteration. This is where the poet repeats a constant at the beginning of words to create something similar to rhyming (Gwendolyn: 15).

Personal Statement

Alliteration is very much evident in Hey’s Old Men Working Concrete. Take for example the

second line, “will                                                                                                                                                                    take thei

r own sweet


ime” (Hayden: 23). This is repeated in the third line; “…..where the


ircle of


an has worn a


ircle in the


loth” (Hayden: 23). In the former, Hey repeats the constant “t” while he repeats “c” in the latter. This repetition creates some kind of music to the reader’s ears as he goes about the poem. If this was Hey’s intention (to create music), then he has succeeded as far as these verses are concerned.

But sometimes, the repetition is a bit too much, such that it ends up creating monotony rather than rhythm. Consider the line “(and)….walk that barrow back and back and back.” Here, the

word “back” creates a monotony rather than rhythm. Again, Hey succeeds in other quarters by use of this repetition. He vividly brings out the theme of monotony in the work that the old men are doing. They keep on moving back and back and back.

Rhythm is another technique that the poet can use to shape the language so that it conveys the message that he wants. This is where the poet makes use of the intrinsic musical nature of each word in the vocabulary, so that he combines words which, by their differing musical notes, come up with a new rhythm (Gwendolyn: 14). This is very obvious in Williams The Closing of the

Rodeo and Daniels 500 0 Apply for 100 Jobs.

Take for example the last line of


William writes “dark drum (the varnishing) horses’ hooves” (Hayden: 22). The first two words “dark drums” are used to convey a scenario of horses galloping away in the darkness. The theme of successfully closing the day’s work at dusk is clearly brought out by this technique.

Personal Statement

But the pursuit for rhythm spoils the flow of the poem. Consider how strange it feels for the reader to hold his breath for a beat, then continue without inhaling as he transits from the first to the second line; “…..cowboy rolls/His pack,” (Gwendolyn:14).


Poets place a lot of weight on the musical notes of the words rather than on the meanings of the words per se. They do use rhythm to create an image to the reader, rather than using words to describe the same. Alliteration, rhyming and allusion are other techniques that are used. This paper analyzed techniques that have been employed by three poets to pass workplace themes effectively. As much as some of the techniques meet the goals of the poet, they also tend to have some negative effects on some aspects of the poem, for example the flow of the writing.

Personal Statement


Gwendolyn, Hermanes U. “A Comparison between 20th and 21st Poets: Writing Techniques.”

New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008. 12-15.

Personal Statement

Hayden, McFadden H. “Teaching Poetry in High Schools: Making it Interesting to the Students.”

Brooklyn: Cengen Books, 2009. 20-23.