Even With Structure, The Possibilities are Endless

November 8, 2013

Poetry is an art form based on structure. The pinnacle of poetry studied by most everyone on their high school English class is the sonnet. As a refresher, a sonnet has 14 lines of iambic pentameter using a handful of rhyming schemes to group lines in to an octet that builds rising tension followed by a sestet that resolves the tension.

The form has come and gone from fashion repeatedly, but we study it for a few reasons. First, Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets. And second, we can use the structure to talk about organizing ideas and their flow that we can take with us to prose.

There are shorter forms. The haiku has 17 morae grouped in three lines of 5-7-5 juxtaposing two images separated by a cutting word and containing at least one seasonal reference. We are rarely strict in following the form. A coworker’s favorite American haiku:


Run, hippopotamus. Run.


And some forms are longer. Epics are more a class of structures with similarities. They tend to have episodes. They tend to start en medias res. They have flashbacks. They have divine intervention. And several other features.

And some poems toss aside structure. This is where most young poets go awry. When done well, even without meter or rhyme schemes theses poems are fluid and wonderful.

But they are dangerous. It is very difficult to eschew form and convention and succeed at creating a sense of rhythm and motion that is the essence of Poetry. It usually ends up a sloppy mess. A big ball of mud.

There are so many ways to build an application. To write software. But patterns and structure simplify the process. Structure and constraints make it easier to get correct. Consistent details, like naming things and disposal habits, shift the cognitive load from the structure of the code to the meaning.

As the poets know, a little structure can give you freedom. Still leaving the possibilities endless.