Saturday, February 17, 2007

A New Mandala for Poetry....

In my Logopoetry essays I divided poetry into a Mandala of Form, Substance, Meaning, and Feeling--with the intersection of the four being the center of artistic excellence. Now I have been visited with a second Mandala, whose four corners are Inductive, Deductive, Open, and Closed.

I don't know how to reproduce it here in the blog, but just imagine that the following five elements are spread at 90 degrees from each other with 'X' in the middle for the intersection of the Mandala.


Deductive poems use figures of speech to support their assertions, however surreal.

Inductive poems spring from an actual experience that generates elaboration.

Open poems invite the reader to join the author in his journey, avoiding easy conclusions.

Closed poems end with a summarizing statement, however disguised by technique, wrapping the work in a nice red bow. Keats' "Ode to a Grecian Urn" is proof that closed poems can be great and ought not to be despised, even in our present relativistic culture.

Yeats writes many closed poems, like "Byzantium."

There is likely no poet more open in English than Emily Dickinson, whose insights are so subtle and stuttering you feel like you're dancing with a shy wallflower--until you see her great heart and intelligence.

Eliot's early work, like "Prufrock," is more open, though certainly deductive. His later work is more closed, especially "Four Quartets."

Shakespeare's sonnets are almost entirely deductive, using figures of speech instead of surrendering to the experience of the moment, and mainly closed as well. And Spenser and Johnson are in the same club, while Donne can be more inductive, as in "The Flea." Closed and deductive were the expectation of those times.

Wordsworth could be inductive or deductive, though his early work strives to be inductive, as in "Tintern Abbey," and especially "The Prelude," while the Lucy poems, for instance, are deductive.

Coleridge was more deductive, even in natural settings as in "This Lime Tree Bower My Prison."

Elizabeth Bishop was best when inductive, as in "The Moose," or "Fish Houses," or "The Fish."

Strand is mainly deductive, though often disguised. But his settings are mainly created like stage scenery.

Wallace Stevens is mainly deductive as well. But is he open or closed? I think more open in his uncertainty.

Matthew Arnold is closed and deductive, a combination that puts his poetry out of favor in this age. Same for Pope, Dryden and Johnson. Same for Milton.

Shelley often transformed the inductive into the deductive, by exalting an experience, especially of nature, into an epiphany that exceeds the experience ("Ode to the West Wind.")

Blake is almost purely deductive. But is he closed? I think his childlikeness makes him open even when a poem, like "The Sick Rose," tells us the entire story. We want to leap into childhood with him and his diction. Despite his rhetoric, he is more open than closed; he wants us to believe in his world, and it shows.

Zymborska is mainly open, though she can be inductive and deductive, like most poets, though I think if we analyzed all poets, most would tilt towards one quality or the other.

Rilke was mainly deductive in his "Sonnets for Orpheus," but more inductive in his "Duino Elegies."

Neruda, without reviewing him in detail, strikes me as beyond these classifications in general, but later in his career, as a dogmatic Communist, he wrote more closed and deductive poems. His best work is open.

I will stop here. Perhaps I'll write an essay about these four corners, perhaps not. If an editor wants it, I'll likely do it. But that requires a query letter, which I find tedious and am loathe to write. Any editor who visits these pages need only drop me a note and I will flesh out my theories for her pleasure.

Anyway, I wanted to share this alternative approach in understanding poetry which is complimentary to my Logopoetry essays, still available in the Melic Archives

Food for thought. I'd like to hear your thoughts!



  1. William Stafford and Mary Oliver strike me as wonderfully inductive. Would you agree?

  2. I find Oliver mainly inductive but Stafford mainly deductive. Exceptions can be found in both, of course.


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