Marion Shore, in her poem “Parallel Universe” (published in Volume 13 Issue 2 (2003) of The Formalist), uses slant rhyme mixed with perfect rhymes in a way that coincides perfectly with the content of the poem. She uses the slant rhyme in the first stanza to compare space with gaze. Emphasizing the contradiction of a universe in which she has “never met your gaze” (Line 4). The rhyme is imperfect, but so is the universe, she seems to be saying. She takes this even farther and brings the slant rhyme into stark relief in the final couplet where she says, “Somewhere there is a universe/Where when you dream, you see my eyes, not hers” (Lines 13-14). By placing this change that would typically be considered a flaw in the closing couplet, she announces its intentionality.

I have seen other poems in which the form mirrored the meaning, but usually that was in free verse or at least in non-traditional forms. Of course the sonnet in and of itself, through its tradition and its volta, complements and guides the content of a sonnet, but this additional device is so intentional and stands out so boldly that our attention is drawn to the form and we begin to see other aspects in which the form mirrors or enhances the content, the rhymes, the meter, etc. The sonnet form, alone, hides in the background of our consciousness, and we may read and understand the poem fully without ever noting what the sonnet form adds or subtracts from or to it. I am challenged to attempt to incorporate some type of overt and blatant “in your face” connection between form and meaning into my next poem. After all, “the medium is the message” (McLuhan 7). Perhaps slant rhyme, perhaps something else, but to somehow directly tie form to meaning, and then bring it blatently to the attention of the reader.

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Cambridge: MIT, 1964.

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