Poetry Lessons

The poet said he’d show and never tell—
His imagery would mesmerize and blaze.
In quatrains laced with Aphrodite’s spell,
His sibilance would scintillate and daze.

The poet said he’d kiss the listening ear
With similes as smooth as silken lips.
His spondees would ignite the stratosphere
In scores of metaphors. They would eclipse

The waxing moon. His dactyls dipped in gold
Would melt the frosty timbre of the tongue.
The poet said there’s heaven to behold
If euphemisms never go unsung.

His onomatopoeias drew a sigh
Of rasping gasps from ghosts of bards long gone—
Bards whose scorching iambs never die,
But rise in fevered highs and smolder on.

The poet said he’d lay his trochees bare—
His inner Tyger (burning bold and bright)
Was hotter than a gothic Raven’s stare,
A Stratford quill, or Phoenix in full flight.

‘Twas then his saccharine stanzas hit the floor…
His silent rhythm taught me so much more.



Susan Jarvis Bryant has poetry published on Lighten Up Online, Snakeskin, Light, Sparks of Calliope, and Expansive Poetry Online. She also has poetry published in TRINACRIA, Beth Houston’s Extreme Formal Poems anthology, and in Openings (anthologies of poems by Open University Poets in the UK). Susan is the winner of the 2020 International SCP Poetry Competition, and has been nominated for the 2022 Pushcart Prize.

NOTE TO READERS: If you enjoyed this poem or other content, please consider making a donation to the Society of Classical Poets.

NOTE TO POETS: The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to mbryant@classicalpoets.org. Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed. The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments and reserves the right to remove any comments to maintain the decorum of this website and the integrity of the Society. Please see our Comments Policy here.


26 Responses

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Russel, thank you very much. I’m thrilled to hear you love it!

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Amrita, I’m over the moon to hear my words had you swaying… I love the music of language and I’m glad you do too. Thank you very much for your encouraging comment.

  1. Paul A. Freeman

    ‘rasping gasps from ghosts of bards long gone’ – love it!

    And what a great pick for a pic from Evan.

    Thanks for the read, Susan.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you, Paul. I’m glad you liked it. I love the picture too… Evan has the magic touch when it comes to highlighting our words with a picture.

  2. Brian Yapko

    Wow, Susan, I love this poem with its spectacular array of poetic terms, devices and allusions. This is truly a poem only you could have written. Maybe I’m tripping, but there’s a real mystery here and I’m going crazy from trying to figure out who “the poet” is! Is it indeed an individual poet who you have in mind — a mentor perhaps? — or is it (as I suspect) some abstract platonic ideal of “poet”? Or something else altogether different? Perhaps your poetic alter ego? Your poet promises to channel Blake, Poe, Shakespeare and an anonymous Old English poet (if I have my Phoenix reference correct). Your poet then seems to renege on his promise to channel these greats and instead drops some mediocre work on the floor and falls into silence — a silence which teaches you more than all the poetic tricks of the trade. There’s some interesting psychology here about learning from silence — taking some serious time for contemplation. But I’m left with great uncertainty regarding my reading. I don’t think I’ve ever been baffled by one of your poems before. There’s a story behind this poem and I’m dying to hear what it is, even as I revel in your tour-de-force of a romp through the mechanics of poetry.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Brian, I always appreciate your perspicacious takes on my poetry and I love this one. Please keep this top secret… I don’t want the word to get out… “The poet” is the poet who has woven magic with words and spoken of poetry’s purpose to the to the point where words are no longer enough… in fact, they have become cloyingly suffocating in their ethereal beauty. I wanted to bring those heavenly, immortal wonders to a fleshly level. I wanted a twist on “show don’t tell”. Indulging in a bit of seductive silence is hugely inspirational when it comes to giving those stale romance stanzas a bit of oomph. But, be warned, one can have too much of a good thing… either way. If I’m a little vague, it’s by design.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        From what I can figure out here, the poet whom Susan is describing drops a hint about himself in the first line, when he promises to show rather ran to tell. That would usually serve to mark him as a garden-variety modernist. But then he goes on about quatrains and sibilance and similes and spondees and metaphors, and a lot of the other “tricks of the trade” that would ordinarily pigeonhole him as a more traditional craftsman.

        The references to Blake, Poe, and Shakespeare reinforce this idea, but the poem ends almost bathetically, with the “saccharine stanzas” that he produces, and which drop like dead weights to the floor.

        All I can deduce from this strange concatenation is that Susan is saying this: a great many poets who claim the mantle of being “classical” or “traditional” or “formal” are mediocrities who just produce Hallmark-Card verse. And the last line (“His silent rhythm taught me so much more”) is an oblique invitation to such poets to shut up.

        For all of us here, this poem should be a little scary. Let’s hope Susan won’t answer the question I put to her in my previous post!

  3. jd

    I enjoyed this poem also, Susan. It has so many
    admirable phrases, my favorite being, “… hotter than
    a gothic Raven’s stare,” but there are many more.
    My curiosity is peaked as well.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      jd, thank you very much. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I will admit to grinning when I captured that Raven image. I have far too much fun… I’ve heard real poets suffer for their art.

  4. Yael

    I love your silent rhythm Susan. I don’t even have to read your poem out loud to sense the strong rhythm which you build into your lines. As soon as I start reading this I get a strong and pleasurable rhythmic sensation which is akin to riding a tall, swift Tennessee Walking Horse down a broad and grassy lane.
    I really like the idea of “…there’s heaven to behold
    If euphemisms never go unsung.”
    Thanks for the enjoyable read.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Yael, coming from one who composes beautiful music, I thoroughly appreciate your comment… and to have created a “pleasurable rhythmic sensation which is akin to riding a tall, swift Tennessee Walking Horse down a broad and grassy lane” has my diva ego rising to euphoric heights. What more could a poet ask in a comment! This is a rare mood these dismal days… it should make Turtletown News! 🙂

  5. Joshua C. Frank

    Great one as usual, Susan! And, I agree, Evan chose the perfect picture for it.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much, Josh! And you’re spot on with Evan’s choice of picture. I love it!

  6. Margaret Coats

    I should be working on haiku, but there’s an eerily similar story about the woman haiku poet Chiyo. One evening, the young Chiyo asked a notable poet to teach her haiku. He rudely assigned her to write one on “hototogisu” and went to sleep in the next room. “Hototogisu” means “little cuckoo.” The bird is famous for its song, and the topic is a common yet difficult challenge in haiku. It’s one of those five-syllable words that take up a whole line and make or break the poem. The next morning when the master got up, Chiyo gave him this haiku which is considered absolutely perfect in relation to the situation. She humiliated her would-be teacher.

    Hototogisu my theme
    Until the day dawns.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Margaret, I am glad you broke away from the haiku to impart with this grin of a story. Perfect!

  7. Norma Pain

    This amazing poem had me dragging out my dictionary again.
    I had never heard of “onomatopoeias”. There are many “poetry lessons” for me in this one. Thank you Susan.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      I’m so glad you liked the poem, Norma… and my heart has just gone ‘crash, bang, wallop” with joy at your introduction to the wonder of that smashing little onomatopoeia – the poet’s noisy friend. Thank you very much!

      • Norma Pain

        Thank you Susan. Your “noisy” response has enlightened me to the meaning of onomatopoeia, much more clearly than my dictionary description of the word.

  8. Sally Cook

    Dear Susan,

    This is a very neat and intriguing poem!
    Joe S. I think comes closest. But I think it is a mistake to look for a specific poet, here or elsewhere, to identify as the subject of this mystery. I believe you are speaking of a certain type or class of poet; one who leans heavily on his knowledge of poetics; so heavily, in fact, that he crashes down, having said little or nothing in a very erudite way, and bored us all stiff.
    We’ve all seen a few of these, haven’t we? Lots of fun and lots of love to all.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Dearest Sally, thank you very much for your astute comment. We’ve all seen a few of these, indeed! Though, rarely here on the SCP. I feel a bit guilty about being obscure and will reveal all by adding another stanza… if anyone is tearing their hair out… though, I think the air of mystery is rather fun. With love from me, Mike and King George Lionel. x

  9. Satyananda Sarangi

    Susan ma’am,

    This is humour at its best. The entire poem is a treat, though I loved “His dactyls dipped in gold
    Would melt the frosty timbre of the tongue” and “His onomatopoeias drew a sigh
    Of rasping gasps from ghosts of bards long gone” the most.

    This is added to my favourites’ list.

    Best wishes.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      It’s lovely to see you back on the site, Satyananda! Thank you very much for your wonderful comment. I’m thrilled this is a favourite of yours… I thoroughly appreciate your encouragement.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.