Using form to convince: Poem: “Conviction”

Verse has magical powers to engage the minds of its audience and, through that engagement, sway opinions and change attitudes. This is more than the tricks that make it easy to learn verse. It is more than Coleridge’s “Prose: words in their best order; poetry: the best words in the best order.” It is that poets and singers chant, and enchant. The musician chants, the magician chants, if it is well done it creates enchantment. It changes moods, it changes minds. It is used by all religions, all football teams, all angry mobs, and all gentle singers of lullabyes. The fact of the idea being expressed in verse is used as unspoken proof of the idea’s appropriateness.


Poetry in motion

In my last post I said that “rhyme can be used to create a sense of inevitability”. Let me explain:


True verse has a rhythmic twitch
that needs ongoing action.
Rhyme’s an open pattern which
asks for satisfaction.
Give the right words, strong and bright,
and the listener knows “That’s right!”

Conviction carries over, bought
with the words expressed.
The listener believes the thought
because it came well dressed.
Give the right words, strong and bright,
and the listener knows “That’s right!”

In other words, because the words sound right (in meter and in rhyme), our minds are prepared to accept that their meaning is right, their argument is valid. As O’Shaughnessy wrote,

“With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample a kingdom down.”

And that is why Shelley was able to claim that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”. Poets everywhere agree!

5 thoughts on “Using form to convince: Poem: “Conviction”

  1. Michael Burch

    I disagree. Do we believe that Cortez discovered the Pacific because Keats said so with conviction? Walt Whitman was a lot more convincing than many contemporary penners of formal poems. Dressing up words does not make them true, nor does it convince intelligent, informed people to believe everything they read. And I will prove my point by saying that I didn’t believe anything in this particular poem, although I found you convincing in others. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Michael Burch

        Since I’m convinced I’m right
        and said it with conviction,
        and said it, furthermore,
        in rhyme and metered diction,
        to prove your theory true
        you must agree. Boo-hoo!!!


        Liked by 2 people

      2. Michael Burch

        That does not compute! My circuits are exploding!

        I seem to remember an Isaac Asimov short story in which a human being rendered a renegade robot harmless by telling it that he/she was a lawyer, and all lawyers are liars. The poor robot didn’t have a chance.

        However, in this case I believe that I am the lawyer and your program does not compute. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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