Use of graphic format to convey central themes

David Hernandez and Pablo Neruda capitalize on poetic devices in their poetry. Each uses distinct devices to convey specific messages, too, making the form of the poetry parallel their meaning, mood, and theme. David Hernandez deftly plays with graphic format in both “Armitage Street” and “Welcome.” Lines begin in different places, lending visual and audible rhythm to the poem. In “Welcome,” for example,” the lines undulate on the page in a wave form. The speaker reminisces about his childhood when he was “little and brown,” and the placement of the verses on the page parallels the childlike mind he is trying to invoke. The poet uses staccato rhythm as a young boy would proudly describe his “White shirt / Blue socks / White shoes” that made him feel “True Puerto / Rican proud.” The unexpected line break between “Puerto” and “Rico” echoes the tone of voice he might have used as a young boy. After relaying the memory, the form and tone of the poem both change. Whereas the unconventional indent signals the boy’s “Puerto / Rican” pride, the sober ending of the poem is written with left-justification on the page. He was “confused,” and symbolically “shivered / When the December / Chicago wind / Slapped my face.” Although the literal meaning is not lost given that Hernandez does write about Chicago, the coldness the speaker refers to also symbolizes growing pains.

In “Armitage Street,” Hernandez also makes use of the space on the page, using graphic format to convey meaning in the free verse. Each of the distinctly indented sections stands alone as discreet memories of the speaker’s childhood on the titular street. One line is repeated for emphasis: “And to think. It seems like just yesterday on Armitage Street.” In the first instance, the line appears immediately after a short first stanza. The speaker has just begun reminiscing. When he repeats the line, it appears in a slightly different form as the last three lines of the poem: “And to think / it seems just like yesterday / on Armitage Street.” The extra break enjambs the phrase and forces the reader to come to a pause, slow, and consider the totality of the poem. Poignant diction in “Armitage Street” includes the neologism “Englishless,” to refer to the immigrant parents. The poet also incorporates multi-sensory imagery as in the ” rice and bean smells” that “roamed the hallways.”

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Pablo Neruda relies heavily on imagery in both “I Remember You as You Were” and “Poetry.” Just as Hernandez makes use of graphic format to convey central themes, Neruda utilizes the end stop in “I Remember You as You Were.” The poem is about death, and the poet suitably ends nearly each line with the finality of punctuation. Many of the lines end with a period, paralleling the end of life. Moreover, the extended metaphor of autumn corresponds with the end of life as does the imagery of twilight. The color gray and the image of the “still heart” are also death-related and correspond with the falling leaves that signal the passing away of the subject.

In “Poetry,” the speaker reflects on his birth as a poet. He begins in media res, in the middle of a story and uses an ellipses also to impart a personal tone as if he is rambling while talking to a friend. The speaker personifies poetry, claiming “Poetry arrived / in search of me.” Unlike in “I Remember You as You Were,” in “Poetry,” Neruda uses enjambment more frequently than the end-stop to allow the poem to ramble and flow with the speaker’s voice. The overall effect is like a stream of consciousness. Neruda peppers “Poetry” with poetic devices including alliteration and repetition. For example, “I wrote the first faint line, / faint, without substance, pure.” The poet repeats the word pure, albeit with different connotation later in the poem when he remarks that his first lines were “pure wisdom” as well as “pure nonsense.” Later, the poet states describes himself as “a pure part of the abyss.”


Unsettling America. Ed. Gillan. New York: Penguin, 1994. Print.

The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry. Ed. McClatchy. New York: Vintage Books, 1996. Print

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