Creating Atmosphere: Three Poems

Introduction by Lauren Capone

Atmosphere is defined as 1the envelope of gases surrounding the earth or another planet, and 2a pervading tone or mood of a place, situation, or work of art. In bridging the experience of music with that of poetry, I chose to focus on the creation of atmosphere in poetry. I’m using the two definitions listed above, leaning into the envelopment concept. Reading a poem, like listening to music, takes place through time, and therefore also swallows the participant (listener or reader) into its being.

Listening to a piece of music, I first let myself be swept into its atmosphere, be it uniform, or punctuated. Only later do I begin to recognize the pockets of patterns or change. Some work resists creating a united atmosphere, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be united. (Think of the earth’s atmosphere, composed of various gases.) Each of these three poems creates an atmosphere in a distinct way. Maya Lowy’s “SOTO” creates an atmosphere fueled by repetition. Its linear form simultaneously highlights the gradual disassembly of the repetitions, but also reiterates a meditative tone, such as one finds when walking alone. Jessie Straus’s poem, “1(n) finding relaxation or comfort in the darkness” describes the atmosphere of disquietude experienced at night. Jessie’s poem both directly creates an atmosphere through description, and visually in its form: four quatrains scattered into a field composition. The form, then, comments on the spaciousness of the nighttime atmosphere described in the poem. In my poem, “Miro at the Eucalyptus Tree” I use a field composition to create a visual atmosphere as well. Because the text is not completely linear on the page, it can be read in various ways, often instigating a sense of overlapping voices. When writing the poem, I was inspired by the act of listening in a busy place—a train station, or a busy park—where the voices of people passing collectively create an atmosphere.

Lauren Capone, “Miro at the Eucalyptus Tree”

Maya Lowy, “SOTO”

Jessie Strauss, “1(n) finding relaxation or comfort in the darkness”