‘Who Matters?’: An Adventure Exploring Poetic Technique!

Introduction

This post explores some of the key techniques used in the poem ‘Who Matters?’, and I hope it will give you some insight into how these may contribute to your experience of it and to the meaning you may take from it.

There is a ‘First Reading’, then a series of techniques will be highlighted and discussed.

‘Meaning: Leading Questions’ briefly dips a toe into thinking about meanings you might start to interpret as you become more engaged in the poem. However, it takes care not to spell out or interpret intended meanings for you. Ultimately it is for you to decide what the poem means for you, if anything, and that may vary between different readers.

A final reading gives a chance to re-read the poem following the analysis, and to see if it has different effects on you compared to the first reading, before rounding up with a final note.

So, without further ado…

First Reading


Who Matters?

You matter.
Your feelings matter. They can not be measured with a tape.
Your voice matters, and it is beautiful.
Your soul matters. You can never know its silent shape.

We matter.
We are lonely rocks in a never ending sea.
Our hearts are lost, are found, are free, are full,
We are trees torn away in storms, and washed up in the lee.

We are lost.
Our hopes lift up, then plunge against the rocky shore.
Our systems serve ‘The People Who Matter’, they rule.
‘The People Who Matter’ really matter. They just do not matter more.

Our lives, and our hopes, untended, tired and parching,
Let’s find our feet and fill our hearts and hand in hand start marching.

Rhyme

In this and upcoming sections, the poem is shown with relevant words (in this case rhyming ones) highlighted in bold blue text, or occasionally with underlines, then discussion of the technique follows. The title (‘Who Matters?’) is not repeated in every section.

You matter.
Your feelings matter. They can not be measured with a tape.
Your voice matters, and it is beautiful.
Your soul matters. You can never know its silent shape.

We matter.
We are lonely rocks in a never ending sea.
Our hearts are lost, are found, are free, are full,
We are trees torn away in storms, and washed up in the lee.

We are lost.
Our hopes lift up, then plunge against the rocky shore.
Our systems serve ‘The People Who Matter’, they rule.
‘The People Who Matter’ really matter. They just do not matter more.

Our lives, and our hopes, untended, tired and parching,
Let’s find our feet and fill our hearts and hand in hand start marching.

Discussion

The rhyming scheme for the first three stanzas is ABCB. This means the words at the end of the second and fourth lines within these stanzas rhyme.

Additionally, the final word of the third lines of these stanzas rhyme between stanzas. The last syllable of ‘Beautiful’ and ‘Full’ provide the same sound, which helps emphasize the latter, causing a brief pause before the imagery of storms unleashing their full power in the final line of the second stanza.

‘full’ to ‘rule’ provides a half rhyme, which might serve to portray the fact of ‘The People Who Matter’ ruling being ominous/oppressive/foreboding?

‘and hand in hand’ gives a possibly unexpected internal rhyme involving three of the four words in the phrase, slowing and marking the pace, injecting some softness and moderating the voice in what is a quietly but powerfully made statement. It is an example of how a technique might ultimately help to contribute to or affect the meaning you might take from the poem when reading it. It is also an example of how different techniques can operate in concert with each other; in this case, rhyme, alliteration and metrical rhythm. This analysis will mostly focus on techniques in isolation, but as a reader of the poem, you can then start to consider how they may work together.

The last stanza has a rhyming couplet which gives some sense of harmony and structure, working together with the much more regular rhythm in the last line.

The second stanza has nine internal rhymes. Some of these connect to the normal rhymes at the end of the second and fourth lines, providing seven words based on the same rhyme in this stanza, and twelve rhyming words altogether. Between ‘trees’ and ‘lee’ there is ‘torn’ and ‘storms’, and the onomatopoeic ‘washed’ rhymes with ‘lost’, both in the previous line, and with its repetition in the next stanza as well.

There is a section later ‘Focus on the Second Stanza’ which looks at rhyme, imagery and other techniques in that stanza and how they work together.

Repetition (1)

You matter.
Your feelings matter. They can not be measured with a tape.
Your voice matters, and it is beautiful.
Your soul matters. You can never know its silent shape.

We matter.
We are lonely rocks in a never ending sea.
Our hearts are lost, are found, are free, are full,
We are trees torn away in storms, and washed up in the lee.

We are lost.
Our hopes lift up, then plunge against the rocky shore.
Our systems serve ‘The People Who Matter’, they rule.
‘The People Who Matter’ really matter. They just do not matter more.

Our lives, and our hopes, untended, tired and parching,
Let’s find our feet and fill our hearts and hand in hand start marching.

Discussion 

There are nine pairs of matching or closely associated words scattered throughout the poem.

For instance the words ‘never’ and ‘lost’ each have a matching word only two lines later, whereas ‘find’ and ‘fill’ in the last line relate to ‘found’ and ‘full’ respectively from the second stanza. The final line also has the most such words of any line, including within the phrase ‘hand in hand’ inside the line itself.

This technique adds emphasis to those words, can help in evoking the images and ideas they represent, and may create a form of acoustic resonance as the second instance of these words keep appearing and echoing throughout the fabric of the poem.

Repetition (2) 

You matter.
Your feelings matter. They can not be measured with a tape.
Your voice matters, and it is beautiful.
Your soul matters. You can never know its silent shape.

We matter.
We are lonely rocks in a never ending sea.
Our hearts are lost, are found, are free, are full,
We are trees torn away in storms, and washed up in the lee.

We are lost.
Our hopes lift up, then plunge against the rocky shore.
Our systems serve ‘The People Who Matter’, they rule.
The People Who Matter’ really matter. They just do not matter more.

Our lives, and our hopes, untended, tired and parching,
Let’s find our feet and fill our hearts and hand in hand start marching.

Discussion

Answering the ‘Who’ in ‘Who Matters?’ is ’You’, and the things belonging to you (feelings, voice, soul). 

This broadens to ‘We’ and ‘Us’ (within ‘Let’s). ‘We’ also answers the ‘Who’ in ‘Who Matters?’. Two metaphors for us (‘We are …, We are …’) are provided in the second stanza, and there are references to our hearts, hopes, systems and lives (as well as feet!).

A third and final perspective on answering the ‘Who’ in ‘Who Matters?’ is given by ‘The People Who Matter’, a group whose relevance is quickly qualified and balanced.

While every statement starting ‘You’, ‘Your’, ‘We’ and ‘Our’ is observational, “Let’s” at the beginning of the last line initiates a call to take some (balanced and appropriate, but still determined) action.

Repetition (3)

You matter.
Your feelings matter. They can not be measured with a tape.
Your voice matters, and it is beautiful.
Your soul matters. You can never know its silent shape.

We matter.
We are lonely rocks in a never ending sea.
Our hearts are lost, are found, are free, are full,
We are trees torn away in storms, and washed up in the lee.

We are lost.
Our hopes lift up, then plunge against the rocky shore.
Our systems serve ‘The People Who Matter’, they rule.
‘The People Who Matter’ really matter. They just do not matter more.

Our lives, and our hopes, untended, tired and parching,
Let’s find our feet and fill our hearts and hand in hand start marching.

Discussion

After ’Matters’ appearing in the title, ‘Matter’ or ‘Matters’ appears nine times within the poem, which is significant in a poem of 121 words. 

This includes one appearance in each of the first five lines, which develops the mattering theme strongly from the beginning.

It also appears three times in the last line of the third stanza, and forces some weight and gravity to the reflections on how much ‘The People Who Matter’ actually do or do not matter.

It notably does not appear at all in the last stanza. By then, we have already established that we matter, both individually and collectively, and we have moved on to taking and accepting ownership of our lives and hopes, and building on our increased sense of confidence and self-worth to take responsibility together for improving our future.

Repetition (4) : Bringing Repetitions Together

You matter.
Your feelings matter. They can not be measured with a tape.
Your voice matters, and it is beautiful.
Your soul matters. You can never know its silent shape.

We matter.
We are lonely rocks in a never ending sea.
Our hearts are lost, are found, are free, are full,
We are trees torn away in storms, and washed up in the lee.

We are lost.
Our hopes lift up, then plunge against the rocky shore.
Our systems serve The People Who Matter, they rule.
The People Who Matter really matter. They just do not matter more.

Our lives, and our hopes, untended, tired and parching,
Let’s find our feet and fill our hearts and hand in hand start marching.

Discussion

The above simply combines all the words already identified in the previous three discussions of how the technique of repetition is used in the poem.

This gives a quick visual impression of how significant a role the technique of repetition plays within this poem and how it features within every line.

Alliteration (and Assonance and Consonance)

You matter.
Your feelings matter. They can not be measured with a tape.
Your voice matters, and it is beautiful.
Your soul matters. You can never know its silent shape.

We matter.
We are lonely rocks in a never ending sea.
Our hearts are lost, are found, are free, are full,
We are trees torn away in storms, and washed up in the lee.

We are lost.
Our hopes lift up, then plunge against the rocky shore.
Our systems serve ‘The People Who Matter’, they rule.
‘The People Who Matter’ really matter. They just do not matter more.

Our lives, and our hopes, untended, tired and parching,
Let’s find our feet and fill our hearts and hand in hand start marching.

Discussion

This discussion will just cherry-pick some of the examples above.

Every stressed syllable in the last line is also a mono-syllabic word and part of a chain of alliteration, except for ‘marching’ (which is instead assonant with ‘start’). This provides a drum beat to drive home the rousing message, which is further stirred up by the two interposing ‘our’ words, a monosyllabic word with two sounds.

The t of ‘trees’, ‘torn’ and ‘storms’ bind together the climactic storms being unleashed and evoke their tearing and devastating force.

The sibilance of ‘Systems serve’ follows closely after the volta defined by ‘rocky shore’ and portends the darker (though still balanced) mood to come.

‘matter more’ could conjure the image of jabbing or pointing a finger with each word.

The consonance of ‘in a never’ emphasizes the never ending nature of the sea. The consonance of ‘never know’ may help prompt reflection on the nature of the incorporeal self.

Focus on the Second Stanza

We matter.
We are lonely rocks in a never ending sea.
Our hearts are lost, are found, are free, are full,
We are trees torn away in storms, and washed up in the lee.

Discussion

This stanza moves quickly from collective self value, to introducing oceanic imagery, building toward storms as a metaphor for various times and states within our lives, to the metaphor based on the devastating force of storms, and their aftermath. Overall it provides a metaphor for the variety and turbulence in our lives, and may invoke many emotions, including (but definitely not limited to) sorrow and hope. It lets you care about us, then in that context, appreciate and care more about good and bad things that can happen to us, as well as the potential for survival of difficult times.

A number of techniques work in concert to build toward the ‘trees torn away in storms’. The noun ‘rocks’ is the third syllable, whereas ‘trees’ is tucked into the second syllable of the last line, compressing a spring about to be released. The rhyme of ‘sea’, ‘free’ and ‘trees’ operates in a similar manner, moving from the sixth to the fourth, then suddenly to the second, of the stressed syllables of their respective lines.

The word ‘sea’ introduces the image of the sea, which is subsequently built upon for the rest of the stanza. The rhythm of ‘are lost, are found, are free, are full’ might invoke confused waves in the sea piling up higher and higher. The alliteration on the f may evoke the sounds of increasing winds whipping up the sea.

‘trees torn’ is not only alliterative but two adjacent accented syllables, which provides the point for the pent up force to snap into the raging storms.

‘We are lonely rocks in a never ending sea’ contains a pair of phrases containing five syllables, with the first and last accented syllable being stronger than the mid accented syllable in each phrase. The two phrases are separated by the quieter ‘in a’. This rhythmic pattern is then mirrored by the two phrases in ‘torn away in storms, and washed up in the lee’, separated by ‘, and’. I think this contributes to the acoustic quality and emotive feelings of this stanza, and helps in evoking the imagery and potentially the reader’s reaction to it.

Finally, I love the sound of the words ‘hearts’ and ‘up’ in this stanza, but have not yet established why! This does highlight though that there might sometimes be intent in the development of a poem that is only understood at a subconscious level.

Other Techniques

You matter.
Your feelings matter. They can not be measured with a tape.
Your voice matters, and it is beautiful.
Your soul matters. You can never know its silent shape.

We matter.
We are lonely rocks in a never ending sea.
Our hearts are lost, are found, are free, are full,
We are trees torn away in storms, and washed up in the lee.

We are lost.
Our hopes lift up, then plunge against the rocky shore.
Our systems serve ‘The People Who Matter’, they rule.
‘The People Who Matter’ really matter. They just do not matter more.

Our lives, and our hopes, untended, tired and parching,
Let’s find our feet and fill our hearts and hand in hand start marching.

Discussion

The first two syllables of the poem are consecutive accented ones. Combined with the shortness of the first line, the poem takes charge of the pace from the very start with this considered and emphatic assertion. There are also consecutive accented syllables in ‘voice matters’ and ‘soul matters’ which also help control the pace, and might perhaps make the reader feel they are being addressed very directly with a strong intent to get a particular message across.

The first lines of the first three stanzas are very short. This makes it possible for a reader, who may fully intend to read the poem in the correct order, to scan down vertically first and accidentally read ‘You matter’, ‘We matter’ then ‘We are lost’. This can be thought provoking in itself, and also serves to paraphrase some of the journey the poem will take.

‘can not’ is intentionally separated into two words, to help characterise the quiet, considered yet powerful voice.

After ‘voice matters’, the ‘and’ following the comma could be interpreted as a narrator reading the poem aloud, anticipating the listener interrupting and so raising her or his voice (and possibly hand) to pre-empt the interruption, before delicately placing the words ‘it’ ‘is’.

‘beautiful’ feels like a word that is too easily used, and should not be used in (hopefully) good writing. But there’s nothing quite like trying to break a rule every now and then.

The sharp sound of ‘tape’ might support a sense of strongly disliking a perceived illusion of the ability to compartmentalise, classify and measure everything, and an associated inability to see more holistically, rather like the result of a horse’s blinders. This idea is extended by the assertion that you can ‘never’ know your soul’s ‘silent shape’.

‘lift’ might evoke the sound of a wave steepening and cresting before it falls, and the phrase ‘plunge against the rocky shore’ may evoke the sound and rhythm of waves pounding onto the shore, bouncing, then falling again in repeatedly smaller remnant waves; and ‘shore’ also serves as a volta as mentioned earlier.

The word ‘really’ might come as a surprise, where ‘actually do not’ or similar might have been expected, and is important for some of the intended messages of the poem.

‘They just do not’ introduces a seminal phrase for the poem, and may sound like a spoken voice that has just paused for effect, before concluding with this statement.

Finally (you may be pleased to hear), ‘Our’ asserts ownership and control of the situation at the very beginning of the last stanza, which is maintained until the end of the poem.

Bringing it All Together

The following shows all words that have been highlighted with bold or underline text in the above technical discussions:

You matter.
Your feelings matter. They can not be measured with a tape.
Your voice matters, and it is beautiful.
Your soul matters. You can never know its silent shape.

We matter.
We are lonely rocks in a never ending sea.
Our hearts are lost, are found, are free, are full,
We are trees torn away in storms, and washed up in the lee.

We are lost.
Our hopes lift up, then plunge against the rocky shore.
Our systems serveThe People Who Matter’, they rule.
The People Who Matterreally matter. They just do not matter more.

Our lives, and our hopes, untended, tired and parching,
Let’s find our feet and fill our hearts and hand in hand start marching.

I love this visualization! (if you can forgive the term).

It shows at a quick glance how many of the words of the poem are involved at least once in the various poetic techniques discussed above.

Structure and Metrical Rhythm

The accented syllables are highlighted:

You matter.
Your feelings matter. They can not be measured with a tape.
Your voice matters, and it is beautiful.
Your soul matters. You can never know its silent shape.

We matter.
We are lonely rocks in a never ending sea.
Our hearts are lost, are found, are free, are full,
We are trees torn away in storms, and washed up in the lee.

We are lost.
Our hopes lift up, then plunge against the rocky shore.
Our systems serve ‘The People Who Matter’, they rule.
‘The People Who Matter’ really matter. They just do not matter more.

Our lives, and our hopes, untended, tired and parching,
Let’s find our feet and fill our hearts and hand in hand start marching.

Discussion

The first three stanzas have 2,6,5 then 7 accented syllables. Because it varies between lines, you can not feel this structure until it recurs in the second stanza.

The number of unaccented syllables are freely varied according to the needs of the poem including for rhythmic effect, but the pattern of accented syllables provides an underlying structure.

Reading a poem aloud can be a good way to get more out of it, and there are some lines where there could be ambiguity as to which syllables to stress, so the above could be used for reading aloud (ideally taken literally but otherwise in your head).

Meaning: Leading Questions

  • ‘You matter’: who does this refer to?
  • Likewise for ‘We’?
  • Why might ‘You’ need to be reminded that your voice matters?
  • ‘We are lost’: In what way might we be lost?
  • Who are ‘The People Who Matter’?
  • Is there a contradiction between ‘You matter’ and the discussion of ‘The People Who Matter’? … or not?
  • Who and/or what would ‘We’ be marching for?

Final Reading

You matter.
Your feelings matter. They can not be measured with a tape.
Your voice matters, and it is beautiful.
Your soul matters. You can never know its silent shape.

We matter.
We are lonely rocks in a never ending sea.
Our hearts are lost, are found, are free, are full,
We are trees torn away in storms, and washed up in the lee.

We are lost.
Our hopes lift up, then plunge against the rocky shore.
Our systems serve ‘The People Who Matter’, they rule.
‘The People Who Matter’ really matter. They just do not matter more.

Our lives, and our hopes, untended, tired and parching,
Let’s find our feet and fill our hearts and hand in hand start marching.

A Final Note

I hope that the above discussion has been interesting, has helped you to become more immersed in the mood of the poem, and has started stimulating ideas about its possible meanings for you?

It is possible it could have generated interest in the two poems I’ve published so far on this site (next task is start writing number three!), or to look at other poetry again with renewed interest; I would be pleased with either result.

I recently set myself a goal, one that I think I had always known but not really acknowledged to myself, and certainly would not have had the confidence to share with anyone else, that ‘I would love to become a writer, to use my creativity, and be able to move and inspire people.’. This is a learning journey I expect to take many years.

If (and only if) the poem and this analysis has had some of these effects for you, I would appreciate any comments, and also if you wish to share the post using the provided links.

I would appreciate any constructive feedback, positive or critical, in the comments.

Finally, I wish you happy reading and also success in setting and achieving your goals.

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Bubble, World

Milky cirrus slowly spoil the blue.

Beneath, a gentle, chill, foggy air,

caressing breezes brush our concrete honeycomb.

Behind portrait windows, we forget our nature there.

~

Dazzling white, dull grey, and darker down,

clouds falling weight toward the buzzing ground,

branches lift upon the hills where horses stare.

Rectangles light our faces, a landscape without sound.

~

Light drops, sky darkens, soft, electric light,

an angry horn, a walker jumps and frowns,

hardly reaching our muffled conscious, within our block,

a thousand workers, in a thousand buildings, in a thousand grotty towns.

~

With one dusty cider, beneath a distant tree,

a tired bike leaning in its mellow shade.

Soaking in a balmy air,

one man remembers, there,

as shadows fade.

~

Beneath the globe, a tropic night, a heavy ocean,

where dark fish glide through swirling tides and shimmer

briefly, slipping to the deep

below, beyond the faint stars’ wavering glimmer,

where mountains of water shift in cold and silent motion.

~

Morning. Light.

Shells. Crabs. Sand.

Warmth. Colours. Splendour. Blues.

Pacific waves, dark walls, white splashing hues.

Unseen? To come? Gone? Empty, empty land.

~

Towering clouds stretch to the stratosphere,

where splashing rain has washed away the grey.

Drinking sunshine, touching wind, with watery eyes,

people laugh and shout, and are swept with the leaves in disarray.

~

Buildings proud, and clean, and strong, and tall,

turning eyes see all, and all anew,

fresh trees waving, waters dancing, voices sparkling,

a rainbow in a raindrop, iridescence in the dew.

~

Three hundred swimmers lined up on the sand,

the signal goes, we charge into the sea,

thrumming voices, icy, scintillating high.

And as I drift upon my back, I gaze into the sky.

I know, when grey skies come, I’ll know it’s fine, no longer wondering why.

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Who Matters?

You matter.

Your feelings matter. They can not be measured with a tape.

Your voice matters, and it is beautiful.

Your soul matters. You can never know its silent shape.

~

We matter.

We are lonely rocks in a never ending sea.

Our hearts are lost, are found, are free, are full,

we are trees torn away in storms, and washed up in the lee.

~

We are lost.

Our hopes lift up, then plunge against the rocky shore.

Our systems serve ‘The People Who Matter’, they rule.

‘The People Who Matter’ really matter. They just do not matter more.

~

Our lives, and our hopes, untended, tired and parching,

let’s find our feet and fill our hearts and hand in hand start marching.

08F268B4-3546-4AE0-AA8A-0E7ECB451CE7