Study Guide

Some Trees Form and Meter

By John Ashbery

Form and Meter

Free Verse with Rhyming Couplets

This poem is tricky enough as it is, Shmoopers, so let's keep it simple, shall we?

First, we go from enjambment between lines and between stanzas to instances where stanzas and lines seem to stand alone with an end-stopped period. Certain lines may look like they stand alone (take a look at lines 3, 12, and 17) but they also relate somehow to those that precede and follow them. So in other words, nothing is ever really alone, thematically or stylistically, in terms of form. In that way, the form reminds us of the idea of a "neighbor" in line 2. There is connection throughout this poem, created intentionally through the way it's put together.

All of the parallelism makes things look pretty neat, too. We get colons that look and work the same in the first, third, and fourth stanzas. And we also get three successive lines that look very similar too with the phrasing of "A _____ […]" in lines 15-17.

Then we notice that the entire poem consists of different kinds of couplets that contribute to the sense of order we see in the poem. The poem opens with a stanza that begins with a perfect rhyme ("each" and "speech") and then moves onto different kinds of slant rhymes where those ending consonants sound alike ("noises" and "emerges"). So, we have a definite sense of order that keeps things neatly packaged and somewhat predictable.

So what's all this got to do with how we read the poem? Like we noticed earlier, the speaker's not giving us neat little orderly meanings, but he does seem to balance this lack of meaning with a poetic form that looks pretty darn orderly to us. So just like the appearances of most things and life in general, the poem appears to have a sense of order but when we look more closely we notice there really isn't any "meaningful" order to the content itself—other than it's all together (everything has a "neighbor"), simply existing.

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