Poetic Devices In Jane Kenyon’s “Happiness”

Jane Kenyon’s poem “Happiness” briefly describes how she views happiness and how it occurs most unexpectedly. She provides different scenarios in which happiness can occur to an individual. The poetic uses several poetic devices to structure her poem to give meaning to her ideas. The most notable poetic devices identified in the poem include metaphor, enjambment, alliteration, and caesura. “Happiness” uses poetic devices to present the poem’s deeper meanings and themes to the audience and improve its appeal.

Metaphor is one of the poetic devices used in the poem and compares two different things. The poem uses this device to say that one thing is another and that they are not just similar. For instance, in the first stanza, she compares to a “prodigal son” while in the third to an “uncle that you never knew about” (Kenyon 3). The comparisons make the poem more appealing to the audience as it introduces the element of suspense and surprise. In this case, she uses an uncle one never knew to show a close yet the distant relationship between the beneficiary and the benefactor. The device compares happiness to something intimately connected to an individual even though they know nothing about it.

Kenyon also uses alliteration in her poem to give a unique structure to it. She uses several words in succession in close proximity while beginning with the same letter. For example, in the fourth stanza, she uses the words “birch broom” as a poetic device (Kenyon 4). The use of such words is intended to create a mental picture in the mind of the reader. It makes the reader fully comprehend the poet’s meaning when using such words. It also stresses and emphasizes a particular idea or line of reasoning. Other examples of alliterations used in the poem include “carrots,” “cans,” and “clerks.” The use of alliteration by the poet gives it a specific form of pattern that directs the reader’s thoughts.

Enjambment is also another form of poetic device used in the poem. It is a device that uses the technique of cutting off a sentence before it comes to its natural end. It compels the reader to quickly go to the following line to resolve an incomplete sentence or phrase. An excellent example of enjambment in the poem can be located in the first stanza between the second and third line and the fourth stanza in the third and fourth line. In the first stanza from the second line, Kenyon uses the words, or the way it turns up like a prodigal who comes back to the dust at your feet having squandered a fortune far away (Kenyon 1).

The technique is intended to rush the reader into moving into the following line to comprehend what the poet means entirely. In this case, the second line talks about happiness coming like a prodigal but does not explain the circumstances around this vague wording. One has to move to the third and fourth lines to entirely understand what the poet meant by the second line. This technique effectively captures the reader’s attention to quickly move through the whole stanza to know what it means.

The poem uses caesura to give it an exciting and unique structure that moves away from conventional writing. This poetic device splits the line of a poem into two using either punctuation or just like that. Caesura can be found in the poem’s fourth stanza when an indentation is seen in the second half of the eighth line. The indentation produces a new line that creates a caesura-like divide. This piece of division reads, It even comes to the boulder in the perpetual shade of pine barrens, to rain falling on the open sea, to the wineglass, weary of holding wine (Kenyon 4).

This section is separate from the central stanza by a division that still talks about the same thing but on a different level. The whole stanza talks about happiness and how it appears in different situations. The indented piece of stanza progresses with this line of reasoning even though it is out of the main flow. It talks about how happiness comes to different people in different situations, including monks, mothers, children, and lovers, among others. However, the indented section provides a break from this flow and introduces a “boulder,” which is a different subject but under the same rationale. The division creates a transition in the poem’s last lines from the rest of the comparison.

In conclusion, Jane Kenyon’s poem “Happiness” uses several poetic devices, making it more enriching and appealing to the reader. Most of these devices help it to present different themes through comparisons and unique sentence structures. They allow the poet to express herself and emphasize essential points using different styles. However, the most notable devices used in the poem include alliterations, caesura, metaphors, and enjambment. These devices have been used effectively to create an enriching, exciting, appealing poem.

Works Cited

Kenyon, Jane. Otherwise: New and selected poems: Happiness. Graywolf Press. 2005.