The imperative in poetry is something I really enjoy. I find that when you take an authoritative tone of voice it really changes the way you approach a subject–at least for me. A subject that I might have approached tentatively or that I might have tended to beat around the bush about will suddenly come more into focus with the use of the imperative because I have suddenly become an authority on it, I am telling the reader what to do whether I actually know anything about it or not. I am taking the active, upper hand.
Below is from ( http://applehousepoetryworkshop.blogspot.ca/2009/02/february-poetry-prompt-1-imperative.html)
Patricia Debney is one of those poets.
How Not to Be a Woodlouse
Avoid damp, dark places. Try not to hide. Your shell is for protection only.
Seek sunshine, dry weather, fresh flowers. Develop a taste for clean, clear water, and the smooth, pungent skin of just-picked fruit.
Celebrate the lightness of your touch, the way your feathery caress holds people still.
Remember, that, like you, the world is not black and white, but made up of delicate shades of grey.
from How to be a Dragonfly
Smith Doorstop 2005
Buy now from The Book Depository
The imperative is the verbal form that expresses command, entreaty, advice, exhortation, and generally exists in the 2nd person (Pick up the book - literally ‘you’ pick up the book) or the 1st person plural (Let’s catch a train.)
We use imperatives from day to day for different reasons, e.g.
telling people what to do: Close the window.
giving instructions: Put the coin in the slot and press the red button; Add 3 oz of sugar.
giving advice: See the doctor – it’s the best thing.
making recommendations: Have the fish, it’s always good here.
making offers: Have a bit more wine.
There’s an idea of authority behind the use of the imperative, but its use doesn’t imply that the addressee will succumb to the suggested authority of the speaker.
Patricia Debney’s poem is a list of instructions that takes the form of an extended metaphor: we realise that these actions and insights translate to the human condition. This is persuasive, gentle advice (to the poet herself, to a specific person, or to a more general audience) that transcends any one individual’s experience and addresses a collective consciousness. The use of the imperative is an essential part of the poem’s effect on the reader.
However, the imperative can also be aggressive, accusatory, judgemental. It can express anger, fear. It can exhort, and even suggest hopelessness. Think of Dylan Thomas‘s ‘Do not go gentle into that good night/ Rage, rage against the dying of the light’ - a poem that asks for the impossible, that is without authority to change anything.
So, try to use the imperative with the “Spaces” theme and see what you come up with….