An Ode: On the Complexities of What It Is to Sing and Chant

C.S. Carrier

Adjunct Professor


Often it seems one can only identify an ode because the title announces the poem as one. Given this, then, one might ask, what is an ode? What defines it as such? The ode is a decidedly lyric poem, and each of the three types—Pindaric, Horatian, and irregular—observes a unique set of conventions. The Pindaric ode possesses a rigid structure and performative drive, usually celebrating athletic achievements, while the Horatian ode possesses a loser structure and contemplative stance, usually addressing ordinary subjects, often ironically. And irregular odes occupy a place somewhere between or beyond Pindaric and Horatian. Some, such as those of the Romantics, are highly structured and celebratory in nature, but are concerned with ordinary or natural-world subjects, while others, such as those of modern and contemporary poets, are loosely structured and marked by a sophisticated irony. The poems presented here do not attempt to answer the aforementioned questions; rather, they attempt to further complicate the conception of the ode. They explore the history and conventions of the ode by experimenting with its formal and thematic potential. As irregular odes, they possess both Pindaric and Horatian qualities; that is, they are Pindaric for their strophe-antistrophe-epode structure, celebratory or exhortative tone, and performative drive, and Horatian for their free verse structure, darker and ironic tone, and contemplative stance. They address a range of public and private, poetic and prosaic, subjects, and ultimately seek to explore the complexities of what it is to sing and chant.

2018 National Conference
Presentation type: 
Creative work