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Passions in Poetry

Free verse or meter?

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morefiah
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since 03-26-2003
Posts 156
Spanish Town, Jamaica


25 posted 05-07-2003 01:24 PM       View Profile for morefiah   Email morefiah   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for morefiah

Ron, sometimes you just plain make too much sense. I defer to your opinion/lesson.

Karilea, give it a shot using Ron's tip and lets see what happens. I quite agree that you should not give up on it.


Sunshine
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Member Caelestus
since 06-25-99
Posts 67715
Listening to every heart


26 posted 05-07-2003 02:03 PM       View Profile for Sunshine   Email Sunshine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Sunshine's Home Page   View IP for Sunshine


Hee hee...I needed another GREAT excuse to pick up a book, and now I have one!  LOL...Thank you!  
JP
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since 05-25-99
Posts 1391
Loomis, CA


27 posted 05-07-2003 02:13 PM       View Profile for JP   Email JP   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit JP's Home Page   View IP for JP

Y'all amaze me, truly and deeply amaze me. Your passion for poetry and its beauty, your willingness and eagerness to explore simple ideas as the difference in meter and free verse with such passion and love.

I thank God everyday when I read posts here, that I can associate with a group of people who live to experience such beauty and passion. I am awestruck at your combined talent and humility in your own ability.

Thank you for being.

Yesterday is ash, tomorrow is smoke; only today does the fire burn.
Nil Desperandum, Fata viem invenient

Local Parasite
Deputy Moderator 10 Tours
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since 11-05-2001
Posts 2929
Transylconia, Winnipeg


28 posted 05-07-2003 02:17 PM       View Profile for Local Parasite   Email Local Parasite   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Local Parasite's Home Page   View IP for Local Parasite

aww JP... you brought a tear to my eye...

You too Jason Lyle, to be mentioned alongside LighthouseBob is flattering... that guy's got his meter figured right out, never a step out of place.  You might also wanna check out Balladeer, Kit McCallum, or Nan if you wanna see the results of meter in its best form...

Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.

~Percy Bysshe Shelley

Jason Lyle
Senior Member
since 02-07-2003
Posts 1519
With my darkling


29 posted 05-07-2003 04:16 PM       View Profile for Jason Lyle   Email Jason Lyle   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Jason Lyle

I have to admit, I went almost 10 years without writing.It was only by chance that I met a good friend, who happened to be a published author, and during a conversation I scribbled down an old poem I had written for her.I was suprised she loved it so much, having never considered myself a writer.She encouraged (and badgered) me to start writing again so I did.I found a website forum for posting...and they ripped me apart.Until I posted on that site I had no idea there were rules to poetry, I rhymed, but omg! line one in stanza 3 was out of meter, stanza 4 ruined the entire poem, and why was half the poem in tetrameter, and half in pentameter? It was a wake up call almost stopped me writing again.I kinda felt dumb.So I tried to learn the rules.Not so easy to teach yourself on the web.
When I found Passions my welcome was much different, I still got the critiques, which I need and enjoy, but noone drew blood, and many seemed to enjoy my writing.Now I understand metric a little better, and still enjoy this form the most.It still took another writer to point out that I was writing primarily in iambic tetrameter, before I knew what I was writing in.
After reading many good post in free verse, I have started to try that form also, I don't really know if i'm getting it right, but I enjoy it also.
In short (lol) I owe all of you here at passions thanks, I have learned, and grown I think, by years in my few short months here.Sometimes just reading some of your work gives my poor pen writers block for days.
  A question, are there any rules at all to free verse?Is a poem that rhymes, but differs in meter line to line free verse? or just bad meter.
  I really dont agree with the few comments that metric poetry is forced.It can feel that way sometimes, but when done well it is beauty to read.

Jason
Sunshine
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since 06-25-99
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30 posted 05-07-2003 04:39 PM       View Profile for Sunshine   Email Sunshine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Sunshine's Home Page   View IP for Sunshine


OK Jason...I challenge you to get yourself into the Poetry Workshop.  Not only is it a great playground [just ask Marge] but this month's "work" revolves around Sonnets.  Because of all of THIS thread, I attempted a heavy rewrite of a sonnet from two years ago...

and now I await the grade.

But it won't keep me from working on others.  I still feel the meter is off a bit, which Nan will point out, I'm sure...she's got the feet for kicking me in the .... er, I mean she's got her "feet" down correctly and I know she'll be busy cleaning up my work [which always appears better when she does it ... LOL] but if you want to get a fairly good education in a great classroom, that'd be the place to hang out.

Just ask Nan...she'll let you in.  Her classroom knows no size limits...
serenity blaze
Member Empyrean
since 02-02-2000
Posts 28839


31 posted 05-07-2003 08:06 PM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

I liked  this thread so much I saved it.

Thanks Ron!
Aenimal
Member Rara Avis
since 11-18-2002
Posts 7451
the ass-end of space


32 posted 05-07-2003 09:55 PM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal

Loved this thread, educational and full of perspective. And,Karilea and Jason you make me blush, can't tell you how much it means to me. Love this place
morefiah
Member
since 03-26-2003
Posts 156
Spanish Town, Jamaica


33 posted 05-08-2003 11:05 AM       View Profile for morefiah   Email morefiah   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for morefiah

"And so say all of us"
Janet Marie
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since 01-22-2000
Posts 18986


34 posted 05-08-2003 01:57 PM       View Profile for Janet Marie   Email Janet Marie   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Janet Marie

http://piptalk.com/pip/Forum22/HTML/000107.html

Jason...the above thread is from Nan's poetry workshop and will help answer your questions about free verse. I found it helpful when I first began trying to explore writing in that medium. The real beauty of free verse is a poet can develope their own signature style when writing with out the "rules" of meter and restrictions of rhyme. I had always wrote in rhyme, I find a certain comfort in cadence, and reading rhyme poetry is still my fave, but I found I could explore imagery and express my emotions at a more detailed level with free verse...and as I went along...I found that internal rhymes and other more structured forms like alliteration and assonance found its way into "my version" of free verse.
Hey...Nan says there are no rules and she's the teach  

[This message has been edited by Janet Marie (05-08-2003 01:58 PM).]

Ron
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35 posted 05-08-2003 06:36 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Jason asked:  
quote:
A question, are there any rules at all to free verse?

Many will contend that free verse, by its very definition, follows no rules, but I've always believed otherwise. In my opinion, free verse follows three (potentially overlapping) sets of rules.

Free verse is still writing and must contend with all the "rules" that govern any poetry or prose work. Note I said contend, not necessarily follow, though I think the writer breaks these rules at great risk. No, I'm not talking about grammar or punctuation or any of that stuff. I'm talking about the way words and the way we use them affect the reader.

You want to slow down the reader? Use longer passages, with many dependent and independent clauses, usually but not necessary separated by commas, with nomenclature or syntax that demand more attention from the reader (a bit like this sentence). Increase the pace? Use short sentences, short words, and more white space.

Want some really bad advice that is so good it's given to every fledgling writer? Show, don't tell. It's bad advice because, taken literally, even the shortest works become boring epics. It's less succinct, perhaps, but more accurate to say that writers should IGNORE irrelevant detail (we don't need to know what Richard did during the first ten minutes after getting out of bed), TELL the relevant but unimportant details (we don't need to watch Richard dressing to learn he favors blue jeans and old shirts), and SHOW anything that really matters (Richard having a conversation with his estranged wife over morning coffee). Knowing exactly when to ignore, tell or show is what makes writing so darn hard.

What others (including Ruth) call "flow," I have always called cadence, the pattern of sounds that give the words their music. In my opinion, it's a mistake to think that flow or cadence is what differentiates free verse from prose. Read the Gettysburg Address or the opening to Great Expectations and you'll hear the words sing to you, even though it's "just" prose. Believe it or not, cadence depends to some extent on meter, even if it's not the strict meter of the sonnet. That's why I think knowing meter is important even if you write only free verse. It also depends on stresses and pauses (caesuras). It depends on variations, in word lengths, line lengths, and complexity of structure. It depend on repetition and patterns. (Like the last few sentences of this paragraph). Everything that is true for good prose, and even of metrical poetry, is also true for free verse.

There are dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of such general "rules" that a good writer must know and (usually) follow. I don't think I've said it in at least a month or two, so I'm a bit overdue: The poet can learn much from the fictionist.    

Free verse is still verse and must contend with the need for structure. Any structure! Another way of expressing this rule set is that it's the one the writer imposes on the work in order to create at least the guise of structure. Many mistakenly interpret this to mean there are no rules, when what it really means is that writer gets to make up his own. But he does have to make them up and, having done so, he then has to follow them. The alternative is chaos, which rarely translates to good poetry.

In my opinion, this is what makes good free verse more difficult than more structured formats. You must not only invent your own rules, but you must fulfill them as well. T. S. Elliot said, in his 1942 essay, The Music of Poetry, "no verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job."

Amen.

Free verse is still poetry and, while it may ignore the rules of meter and rhyme, all poetry must still contend with the rules that govern line breaks. Again, these are often broken (as are most rules, sooner or later), but should at least be acknowledged by the poet. Because free verse is almost defined by the line break, these rules deserve a few moments of exploration. (In other words, I'm about to get real boring again.)

More than any other single feature, poetry and prose are differentiated by the line break. That is not the minor thing so many think it to be, and that is especially true in free verse where the writer has so much more control. How long should a line be? Walt Whitman wrote by breathing, each line breaking where the breath comes to a normal pause. It could be as short a breath as a comma, or as full a stop as a period. Whitman's lines were uncommonly long, but the poems are a delight to read because each line pulls you to its natural end. A poetic line that ends in punctuation, reflecting a human breath, is called "end stopped."

(If anyone ever wonders why I so often decry ellipses ... it's because they usually make verse TOO breathy to be easily read aloud.)

The alternative is enjambment, where the poetic line does not naturally pause, but instead, the same sentence carries directly to the next line. Enjambment comes from a French word meaning to put one's leg across, or to step over, which describes exactly what one lines is doing to get to the next. A line break STILL creates a pause, a moment for the reader to breath, but it is typically much shorter than any breath represented by a punctuation mark. At the least, enjambment is good for creating a feel of naturalistic motion in verse. We don't, after all, speak in anything approaching pentameter. It can also be an incredibly powerful tool for adding emphasis and tension. (In my opinion, many free versers abuse enjambment to the point where it loses much of that power. More the pity).

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquillity.

In this passage of a Wordsworth sonnet, there are three good examples of different ways to end a line. The first line is, obviously, end stopped. The second line at first appears to be end stopped, but as the reader progresses, he finds the line is expanded by the third line in a slightly unexpected way. I call this surprise enjambment, a very useful trick for varying pace. The third line, of course, is an example of more typical enjambment.

(If anyone ever wonders why I so often decry poetry with no punctuation, it's because end stops and enjambed lines, especially surprise enjambments, lose all of their visual clues.)

One of the most important effects of enjambment, and this is especially true of surprise enjambment, is that it makes the reader more aware of the multiple domains of thought within the poem. That is, it momentarily releases the reader from the line as a unit of measurement and forces an awareness of longer units, such as the stanza or the whole poem. Enjambment makes the reader look both forward and backwards in the poem, anticipating a line ending while simultaneously holding to the as yet incomplete thought just read. It helps creates unity.

That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best

This couplet from Milton better exemplifies what I mean.  As an isolated phrase, "God doth not need" signals both God's omniscience and omnipotence. Alone, it give meaning to the line. But it is not alone, and Milton's enjambment into the next line expands on the previous, forcing the reader outside of a single line of thought into a greater whole. He uses enjambment to cleverly go from the general to the specific, giving unity to his theme.

Enjambment also gives the writer greater control over which words will carry emphasis.

The long tradition of rhyme in poetry has "trained" the reader to listen for the end of a line, giving that final word more prominence than any other word in the line. A crafty writer (pun fully intended) can use this expectation of the reader to good effect, introducing emphasis where the writer most wants it. At the very least, the poet should probably end lines with strong words that are important to the narrative or imagery of the verse, avoiding the weaker conjunctions, articles, and prepositions. Ideally, most enjambed lines will end with concrete nouns and verbs, taking advantage of the position to add even greater weight.

Not incidentally, the same technique can be used in reverse, to lessen the emphasis of otherwise important words. This creates additional tension in the poem, as what is important is made trivial, and can also be used as secret clues to the reader. In my most recent poem, I talk a lot about a particular house, but never use the word to either start or end a line, or in any other way add emphasis to that noun. That's because the house isn't really a house, something I want the reader to understand without ever being told.

Emphasis can also be effectively added by the relative length of a line, something at which free verse excels. Ten longish lines followed by a very short line of only two or three beats makes that final line almost shout to the reader. In my opinion, this is often abused and I think one should be certain the content is worthy of the emphasis. A single word on a line all by itself is about the same as beating the reader over the head, something we probably don't want to make a habit of doing. I also very often see writers of free verse pen a lengthy series of very short lines composed of just a few words each, which obviously makes this technique impossible for them. When every line is the same short length, none will stand out from the rest. These writers are sacrificing the potential for added emphasis, ostensibly in the name of a faster pace.

Lines, and their big brothers, stanzas, determine the "shape" of your poem and can be used to create anticipation, tension, ambiguity, emphasis, double meanings, pace, cadence and a host of other very useful effects. These rules apply to all poetic forms, but are possibly even more important in free verse where the line so dominates the form. Those who create line breaks solely on what "feels right" to them are relying on years of reading and the hope and prayer that they've absorbed the rules through unconscious osmosis. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, either. But when they struggle and can't quite get a poem to "feel right," knowing the rules can sometimes help them understand why.

See, Jason? I told you we hadn't even scratched the surface.    

Aenimal
Member Rara Avis
since 11-18-2002
Posts 7451
the ass-end of space


36 posted 05-08-2003 07:03 PM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal

I love free verse and I agree with Ron there are certain rules I've followed otherwise they come off forced or awkward. Of course I sometimes break them and have been scolded for it grin Hey Kamla   I fell into free verse and really don't think I could write any other way. Luckily I have had some great teachers and guides along the way. Severn really taught me to break up my poems and give them better flow, whereas my early post suffered from being one large chunk of words. I think I've been able to better gauge where I place my breaks and keep the readers attention by steering them through my thoughts.
I've been greatly influenced by Ed's work(wranx) with regards to storytelling, and of course Karen's (serenityblaze) in tightening my words and giving them punch. There's so many I wish I could list them all.
This is why I love PIP so much. The influence, the teachers, the friends and the place to bring it all together. Thanks all

[This message has been edited by Aenimal (05-08-2003 07:05 PM).]

Sunshine
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Member Caelestus
since 06-25-99
Posts 67715
Listening to every heart


37 posted 05-08-2003 07:28 PM       View Profile for Sunshine   Email Sunshine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Sunshine's Home Page   View IP for Sunshine


and
library button
Jason Lyle
Senior Member
since 02-07-2003
Posts 1519
With my darkling


38 posted 05-10-2003 04:14 PM       View Profile for Jason Lyle   Email Jason Lyle   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Jason Lyle

Thanks to all of you for your insight, never when I started this post did I imagine I would learn so much.

Ron, thank you.It will take me some time to absorb all that.You taught me alot in this thread.

As already stated by a few, it is discussions like this that make this site what it is, And I also

LOVE THIS PLACE

Jason
 
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