Santa Monica, California, USA
Hi Turtle! Form is still very fine. At the same time, I'll contend that free verse can be highly structured, making it hardly "free" at all.
Even though I have promised in these forums never to mention Wallace Stevens again, I haven't mentioned him to you. Stevens is a formalist. It's extremely clear in poems such as "Peter Quince at the Clavier. The formality, or structure is less overt in something like "Twenty Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," yet the poem seems clearly structured, and is "of a piece."
I've been thinking lately about the nuances of direct vision and peripheral vision as they relate to poetry. "Direct Vision," in this train of thought, relates to certain forms, the ballad in particular, an attempt to tell a straightforward story on the poet's part, and an expectation on the reader's part to be able to readily understand both the poet's tale and the poem's intentions.
No problem with that, if that is to one's taste, poet or reader. But, in some sense, and speaking metaphorically, it's a bit like being a dray horse with blinders on so he/she only sees what's immediately in front of his/her face.
"Peripheral vision," again metaphorically, opens up the possibility of recognizing, uh, metaphor, for one. The writer/reader not only sees what is in front on them, but also gets a sense or what might actually be going on, a "freedom" in both the writing and reading process.
Part of what this leads to is referential imagery, or left half of the brain thinking/writing/reading. When done well, it's not terribly important where the reader goes with the imagery, as long as it moves the reader to go someplace, moves them, as it were. This is achievable, in part, because of the emotive/structural context in which seemingly structure less, or "free" verse is composed.
It's a discipline few master (just like every other form of poetic discipline) and leads to the unfortunate amateur notion that if one sets up any sort of kanoodling with arbitrary line breaks, one has a poem. But this is not much different than thinking any bit of rhyming iambic tetrameter garbaghe is poetry just because it looks like a "poem."
To try to be clear, I'm not using the accepted definition of "peripheral" as something irrelevant, or off to the side. We all, who can see, have physical peripheral vision. Simply put, if you spot someone out of the corner of one's eye who is taking aim at you, peripheral vision suggests you duck. It's pretty relevant, say, to survival.
Poetically (and metaphorically) many writers and poets work at the edges of their "peripheral" vision, which does not always require an overt form for conveyance, though "form" is not a deterrent.
I was just thinking here about William Blake: Formalist to the core, there is still no way to "get" what he's talking about without diving into the periphery.
Similarly, and perhaps more clearly, one can't read Poe's "Raven" and think it is about a visit from a bird. Peripherally, one can't help but get caught up in the incantatory music at the very least, and this "movement" may BE the power of the poem. It's certainly the only thing that makes it memorable, and that's fine.
ON DINOSAURISM: I'm one of the dinosaurs on this site also. Through circumstance and vagaries of life, my own poetic journey and/or outlook was shaped by some pretty "peripheral" poets and poetry, along with the academic stuff through an ABD. It's not just what I read. I knew and was taught by people like Imamu Amiri Baraka (Then known as LeRoi Jones, now Amiri Baraka, the Poet Laureate of New Jersey), Philip Whalen, Gary Snyder, Alan Ginsberg, Peter Orlofsky, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti,* Diane diPrima, Judith Molina, Julian Beck and many other, still after 50 years, basically "outsider" or peripheral poets. This was happenstance. Many of my mentors (except Baraka, my teacher at Rutgers) passed through Boulder Colorado and The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, and I lived in Boulder at the time.
*Ferlinghetti was the major exception. His book, “A Coney Island of The Mind” sold over a million copies, unthinkable for a poet! By contrast, Ginsberg’s “Howl,” and Corso’s “Gasoline,” were initially published as chapbooks and had (generously estimating) original sales of 500 - 1,000, but remained in limited edition print for many years.
As obscure as these poets will be to most folk, many were associated with Black Mountain College, many strongly influenced poet/teacher/literary theorist Charles Olson. So, while these mentors were definitely outside of the academic mainstream, they still represented a consolidated school of thought on the nature of “poetics,” despite highly divergent individual styles. The folks represent, though hardly in full, the poets who immediately preceded my generation. (Most were in their late fifties and sixties when I was a 26 year old “kid.”)
So, each person brings the sum of whom they are to the poetic table, through, in PiP, the poetry or discussion forums. And there are, God knows, going to be differences of opinion. I simply suggest that “What is Poetry” cannot be established by fiat or nailed to a table, though lots and lots of people try. I had an “alternative” education from working poets. I got influenced. So it goes.
To quote Henry Miller: “Form” is the jackass that continually pops up in literary quarterlies.” I think he wrote that in 1947, and things haven’t changed much.
Turtle: returning to your post, for one, I’m delighted to see a conscientious thread on the nature of poetry in ANY PiP forum.
I came up with a nice line for “dinosaurs” the other day. “We have minds like steel traps, they’re just rusty and missing a few teeth.
Gumming away, Jimbeaux
[This message has been edited by oceanvu2 (02-20-2009 07:29 PM).]