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Alan Shapiro and free verse

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Brad
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since 08-20-99
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Jejudo, South Korea


0 posted 09-04-99 07:38 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

This is from an essay called 'Some Notes on Free Verse and Meter' in a book called In Praise of the Impure (I have not read either but I think this quote is provocative):

The poet writing in meter is always the belated one . . . . And his metrical symmetries . . . are the persistent echoes of the gate of Eden closing shut behind him.

The poet writing in free verse . . . claims for himself the Adamic privilege of starting over.

In other words, Shapiro is saying that a free verse writer believes that "the mind can return to the originating moment of its own emergence" while the metrical writer's mind "is unredeemably historical, and can only look back, as it were, with longing and relief, at what it had to give up to get where it is."


Okay, it's pretentious (What did you expect? He's a poet.) I was going to give my slant on this but I thought I'd wait and see what somebody else might say.

In an earlier post, I think I said Karl Shapiro (who is someone quite different -- don't trust anything you read).

Brad
Ron
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Member Rara Avis
since 05-19-99
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Michigan, US


1 posted 09-18-99 11:31 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

In theory, there are only a finite number of possible (let alone good) moves in the game of chess. In practice, of course, no one has yet to play them all...

I think the same is likely true of metrical structures. One of my greatest delights in poetry is discovering a new poem not only with an exciting structure, but with one that becomes an integral part of the content. Okay, it doesn't happen often. But, boy, when it does...

In other words, I don't think meter necessarily relegates the writer to the past. I think there is a "future" as well, albeit one with a devious path. Brad, I think your own "I want to be adult" is perhaps a good example, where the meter and structure are both a step away from the typical and very much a part of your Hemingwayesque story. Does meter limit us? Yes, probably. Does it limit us to what has already been done? Not in the least.

However (I straddle fences very easily ), I will also readily admit that free verse does grant a freedom that is very appealing. Personally, I don't think free verse is any less structured than metrical verse - but it is less obviously structured. In meter, a poet's structure has to be seen, has to be almost predictable in order to be successful. The structure of free verse, I think, is more subliminal. But I still think it is very much there, and I think the reader both "senses" the structure and is jarred when the poet deviates too far from it.

Coincidentally, just last week I was reading my way through Open Poetry and realized we have a disheartening lack of free verse posted. And I know we have some really incredible poets who write both styles and some who write only free verse. I think it's important, to all poets, to have a balanced diet...
Brad
Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


2 posted 09-20-1999 07:51 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Ron(O Great One),
Thanks for responding to this quote. It didn't seem anybody found it interesting -- maybe the religious references turned people off. I have another one (same topic)by a Marxist critic that's even funnier (but I guess I'm the only who thinks this is funny).
What are gonna do?

Chess is a great metaphor for this stuff except that the rules of chess are set. The rules of poetry are not.

I think meter, understanding meter, using meter, is not necessarily limiting if one sees it not so much as a rule but as a strategy. One should control the meter, not be controlled by the meter.

So little to say and so much time (uh, wait, reverse that) -- thanks for the kind comments on my poem. I currently hang out with a few Hemingway bums (and continually get slighted for being married and actually caring about what she thinks) and I wonder if they have had some subliminal influence on my writing. A while back we all got drunk on his birthday but that's another story.

Free verse is not free is an often enough used phrase (and I write in free verse all the time) but what worries me is the dichotomy itself. I honestly believe that meter is a resurging art (after what somebody has call the dark ages of 'Howl' -- which has a quite obvious structure by the way) but I wonder if we can't use both traditions to create something new. If we see meter as a set of rules, it becomes dogma and I'm not sure that's going to help in writing good, interesting poems. On the other hand, the lack of interest in meter (and the idea that as long as you end rhyme a poem, it's somehow not free verse) bothers me (a lot more than it probably should). If we ignore the traditions of poetry, poets will do nothing more than repeat that 'Adamic privilege' over and over again and even that gets boring.

Okay, I'll continue later.

I hate ending conversations,
Brad
Brad
Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


3 posted 11-11-1999 06:23 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I have begun to wonder if poets should stop worrying about free verse and metered verse and start worrying about telling stories again.

Ron,
referring to your post about 'I'. A certain poet, Adrienne Rich, has remarked on that problem. Too many poems with too many 'I''s in them. I know of at least one journal editor who asked contributers to stop using the word 'I'.

Why not take our feeling and take our emotions and use the best of poetry and the best of narrative and make them good poems that are interesting to read?

Brad
 
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