Guest Book

full-fox-print-color-corrected-reducedWelcome!  Please read some of my poetry while you’re here. Even if a post is two years old, they’re being read every day. They’re all current. Feel free to join the conversation. Lastly, treat this post as a Guest Book. Offer suggestions, improvements, requests or just say Hello! If you have a question concerning poetry or a poem, click read more at the end of this sentence and fill out the form.
  • For questions concerning a poem or poetry, here is where to ask them. If I know the answer, I’ll post it for all to read and comment on (and maybe correct). If you have questions concerning a particular line of poetry then be sure to include the poem or, if it’s longer, a link.

258 responses

  1. hey hey Patrick,

    Nice site you have here. You write some good poetry and do some good poetry analysis.

    Sorry about not approving your comments, I actually messed up some of the settings on my blog a few weeks ago. I had ended up making it so that I wasn’t receiving the comment notification emails anymore and all comments were going straight to the moderation folder. :P

    Glad to see another Patrick Gillespie is out there googling himself. I’m going to have to change around now that I know other Pat Gillespies are out there stumbling upon it.

    Oh, and I was born April 3, 1982 and my older brother has all girls too. No kids for me yet, though I hope so some day.

    Thanks for throwing your two cents in on my topic, it put a smile on my face :).


  2. I absolutely am in awe of your dissertation on Haiku – I loved it. I have written a little, had a couple accepted for publication in obscure places but this truly is a wonderful site.

    Thank you.

    Endless Sky:

    Hot summer perfume
    Warms and dulls our senses
    Seeds pods crushed for love

    For Peter Brock:

    Tribal warfare done
    Men and machines cool down
    Women weep again

    I was back in Perth by July, when London was bombed – just a few short weeks after being in London after Easter last year – and sat under a magnificent old magnolia tree in the grounds of St Martins of the Fields, just of Piccadilly.

    Flower petals fall
    On graves of centuries past
    While bombs burn your heart


  3. Patrick,

    Im thrilled to have found your site.

    Four weeks ago I Wikied ‘haiku’ so I could participate in a haiku workshop in Second Life. Since then I have been furiously reading, writing and researching haiku. Its a heady feeling being at the start of something that captures the imagination.

    I just read your excellent blog on haiku. That, and Jane Reichholds work have been the best reads Ive found so far. Your site has been added to my first and very new blog.

    I look forward to reading all you throw our way. And good luck getting published.



  4. dear patrick,

    NEVER down grade your haiku/poetry just because you haven’t been published YET!!
    not being published, doesn’t mean you are NOT successful. please e-mail me, so, we can discuss this & i can “help” you to
    “promote” yourself.

    with a humble heart, pamela a. babusci published haiku/tanka poet


  5. Patrick – what a wonderful blog! So glad you stopped by mine – now I can add you to my blogroll and peruse at leisure (not now though – I’m on my lunch break:-))

    I’m a great fan of iambic pentameter but I didn’t realise there was so much to it – thought it was merely a ten-syllable line. So I’ll be reading your post about it tonight :-)


  6. Dear Patrick, I have found a gold mine and a man after my own heart.

    I can see it will take me some time to digest all you have written.

    I think music went down hill after J.S. Bach and literature after Homer.

    There is now a wealth of good work which may never see the editor’s red pen. The Internet has liberated us. It’s all ephemeral anyhow like the windswept grass and the lilies of the field.

    Send me an email if you wish.

    Kind regards,
    Roger K.A.Allen


    • It’s so nice to see you here, Dr.. If you love Bach and Homer then yes, we’re kindred spirits. The first time a read Homer was on an 8 hour bus trip from Vermont to New York – when I was a high school student. That was perfect. I might as well have been aboard a galley and every bus stop might as well have been a archipelago which strange, repellent and enticing creatures. I’ll be sure to E-Mail you. I’m working on a post about Sidney’s Sonnets right now. That will keep me busy for the week.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Patrick. Saw you blasting the so-called “Worldclass Poetry Blog” for the same reasons I did but much more eloquently. Great work. Well met.


  8. Hi Patrick,
    Absolutely love your site :D

    Thank you for your visit to my blog and for your helpful suggestions (which I will certainly look into, once I have got the hang of exactly how this technology works, as its all completely alien to me LOL).

    I get the distinct impression that I am the sort of poet that drives Alan Taylor crazy, but…..this just keeps me bouncing right on back. I love writing poetry, though I know that prehaps my kind of poetry is not the norm, saying this, I thoroughly enjoy reading poetry of others, even if their stle is the complete oposite of mine.
    I will be linking you to my site, and visting often, once again thank you for your visit and kind comments. :-D


    • dear stacey,

      i trust i’m not the alan taylor to whom you refer? i’m also fairly sure you’re not the kind of poet who would drive me crazy. whatever you write is just fine with me. whoever this other alan taylor is, i assure you he’s an impostor. i’m the tasmanian poet, alan taylor ~ the poet-in-residence at the academy of the arts at the university of tasmania, 2009-2010, and the interweave and access arts poet-in-residence at the queen victoria museum and art gallery, tasmania, 2006-2010.

      i am Very pleased to make your acquaintance and encourage you to keep writing poetry, no matter what anyone else says or thinks about it…


    • Dear Alan
      Firstly im pleased to make your acquaintance also. You are not the “Alan Taylor” of which I was referring to (you’re much to polite!), sorry if there was any misunderstandings it was actually a fault on my part as I should have made it clearer of whom I was actually refering to, I do hope that im forgiven!
      I have been trying to reasearch your poetry, but im not certain if I now have the right “Alan Taylor”, so if at all possible could you email me on the above email address or leave me a message with a link.



  9. Hi Patrick,
    Thanks for visiting my blog.
    You realize of course that you’re a poet who also happens to do carpentry?! I’m really enjoying your site and would be happy to answer any questions you might have about self-promotion and getting published. It’s quite unnerving sometimes but I find it’s a lot like taking a swim in a cold lake. You pretty much just have to dive in.
    Best wishes,


  10. Really nice to see another non-academic poet spending time on Milton. I am not too involved in tracking scansion; that was a poisonous element of high school English for me, though I often write in forms and have a metrical ear. I just don’t track it out on paper, and I don’t keep the vocabulary in my head (trochee, spondee, etc.). But Milton’s language is glorious. Still, I needed to spend two years copying out the epic word for word in order even to begin to comprehend what he might mean to me.


  11. Hi there! My name is Annie and I actually came across your blog while looking for people to get involved in a project that I’m trying to start in the Burlington area. Would you be interested in a writer’s group that would hold workshops every couple of weeks? I want to have a mix of people of different ages an experience levels who need honest, fair, and helpful criticism as well as a networking opportunity and a chance to share work. I’d really like to get you involved, although I don’t know if you even live in the Burlington area, but if you do I think you could bring an awesome energy and diversity to the group.

    Thanks and please shoot me an e-mail to let me know if you’re interested.



  12. or rather, you could just comment here and I’ll have the comment forwarded to me since you can’t actually see my e-mail address.


  13. Hi Annie!

    I don’t live in the Burlington area. I live in South Strafford, which is an hour and 40 minutes away. I love Burlington. Have you read Ulysses in Burlington, Vermont? I’m always curious to know what Burlingtonians think of the poem.

    Anyway, it’s hard to say. I think it would be enjoyable, but it might be hard to get there regularly. I’m coming up during the third week of August. I’m taking my twin girls (two eight year olds) up to the all girls Talent skateboard camp. We’ll be camping up on Hero island (like last year). It’s beautiful up there. Every time I visit I never want to leave. If you want to meet, let me know. I’ll probably hang out at the Barnes and Noble one of those days.


  14. Well congratulations… you’ve inspired my latest poem… well, you and some of your links. But I did meander back here to leave a comment and say hello. I think I found you under the search term “poetryblog rhyme”. Keep up the good work and thanks for your wonderful distractions. I’ll definitely check back and check often.

    -Andy Bonjour

    The poem I wrote this morning after linking place to place from your site is “The Distraction of Blogs”.


  15. Hi, Patrick,

    Thank you very much for visiting my blog and commenting on it. As you say I am just beginning. The Renaissance blog I opened for my students at the university, but yes, I’d like more people to visit and comment. I’ll try wordpress, but I still have to find my way around it.

    You have a great site and excellent stuff about poetry, including your poetry! I still have to explore your site more in depth, but what I have read is an inspiration. Thanks again!


    • Unless you’re fluent with HTML and have time to design your own website, I would whole-heartedly recommend WordPress.Com. If you decide to switch over to WordPress let me know so I can update my link. If you need any basic pointers, I might be able to help you.

      Also, I’m always open to cross posting by other bloggers with similar interests.


  16. I’ve read only two of your posts so far, but I agree with what you have said, that poetry which uses form is more interesting than the one that doesn’t. Thanks again.


  17. Patrick, I was happy to find your site when I was trying to reference narrative poetry that was written in iambic pentameter or iambic tetrameter. I found a mistake that needs to be corrected on the following link:

    My Papa’s Waltz Theodore Roethke
    My Papa’s Waltz may be one of Roethke’s best known poems. It’s written in an Iambic Tetrameter that Roethke skillfully varies according to the subject matter of the poem – a counterpoint unavailable to free verse poetry.

    The whiskey on your breath
    Could make a small boy dizzy;
    But I hung on like death:
    Such waltzing was not easy. … … …

    ***Please note that this poem is written in “trimeter” and not tetrameter.

    You seem to have quite the thorough site and congratulations for your hard work to share it all.

    sincerely, joy


  18. Patrick, I really appreciate your visit to my blog. You are right about the haiku: I continue to work on it. Often I come to the page cold from the day’s happenings. I write something and I let it stand. The Exile Blog is my space where I can be messy and take chances. This is good for me because I have had a tendency in the past to hold onto things too long, and this impeded my progress. The WordPress Blog is going to act as my website, not as another blog. I look forward to investigating your blog here in more detail.


  19. Patrick, your interest in meter struck a chord. This is something I had to grapple with in translating nineteenth-century Catalan poet Jacint Verdaguer into English. Adapting Romance-language meter into English meter raises problems. I talk about it in my “Translator’s Note” to the Selected Poems of Jacint Verdaguer: A Bilingual Edition. “Guisla”, from Verdaguer’s epic Canigo, does, I think, survive to tell the second tale you mention at the top of your philosophy page. Just wondering what you might make of it.
    (There’s a copy in the library at University of Vermont, Burlington, but if that’s not nearby I’d be glad to send you another.)


    • Hello Ron,

      I love Burlington and I’d love to live there someday. As it is, I’m an hour and forty five minutes away. If you feel generous, I’d love to see a copy of it. If it’s something you would prefer loaning, then I would to send it back to you.


    • Hi Nicole,

      Sure, I would consider interviewing authors or reviewing. So you know, I’m limiting myself to reviews of poets who use traditional devices like meter and rhyme. If any of your authors are interested, have them take a look at my blog. My review of Annie Finch is representative. I would also consider children’s books if they are related to poetry.


    • An epic is loosely defined by its subject matter and breadth, rather than by the verse form in which it’s written. However, it is worth noting it’s strong roots in the oral tradition and how the great epics (in Latin and in English) use meter to sustain that tradition. Britannica offers up the following:

      Epic poetry has been used by peoples all over the world and in different ages to transmit their traditions from one generation to another, without the aid of writing. These traditions frequently consist of legendary narratives about the glorious deeds of their national heroes. Thus scholars have often identified “epic” with a certain kind of heroic oral poetry, which comes into existence in so-called heroic ages. Such ages have been experienced by many nations, usually at a stage of development in which they have had to struggle for a national identity.

      You’ll notice that Spencer’s Faerie Queene is included as an example of an epic, written in what came to be known as the Spencerian Stanza (they rhyme). So… Yes, it is possible to write a true English epic using rhyme. I suspect most poets chose not to, in English, because of the effort needed to sustain such an enterprise. (English, compared to Italian for example, is much more difficult to rhyme over the course of thousands of lines). However, it has been done. Check out Pharonnida by William Chamberlayne. Some might consider this more of a romance than an epic (although the same is said of the Faerie Queene). Chamberlayne’s rhyme scheme is that of the open heroic couplet – which came to be known as Romance Couplets.

      (I’ve edited this comment about 20 times. That’s what comes with talking to one’s wife and writing at the same time.)


  20. I seem to remember Fussell (Poetic Meter & Poetic Form) going at some length to point out the limitation of his sonnet form. I guess the question is not only whether it is literally possible to write a long poem in rhyme (that is, whether it is possible to sustain the effort without crippling the poem), but whether post-Milton, it is even appropriate or worth the effort to try to do so. Will have to check out and see what Pharonnida is all about.

    I ask because I’ve been contemplating writing an epic, which I had originally thought I might write in interlocking pentameter rubaiyat (as in Frost’s “Snowy Evening”) with a preface in blank verse, and a panegyric chant in appendix possibly in free verse. But I’m starting to wonder if the limitations of that would be too stifling. I’m still some years away from starting the thing (I first have to master both the subject matter and, of course, poetics). Not that I expect anyone to really read it.


    • I smile because, on the one hand, you’re concerned as to how it will be received and, on the other, you expect no one will really read it.

      I question… whether post-Milton, it is even appropriate or worth the effort to try to do so.

      It depends on what makes it “worth it”. What defines success? – the effort to write it? – it’s reception?

      Here’s what I can say. If you’re going to write a rhyming epic, you had better be a good poet – maybe a genius. If the world is going to criticize your work, let it be for dogmatic reasons (we just don’t like rhyme), not because you’re a bad poet or bad rhymer. Dismissing your effort will be so much easier if you’re rhymes are amateurish.

      Besides that, the limitations might indeed be too stifling. In shorter poems, like sonnets, rhyme can powerfully underline the content. In an epic length poem, it’s hard to imagine how it will sound like anything less than an affectation. A great poet can subdue meter (making one forget than he or she is reading meter), but no poet can subdue thousands and thousands of rhymes. Chamberlayne came closest, perhaps, because he used open heroic couplets. This allows him to de-emphasize the rhymes. By comparison, it doesn’t take long for the closed heroic couplets of Pope to sound utterly contrived (see his translations of Homer and Virgil).

      A rubaiyat thyme scheme would be extremely difficult to sustain on a large scale. English only has so many rhymes.

      The only thing that might come closest to serving as a model for what you would like to do (I think) are rhymed translations of Dante’s Inferno. Here’s a contemporary on-line example. Here’s one from the early 20th Century. Here is Michael Palma’s translation, possibly, the best triple rhymed translation available. Check these out. See if you like or dislike them. Know your reasons, then you can decide on your own approach.


  21. I have been enjoying this discussion.

    I wonder if anyone has read H.B. Cotterill’s translation (1924) of Homer’s Odyssey in iambic hexameter in English in the same style as the original Greek. There have been many criticisms of this work but I still find it pleasant to read and with the same lilt as the Greek. Indeed I read it as a student over 30 years ago and I couldn’t put it down. I could not find the book my late father owned but I bought one from a book store in Canada this year. It arrives in Australia in a week. In some ways it reminds me of the style of Longfellow’s Hiawatha.

    I have just finished a poem which I scribbled off one afternoon in 2007 about the Victoria Dock, Hobart, Tasmania. I write poetry primarily for myself bit I must admit, I like it when someone says it is good or stirred them.

    Epics alas are a rare breed now and even more so, poetic epics. We are too cynical, too busy, too much ennui, and too much déjà vu. Perhaps Tolkien is the closest we have and the movies may be better than the books. (I await howls of indignation).

    Roger Allen


    • I think I may have read parts of Cotterill’s translation when I was in high school, too young to appreciate his effort.

      Whenever I can, I opt for blank verse translations. I love blank verse.

      I think the best of them is Mandelbaum, but I haven’t read Esolen’s blank verse translation of Inferno.

      I looked for your new poem but you either haven’t posted it or I couldn’t find it. As to epics, I think you’re right about Tolkien. What’s really astonishing is how many oratorical devices (schemes of grammar) Tolkien uses, almost to the same extent as Milton. I wrote a paper on the subject. To my knowledge, no other writer (writing in this genre) really picked up on this facet of his writing. His style links his prose to the oral tradition in a way that no other writer has recognized or equaled.


  22. Hello Patrick,
    I am The Michael George Gibson of The True English (Poetry) Party and a member of The Queen’s English Society who has been stirring it up about the nature of poetry.There is a lot of muddle and nonsense out there, and many of the commentators on the Observer article and so forth muddle it up further. Please read my foundation document, ‘On English Poetry and Poems‘ and then start talking. It would be great fun to discuss these matters of formalism and so forth with you all.
    Best wishes,
    Michael Gibson


  23. As an amateur poet, and not an academic, my observation is that the modern freestyle approach to poetry is akin to the freestyle mode of living eg no religious or other rules/sanctions to live by and thus the democratisation of poetry. However as demos of course means the people, it follows thus (I may be wrong) that we see the mediocritisation of such (permit me the neologism, please, as we are on a poetry site). (I have done one year of Ancient Greek at university and am learning Modern or Demotic Greek).

    Thus, modern poetry is often modern prose in lines.

    Lines are for the reader, more than the poet, like traffic lights. They say, “please read differently with a glass of Chardonnay in one hand and with a far away look in the eyes and realise you are going to come across some pretty zany ways of speaking English (or whatever, compressed forms, neologisms, etc).

    I once wrote a poem about childhood and then decided to cut out the lines and a poet who has published about numerous books told my what wonderfully poetic style of prose it was.

    I suppose this has been said a thousand times before. However the tide has turned so much now that when one writes in some form, nay even rhyme and metre, one is immediately branded as a literary dinosaur or even worse, “childish”.

    Tell me where to post a poem and I will do so, as I usually put them on my blog which to me is a place for essays (nearly extinct) and poetry.

    Last week I presented a two hour lecture to medical student on “Medicine and the Humanities”. I had written a 60 pages of notes from Genesis, Homer, Virgil, Dante,Shakespeare, Milton, Constantine Cavafy who wrote Ithaca, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and even Leonard Cohen (singer and poet. I was stunned by how little they had read. They didn’t get it. Not one of nearly one hundred students had ever written a poem, not even on toilet paper or a napkin at a restaurant.

    Poetically yours,
    Roger Allen


    • I resist politicizing aesthetics. Saying that free verse is akin to moral bankruptcy or cultural relativism is the flip side of saying that traditional poetry is patriarchal, conservative or reactionary. I don’t buy into any of that. I love contrapuntal music and I love the disciplines of meter and rhyme, but I’m not remotely conservative in my outlook. Conversely, I know a good many free verse poets who are arch-conservatives. All the same, politicizing art is a time honored tradition.

      The problem is that it’s hard to “villify” an aesthetic.

      However, if you can associate an aesthetic with a commonly perceived negative, you’re on your way. It’s a type of logical fallacy. It attempts to curry favor with a given audience by negative association. In other words, if one can associate an aesthetic with negatives that *most* everyone agrees are negatives, then the argument is won (even if the association is false). This fallacy is at the heart of the modern political campaign and I suspect that it’s a kind of association fallacy. I love rhetoric and logic, by the way.

      modern poetry is often modern prose in lines.

      Lineated prose. No poet or critic, to my knowledge, has demonstrated otherwise.

      A poem written in meter and/or rhyme does something that prose doesn’t. That is what has traditionally differentiated poetry from prose. Given some background in meter and rhyme, anyone could reconstruct a Shakespearean sonnet if it were “delineated”. The same can’t be said for free verse. Free verse, without lineation, is prose. My free verse poems are lineated prose.

      when one writes in some form, nay even rhyme and metre, one is immediately branded as a literary dinosaur or even worse, “childish”.

      Amateurishly written meter or rhyme is far easier to objectively criticize than amateurish free verse. That’s why it’s much more difficult to write metrical or rhyming poetry. When done poorly, it is often (and bizarrely) interpreted as a reason to write free verse. Bizarre because the criticism is tantamount to an admission that free verse is easier. In other words, why improve your mastery of form when you can write free verse – avoiding all that difficulty?

      Tell me where to post a poem and I will do so…

      Why wouldn’t you post it on your own blog?

      I was stunned by how little they had read. They didn’t get it. Not one of nearly one hundred students had ever written a poem…

      That will come, I think. Literature is like any pursuit. Some have an interest, some don’t. But the younger generation has the deck stacked against them. When I was in my early twenties, my education in literature was threadbare. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Share your love of literature with them. There may be just a few whom you inspire. That’s as it should be.


  24. How much of poetry now is part of a trendy literary establishment? I know it is in my country and town there is a sort of poetry clique which corals the horse in the stable they dictate… Unless you conform you end up in your own wilderness. It is usually free-style, with a wet T-shirt and in a vernacular. Who are the judges? What is their background? Perhaps, who cares?

    Being dead and famous may allow you to become establishment. For example if I said, “rose moles all in stipple on trout that swim” (I think this is the correct quote) I can imagine many saying what appalling use of English and what appalling grammar and that you can’t use stipple that way as no one would understand it. However Gerard Manly Hopkins is a sort of verbal Picasso to my way of thinking. I like his poetry.

    It is a difficult thing to be too far out in front. Van Gogh knew that and many of the Impressionists until they were dead.

    I have been challenged by what you and others have said here Patrick to transform a blank verse poem into something more structured and formed and the biggest challenge is to make it all seem effortless and not contrived like an excellent gymnast who has practiced for a thousand hours and has the bruises to show for it.

    Thanks for the chat. I learn a lot.

    Roger Allen


    • Roger from another Roger, I taught medical students for forty years or so and over time they tended to show a lot more science and less humanities in their education. I remember well in 2001, the year I retired, I would make a reference to something from literature or the classics and at least 95% had a puzzled look on their face. I remember well telling one questioner that if he followed a particular line of reasoning he would end up in Zeno’s paradox. Only about one person in the class of about 50 knew what that was.

      I went to a VERY small liberal college for my pre-med studies and it had a great books based curriculum. I hated it at the time but in my later years I wouldn’t have traded it for gold. Now that I have time for other things I am rereading many books I glossed through and have loved having the time to explore poetry. I still feel like a rank beginner but it is starting to fall into place.

      I agree very much with Patrick that we tend to short change our students, perhaps in the name of expediency or PC. University shouldn’t necessarily be operated like a fast food joint. Sometimes kids actually don’t know what is good for them. Just an opinion….


  25. Captain Jack and Lillian

    It was a mid-day in May
    When red sunlight lazily lay
    Peering through cloudless skies,
    Casting down on ocean’s brilliant dyes
    That Captain Jack and his crew of three
    sailed for the magic solitude of the boundless sea.
    Lillian stood on the surf-tormented shore,
    Her eyes’ scintillating soul the pain she bore.
    Jack consumed her heart, in all and in whole,
    And with it he took his truant soul.

    The day had grown to twilight dim
    As Night birds sang a solemn hymn
    That echoed across the night-tide’s rush
    riding waves’ glow with reddish blush.
    There appeared a bright cold moon
    As if a talisman, not a warning too soon
    For the once calm waters began to swell
    from the chilling winds upon them fell.
    The tossing tempests had grown and grown
    as mountainous waves appeared as death’s throne.
    In solemn silence, Captain Jack and the three
    became slumbering souls beneath the tumultuous sea.
    The lurid sea, the lurid sea
    in all the pageantry of her beauty.

    Moon tints of purple and pearl evolved into brilliant liquescence
    when Lillian appeared as crystalline light, the poetry of her presence.
    Her face shone sorrow and her soul she borrowed as she pleaded to the stars above,
    wishing the return of Captain Jack, her one and only love.

    Out of the sea’s immensity, into a labyrinth of pearly light,
    Captain Jack stood a proud tower holding his stone flowers
    toward Lillian , he held them out right.
    Her heart palpitated at the welcome sight, her eyes beamed with glee
    One-step then two then vanishing into the cold embrace of the sea.


  26. I would only add some thought why I used long lines in the last two paragraphs;
    The flow matched the sounds as I spoke it , however unorthodixed the longation. I could have- would have broken the words to be politically correct in poetry, but I ain’t that guy!


    • Hi Robert. The poem reminds me a little of Longfellow, a little of Robert Service. I did notice that you lineated the poem’s last two stanzas differently than at your website. But you know what I really like about it? It’s a narrative poem. If we were in a Texas pub, the next round would be on me. I wish there were more poet/storytellers. The impulse to tell a story and write poetry is all too rare these days. Hope your new book does well.


  27. I enjoyed reading this and thought what makes the difference between a song and a poem. Most songs seem to have less complex lyrics and seem to cater for a less sophisticated audience although Leonard Cohen is an exception.

    I have just written a conventional rhyming and metric poem about the sea and cray fishing boats based on a holiday at the Victoria Dock in Tasmania but I do not know if it is considered proper to post such on this site. It will go on my own website.

    Roger Allen


    • Dr. Allen, feel free to post your poem here. I consider this a guestbook – a book that belongs to my guests. Treat it the way you would treat any tattered guestbook at an Inn or bed & breakfast.


    SEPTEMBER 2007

    By Roger K.A. Allen
    17 October 2009

    I sit and watch the boats from the warm confines,
    Of my tall wide window with its frosted panes,
    With its sandstone walls from the press of time
    Won by the sweat of a chain gang line,
    When the rough edges of men were rasped by the cat –
    In Van Diemen’s Land hell with a bloodied back.
    It’s now a holiday haunt with massive beams
    And hand-cut posts, iron pins and rusted rings-
    It is not as it was and not as it seems.

    This maritime store once echoed and thundered,
    To the roll of oak barrels of dark overproof rum,
    And the stacking of sacks in the dust and spilled grain,
    To the shouting of orders when the prisoners complain,
    While taught ropes ran hot through stout wooden blocks,
    To the spoked wooden wagons and their patient draft horses,
    Standing blinkered below on Hunter Street’s cobbles of Victoria Dock.

    Fishing boats now fill my view,
    With their pretty hulls of bottle green and navy blue,
    Some wooden, some steel with tell-tale roux,
    Some double-enders for the meanest of monsters of following seas,
    Like Colin Archer designed for the Norse fishing fleet.

    In this mess of swaying masts and banging booms
    Are snug wheel houses with orange buoys with the boats’ names too,
    And through their salt-sprayed glass, a single bunk behind the wheel,
    Where exhaustion sleeps and bruises heal.

    On deserted decks lie stacked craypots of sun-bleached cane,
    As the boats writhe like men in pain
    To the rock and roll of the seductive swell,
    Which has broached the gate of this citadel.

    Sea nymphs with gusts scud the mirrored dark blue
    This now docile monster whose huge peaks can tumble
    Off mountainous waves that make brave sailors tremble,
    Before that Lord of all Winds and the smiter of ships,
    The great Roaring Forties on which tea clippers flew.

    Boats lashed abreast as the steel hulls moan and the hawsers groan
    As they strain against the rhythmic heave
    And their nylon springs draw taught like long-bows strings,
    And their short breast-lines on bollards looped
    Hold them close to the quay while a seagull swoops.

    These boats await the start of the cray fishing season,
    And to shoulder their bows like fit young bloods in a rugby match,
    Against the punishing waves and the bighting spray,
    And the oft-feared doom of a following wave
    In their annual hunt for this lucrative catch,
    About the fortieth parallel.


    • That’s really not bad! You possess an imaginative and evocative feel for imagery. There is a welcome clarity to your lines that I enjoy.

      My only comments would be the following:

      1.) Beware of adjectives. Minimize their use as far as possible. Perhaps limit yourself to one or two per 10 lines. You will be amazed what this discipline forces you to do and how it will mature your descriptive powers. Adjectives are like salt. It is easy to ruin a masterful dish with too much.

      2.) Be careful not to overuse the prepositional phrase. Your first sentence is a series of prepositional phrases –

      from the warm confines,
      Of my tall wide window with its frosted panes,
      With its sandstone walls from the press of time
      Won by the sweat of a chain gang line,
      When the rough edges of men were rasped by the cat –
      In Van Diemen’s Land hell with a bloodied back…


      To the roll of oak barrels of dark overproof rum,
      And the stacking of sacks in the dust and spilled grain,
      To the shouting of orders…

      It’s a habit of thought typical of a mind given over to vivid imagery and description rather than narrative or disquisition. Once you become aware of this habit, it is easy to overcome it.

      Go back and look at some of your favorite poets with just these two admonitions in mind.


  29. I really appreciate your comments Patrick. This is the first time I have had such from a real poet. I work in a busy practice and I know of no colleagues with such vices as poetry. I think a poet like a sailor looks at the wind differently. Once you eyes are opened they cannot be closed.

    With regards your comments about adjectives, can you give me a few lines of what you would do with those above (if you have time and I know this is a big ask). How about leaving out the “with: and inserting commas, or is that cheating?

    It seems that what you are suggesting is what my wife are going with our home eg “Zenning it”. We are de-junking it and the space does the talking.

    My wife found this saying in a home decorating book called At Peace At Home. “Nothing can bring you lasting peace; you have it already if you just stop disturbing it.” Swami Satchidananda.

    It is like a poem is already in the rock. We just leave too many rough edges on it. We disturb it too much is what you are saying?

    Is it the phrase “with bla bla” or just the adjectives. I love Homer who used adjectival epithets often eg the wine-dark sea, the grey-eyed goddess Athena, the fleet-footed Hermes, the wily Odysseus etc and many become parenthetical epithets.

    I’ll go back with this in mind and try again. I often do this during the day between patients.

    The Antipodean Roger.


    • It seems that what you are suggesting is what my wife are going with our home eg “Zenning it”. We are de-junking it and the space does the talking.

      That’s a lovely way to put it.

      With regards your comments about adjectives, can you give me a few lines of what you would do with those above…

      Rewriting another poet’s lines is like romping with a grizzly bear cub – in front of its mother.

      Discretion, I think, is the better part of valor.

      As for adjectives, another poet once said the same thing to me. My poetry used to be full of them. He also said this:

      There is a difference between writing poetry and writing poetically.

      And that was all the instruction I ever needed. The first poem I wrote, subsequent to that, was The Evening Coming. Years later, I notice two adjectives in the first and second line. After that, none. For me, this was a whole new way of writing. I never looked back.

      My advice is to do one of two things: Take out all the adjectives in your present poem, then choose your favorite four and put them back. Then rewrite the rest without adjectives. Think of it as an exercise.

      Or you could try writing a poem from scratch.

      Take a look at Frost’s Mending Wall. I think there are only five or six adjectives in the entire poem.

      Just in the first stanza of your poem I think I counted 15 (I first wrote 12) adjectives.

      I sit and watch the boats from the warm confines,
      Of my tall wide window with its frosted panes,
      With its sandstone walls from the press of time
      Won by the sweat of a chain gang line,
      When the rough edges of men were rasped by the cat –
      In Van Diemen’s Land hell with a bloodied back.
      It’s now a holiday haunt with massive beams
      And hand-cut posts, iron pins and rusted rings-
      It is not as it was and not as it seems.

      In the entirety of Shakespeare’s To be or not to be, I counted 10; and yet this is some of the most evocative poetry ever written.

      To be, or not to be: that is the question:
      Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
      The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
      Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
      And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
      No more; and by a sleep to say we end
      The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
      That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
      Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
      To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
      For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
      When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
      Must give us pause: there’s the respect
      That makes calamity of so long life;
      For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
      The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
      The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
      The insolence of office and the spurns
      That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
      When he himself might his quietus make
      With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
      To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
      But that the dread of something after death,
      The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
      No traveller returns, puzzles the will
      And makes us rather bear those ills we have
      Than fly to others that we know not of?
      Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
      And thus the native hue of resolution
      Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
      And enterprises of great pith and moment
      With this regard their currents turn awry,
      And lose the name of action. – Soft you now!
      The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
      Be all my sins remember’d.


  30. You have thrown down the gauntlet and I shall take up the challenge with a redraft.

    But to be the Devil’s advocate, how about Keats’s eg Ode to Autumn and Ode to a Grecian Urn and Tennyson’s Ulysses which are stuffed full of verbal seasoning viz adjectives like a trussed turkey…? They are not so abstemious as the above which is more rambling with the erudite speaker in need of a good psychiatrist, some Prozac and probably some psycho-analytic work. This beauty is of course a soliloquy and not a poem. But that brings us back to what’s a poem. The above could appear alineated (if there is a word) and read as well.


    • how about Keats’s eg Ode to Autumn and Ode to a Grecian Urn

      Oh ho! So you want to run with the big boys? OK! Then here’s what you have to do.

      There are different kinds of adjectives and Keats studied Shakespeare carefully. He learned a trick from Shakespeare as to how to use an adjective. Look up two rhetorical figures: Hypallage and Anthimeria. These were the two most powerful schemes of grammar in Shakeapeare’s toolbox and Keats knew it.

      Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

      Maturing sun is an example of hypallage. Where else have you seen this adjective applied to the sun? Nowhere. This is a poetic creation by Keats. The sun normally matures a crop, but by shifting maturing to the sun, Keats has effectively transferred the epithet, to quote Sister Joseph. Instead of the cut being unkind, Shakespeare would write: “This was the most unkindest cut of all.” This confers tremendous vitality to the adjective. To say that the confines are warm or that edges are rough or that the windows are tall and wide is to almost say nothing at all and to say it in a very ordinary and expected way. The art of poetry, which modern poets have all but forgotten or are too ill-talented to manifest, is to use language in an extraordinary way. A few ordinary adjectives are OK, but if you are going to run with Keats or Tennyson, then some of your adjectives must be extraordinary.

      To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees

      Mossed is an example of anthimeria. Anthimeria is a scheme of grammar wherein one part of speech is substituted for another. Normally, moss is used as a noun or as an adjective mossy. But Keats was a great poet and knew his Shakespeare. He turned moss into a verb. The cottage trees were mossed. This is not just an ordinary adjective and the effect of it is vivid because of it is an extraordinary use of language.

      With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
      And still more, later flowers for the bees,

      Keats’ use of the word budding is a weak sort of anthimeria (since the word can be used as a verb), but separated from its object flowers, the word budding takes on much greater vividness.

      So. if you want to use more adjectives, then they must be extraordinary. Reread poets like Keats and Shakespeare, looking for examples of hypallage and anthimeria, and you will begin to develop a nose for it in your own writing. However, you will also find some modern poets occasionally using hypallage and anthimeria.

      Here’s an example of hypallage from T.S. Eliot (the first lines of Prufrock):

      The muttering retreats
      Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels

      Take the word “abstemious” in your note above. Apply it in a way you never have. For example, I might say of today’s weather that it was “abstemious weather”. (And it really was.) But this is what you must do with you adjectives if you want to roast Turkey like Keats.

      This beauty is of course a soliloquy and not a poem.

      It may not be a poem, but it is poetry. : )


  31. Hi Patrick,

    This is an incredible website and excellent resource! I’m so happy to have found it. I have a specific question regarding my own poetry that I would like to ask of you, but perhaps not in a public forum. Would it be possible to correspond via email? I was unable to find an email address on your site.

    I understand that you must be very busy, but I would be very grateful to have a few minutes of your time.

    All the best, and congratulations again on such a great site!


  32. Hello, I am new and a fan of poetry as well. My writing has just started in days and hope that you have fun visiting my blog. I will be back.

    The work of your friends and you seem very professional in my eyes.

    Keep going!


  33. Greetings, Patrick!

    Regarding extraordinary adjectives: Conceding the effectiveness of “muttering retreats” (Eliot) or “most unkindest cut” (Shakespeare), one may still pause over Shelley’s “thy skiey speed” (“Ode to the West Wind”), not to mention the rather fulsome adjective phrases with which that poet fills “To a Skylark.” (Breezes made fragant by a rose’s scent, e.g., are “heavy-wing-ed thieves.”) One has the impression that even the greats could get a bit carried away with this sort of thing.



    • Hi Rob! Yes, there’s definitely a trick to original language. Shelley wasn’t as good at it as Keats or Shakespeare, and it’s not enough to just throw a more descriptive adjective before the noun, like “heavy-winged”. It’s hard to describe. It’s a combination of the unexpected both in description and grammar – Anthimeria. Shakespeare was a master. Keats could pull it off and so could Eliot, on occasion. Some 20th Century poets took the unexpected to extremes – making a fetish out of it and robbing it of its effect.

      The thing that you picked up on with Shelley was a trick that Keats grew out of – this trick of making nouns into adjective (or adverbs) by adding -y and -ey. (There is a name for it but I can’t remember.) It was all the rage by the end of the 18th century. By the time Keats and other poets took it up, the figure had quickly devolved into an obvious poetic mannerism. For some reason (and this could be my mistaken impression) it was especially prevalent among the women Romantic poets?


  34. I was surprised to see a quotation of Shakespeare using “skyey”; maybe the device that it exemplifies–I don’t know a term for it either–had also “gone around” a couple centuries before?! I’m afraid I haven’t read enough Romantic poetry by women to have any impression one way or other. In a possibly-related vein, however: In our own society, females–especially those in their early teens–seem to delight in creating and using linguistic variations, written as well as spoken… Whatever! ttyl (*giggle*) xxx



  35. Aloha, Patrick. I want to thank you for placing a link on Poemshape to my book at Self-published Poets. It gave me pause at first, since I wasn’t sure that my poetry is sufficiently “formalist” to qualify for notice as such. But the book does include a few forms — there is an unrhymed sonnet (“Icarus, from the abyss”) and a haiku — and most of my poems are solidly iambic, even when writing syllabics. It’s always been my feeling that the English language falls naturally into iambics when at it’s most expressive, and it’s most basic. Also, I like to think that I leave the poem free to find its own form. And I use end rhyme as well as internal rhymes, but usually only at the emotional peaks, were the intensity of feeling, like a stone into a pond, sends out its ripples as echoes.
    Anyway, it’s a pleasure to find your site. It seems like an excellent forum for ‘promoting’ your own work, while establishing a Web presence. I’m sure that, as more and more people link to Poemshape, they will find their way to “Self-published poets” as well.


    • //It gave me pause at first, since I wasn’t sure that my poetry is sufficiently “formalist” to qualify for notice as such.//

      As far as the Self-Published Poets site goes, whether a poet writes traditional poetry is secondary. But, as for that, it sound like your mixture of traditional techniques and free verse is interesting. I’m all for that kind of experimentation – enjoy reading it.


    • //it sounds like your mixture of traditional techniques and free verse is interesting. I’m all for that kind of experimentation – enjoy reading it.//

      Patrick– Email me with your snail-mail address and I’ll send you a copy of “Between Wings”. Like yourself, I’ve never been much into ‘promoting’ myself or the poems…but I always like to get feedback. The poems are written in a style that’s not much in favor any more…now that the predominant mode is a kind of ‘free’ verse that’s apparently ‘free’ of imagery, and ‘free’ of music…in other words, free to be prose.


    • Hi Jim! It looks like you’ve made a real effort to understand the spirit of the haiku. If you’re still writing haiku and continue to be interested, there are two sites that I enjoy very much: Jornales and Australian Haiku.

      Besides that, I’ve been thinking of putting together a post of Haiku on the Solstice – something we can all post at our respective blogs.

      If you have a haiku for the solstice, you can E-Mail me (see Contact) or post it here.


  36. Hi, Patrick. This is just to wish you & yours a splendid Solstice Season!

    Now to my winter comes a discontent,
    When many whom I love are of a mind
    To mark the birth of one they think was sent
    To die, though sinless, for their sinful kind.
    Their god of love demanded blood, you see;
    The blood of his own son, whose life, in “fact,”
    Was blameless. Their god does not seem to be
    A being with whom I can make contact.
    But as our planet courses ’round the Sun,
    There comes a moment when, the moment passed,
    Well blesses them, and me, and everyone
    Whom Earth above her equator holds fast.
    “Let there be light,” we need no god to say;
    We shall have less of night, and more of day!


  37. Hi, Patrick. This is just to wish you & yours a splendid Solstice Season!

    Now to my winter comes a discontent,
    When many whom I love are of a mind
    To mark the birth of one they think was sent
    To die, though sinless, for their sinful kind.
    Their god of love demanded blood, you see;
    The blood of his own son, whose life, in “fact,”
    Was blameless. Their god does not seem to be
    A being with whom I can make contact.
    But as our planet courses ’round the Sun,
    There comes a moment when, the moment passed,
    Well blesses them, and me, and everyone
    Whom Earth above her equator holds fast.
    “Let there be light,” we need no god to say;
    We shall have less of night, and more of day!

    (PLUTONIC SONNETS 88, courtesy of PublishAmerica)


  38. Well, if we atheists are grumpy or depressed all the time, the “bright believing band” (T. Hardy) are sure to use it against us; some of them might even try that much harder to SAVE us…



  39. Hello,
    We feel a bit of a cheat in here. Novices poking a stick into poetry to see if it bites. My granddaughter and I are trying to write ‘poetry’, and found you whilst researching odes.
    We will quietly watch and learn -from Albion’s misty shores – if that’s alright? (all right :0) )

    Wonderful site; thank you. John & Giselle. Yorkshire, England


    • Oh… after I made that table, I wondered how useful it really was.

      I almost went back to the post and deleted it. You must have found it helpful. Tell me how? I’m very interested. I would consider making more if I thought they actually served a purpose or helped readers.


  40. I think the use of variants in certain areas of the poem add identity to the poet, much like the writing style is for the novelist; that is, one uses a certain vocabulary and so on–So shouldn’t the use of variants only in specific parts be something similar too?

    But also, and this goes a bit on a tangent, I’m interested in a deeper understanding of how variants are used–In what ways is it proper and not. I’ve seen how you said that variants are used for some sort of emotional instability within a poem, to assert a specific theme, or even how the use of a word disrupts the meter itself–Shelley’s Ozymandias comes to mind as does the word ‘Savage’ from an opening line; but, I forgot what poem that is from.


  41. hello everybody. it’s very interesting to read your posts, I consider myself very luky to find this site, it helps me alot either in my studing or for personal interest.speciall thanks to Mr. upinvermont for his graet and helpful analysis.


    • You’re most welcome Neelover.

      I had been planning on finishing more humdrum analysis (the third part of “Home Burial”), but this last post derailed me. And how… but stay tuned.


  42. Hi,

    I came over here from a link to your “let poetry die” over at the clevelanpoetics blog. Nice essay, by the way; I agree with it completely.

    Now, with that said, let me ask: who the heck are you?

    Is there some reason that you have a nice blog about poetry, but don’t bother to put your name on it? (I presume that if I dig down deep enough I can find your name somewhere? Is it like an Easter Egg hunt?)


    • Is there some reason that you have a nice blog about poetry, but don’t bother to put your name on it?

      Guessin’ that’s just the way I like ta’do things. Ayup…

      Good thing ya’have you’re own blog where you can do it hows’ever it pleases.

      But I don’t hide it. just click on Me (first tab under the blog’s name) and my name is right there.


  43. Delightful and informative. I didn’t know this sub-genre existed. I’ll bet I’m not the only ancient stodge who will on the nonce scrape together 17 syllables of female fasteners and tasteful innuundies. This goes to Wilbur too, who has been known to commit haiki.


    • :-) The language of carpentry is nothing if not the language of sexual double-entendre. Frost strikes me as the kind of man who didn’t know how to be subtle about these things (so all that’s left to us are a couple of coarse, off-color jokes in rhyme) , but knowing what I know about Wilbur, I’ll bet he’s linguistically cunning.


  44. I first stumbled on this website while looking for some information on Donne’s Holy Sonnet 10 and found an absolute treasure–complete with notation on iambic pentameter. :) Your analysis, your poetry, your creativity…certainly top-notch work.

    Crystal from Los Angeles


  45. Hi Patrick,
    I just read your “Philosophy”. I am so glad to have found your blogsite. I am also a big fan of forms and meter in poetry. I also get excited about poets so really go for the sounds in language more than the concept. There is much meaning that arises just in the sounds of words and the play of words. I look forward to visiting your site often.

    Good day!



  46. Hello,

    I had just finished (well, more or less :) reading “How to Read Slowly”, by James W. Sire, and was looking for some help in understanding Johne Donne’s “Batter my Heart”, which I find now absolutely fascinating, so multi-layered and deep. I was especially puzzled by its metrical structure, being but a beginner in reading poetry with a special attention to its meter (well, I managed to identify iambic pentameter, but what with these spondees…) – and here I found this absolutely fantastic blog worthy of all possible praise :). Thanks a lot; this may be a passion and a favourite pastime for you, but still it is much work, so I thought I’d leave a word “to keep you going”. And of course the blog will be thoroughly read and put in my Bookmarks forever :).


    • Hi Heather! I just looked and Thankyou! :-)

      I was just feeling down because I haven’t written any articles for PoemShape and my girls keep asking me why I spend so much time on the computer. I’ve been thinking of taking a break from the web and so your gesture is warmly appreciated.

      Overall, I very much like the presentation of your blog. I’ve been thinking that it might be time for a new theme on my own blog.


  47. I haven’t received any ‘notice’ from you so I came by, wondering.

    The ’emptiness’ is common to anyone inflamed by poetry or any literary pursuit. Like you, I often agonize over such moments like I described in the ‘riddle’. Give it time, Patrick. Sometimes, the ‘birthing’ is silent as the grave–where the seed beds. But indeed, unfortunately during this time, may I quote the last stanze in ‘riddle’:

    my (our) yearnings
    wear out the sun, singe my (our) heart(s)
    a thousand times…

    … but always
    at dawn i (we) bud

    Have faith, dear friend!


  48. I absolutely love your blog, possibly because I too favour rhymes and metre in poetry, but your blog is just an interesting read, even if I didn’t have a bias.
    Top work


  49. Hi, Patrick,

    I just today found your site from my friend Jim Wilson’s Shaping Words blog. I am glad to have found it and look forward to exploring it more.

    Kind regards,



  50. I visited here a while back, really liked it, forgot to bookmark it though, and then got busy with life (and unfortunately death.) Fortunately I found my way back and it’s safely bookmarked now. So much to enjoy here.


  51. I enjoyed your page, especially your dissertation on Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay”. I felt like I had discovered a pot of gold when I stumbled upon your site. I’ll be back to feast on your stories and poems. The editors’ loss, I feel.



  52. I love this site, and so hope you and your followers will join me for a poetry event!
    Friday, August 5
    Poetry in the Barn
    A dynamic evening of spoken word, featuring Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Galway Kinnell. A chance to hear one of America’s greatest living poets read his own words, along with
    two other acclaimed poets with Vermont ties, Bill Wadsworth and Joan Hutton Landis. Vermont composer/cellist, Michael Close, will provide musical interludes.
    7 PM
    Phantom Theater is located in the Edgcomb Barn off the East Warren Rd. in Warren.
    reservations: 496-5997
    more info:


  53. Hello, I came across the link to your site when I was doing a search for a simple nursery rhyme poem and I was very impressed by the amount of research and detail you put into your work and provided on your site for ordinary people such as myself.

    I have never been able to understand the ‘skeleton’ or dynamics of poetry, but I love to allow the internet “breeze” carry me along to sites where I can read poetry by others; amateurs and renowned authors alike. I may not understand what an iambic something-or-other is, or how haiku’s come about, but I do know that when a piece of poetry touches me in a way that I am able to conjure a picture, or sound(s), or feeling(s) within myself – where my heart and soul have been touched – then I have found a good poem.

    It is nice to meet another Northerner from another beautiful New England state. I was born and raised in Maine and did not move from there until I was in my 30’s (military move). I miss the north so very much, especially during the winters because we get so little snow down here in Virginia. I also have 3 daughters, but mine are grown now and I am enjoying the wonders of being a grandmother to the sweetest little girl who makes the sun shine brighter whenever I see or hear her.

    I look forward to spending many hours here in your site learning more about new things that you have to offer. I especially look forward to reading more of your poetry.

    Best wishes…enjoy your summer.
    Karla H.


    • Hi Karla, thanks and thanks for your comment on Monday’s Child. I learned quite a bit writing that post and it made me want to pick out another nursery rhyme. They’re all fascinating.

      As to the skeleton of poetry, I hear your sentiment from a lot of readers. For me, finding out what touches a reader’s “heart and soul” is endlessly interesting (why are some poems so easy to fall in love with while others leave us cold?). So, if you’re curious, there’s plenty to read here. You’re the kind of reader I write for.

      I love Maine. I could imagine living in some of the coastal towns but I would probably miss the staying ice of Vermont’s winter. I have relatives in Richmond, Virginia. Virginia is a beautiful state but too hot in the summer. If I lived in Virginia or the Carolinas, I would probably want to live in the mountains or somewhere around Nags Head. Anyway, best to you and to your summer as well.


  54. Brad said he was working with a “poet” and I took that to mean a master craftsman. I did not realize that he meant “master wordsmyth.” I’m looking forward to looking at the site as I can. Good choice of co-workers. Brad took good care of my house in Hanover about 10 years ago when Barbara and I lived there, before NYC.


  55. Glad as I am to see someone reading Philip Sidney in this day and age, I must take issue with at least one assertion here:

    ‘Iambic Pentameter was brand-spanking new, Elizabethan poets were excited to have a meter comparable to that of the Lain poets.’

    One need go no further than the second line (the first, depending on how you read it, is not ‘perfectly’ iambic) of Chaucer’s General Prologue to find:

    the DROUGHTE of MARCH hath PERCed TO the ROOT

    Though Chaucer is given to substitution — as are most poets, Frost being an uncanny exception — the whole CANTERBURY TALES is in iambic pentameter.


    • Yes Sydney, all true, but Chaucer’s innovations are isolated to Chaucer. The poets who immediately followed him seem not to have taken up those innovations, poets like Wyatt, Gower and Lydgate. Iambic Pentameter was just another meter (a decasyllabic line really) clumsily handled, lacking the richness and flexibility which was to quickly develop with the 1600’s.

      To poets like Sidney, Spenser, Daniel and their circle, one need only read their experiments in meter to see that there was little, if any, of Chaucer’s influence. They experimented with alexandrines, with quantitative verse in English, and hybrids. They were searching for a meter capable of competing with the quantitative meter of Latin poetry. I could have more accurately written: To them, Iambic Pentameter was brand-spanking new. And it was.


    • Sydney, I began to wonder how the Elizabethans perceived Chaucer and thought you would find the following paragraph, from Donald R. Howard’s biography, interesting:

      Between Chaucer’s time and Shakespeare’s, the pronunciation of English changed, so much so that Chaucer’s poems no longer sounded right. He was admired for his rhetoric and his “philosophy,” his skill as a storyteller, and as the “first finder of our fair language,” but his rhythms were a puzzle and his rhymes did not sound true. People tolerated Chaucer’s “rough” verse and assumed he had a tin ear. Henry Peacham, writing in 1622, found “under a bitter and rough rind,” a kernel of “conceit and sweet invention.” Dryden said there was in his verse “the rude sweetness of a Scotch tune” — “natural and pleasing, though not perfect.” (p. 513 Chaucer: His Life, His Works, His World)


  56. Mr Gillespie,
    I’m an undergraduate Engineering student at Anna University, Chennai, India. I write with rhyme and not meter but wanted to do so. Having had no teacher other than Byron, meter was quite a hard task. I used a rather very crude form of meter-rhythm, based more on the feel in the recitation than precise counts. A Google search brought me this way. Your blog is excellent…I’m very pleased with the posts regarding Iambic Pentameter. I have learnt a lot and will continue to do so for a long time, by the look of it. The amazing thing is that what you write here might be available elsewhere, but definitely not in the concise, lucid, simple yet comprehensive manner that it is found here. So, I tip my hat to you, sir.


    • Hey Narendranath, I do appreciate your tip of the hat. Before I started writing many of these posts, I had the same thought: Most of this information is already out there, but the explanations always seemed excessively academic and tediously convoluted – filled with information that was mostly tangential.


    • No, Mr Gillespie, I have not tried writing my version of North’s passage. I found it daunting, especially when you so subtly included an innocuous looking phrase-“measuring yourself against Shakespeare”.:-)
      But I’ll do it soon and let you know in the comments section.


  57. Allow me to compliment you on a most enlightening and enriching blog. I found it after a google search for analysis of Shelley’s “Ozymandias” (one of my favourite sonnets) and was hooked after a few minutes. I’m not sure I agree with your interpretation of line 8 of that poem, but you certainly stimulated some lively discussion in my household.


    • Thanks Thaddeus. About the only thing I can do is present all the different ways the line can be interpreted. :-) I get the impression that my own favored interpretation is out of the norm. Wish I could have joined the discussion, but I guess I’ve been doing some of that in the comment section.


  58. My wife is a literature professor and my eldest
    daughter is taking an English degree, focusing on
    the Romantic poets, so I have to fight pretty hard
    to hold my own in discussions!

    Anyhow, getting back to Ozymandias,don’t you think
    that the clause “which yet survive” could be
    interpreted as Shelley suggesting such
    passions as Ozymandias had in his day still
    survive in our modern times? Looking around me, I don’t think “the frown and wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command” have gone away in our political and economic overlords, have they? What do you think?


    • Here’s the line you’re referring to:

      Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
      Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things…

      I think there’s a strong case to be made for your interpretation. You know, this obvious possibility escaped me, but you’re right. The lines, which otherwise seem self-contradictory, make sense if Shelley means to say that they “yet survive”, today and in others, just as they appear on the lifeless stones. It’s still an interesting juxtaposition, but I like it. I’m going to add this thought in the post.


  59. Dear Mr. Gillespie,

    Glad you agree ;-)

    When I first learnt this poem back in the 80s as a schoolboy in England, our English master told us to temporarily delete the clause “stamp’d on these lifeless things” and read lines 5-8 straight through without it so we could get a better handle on the grammar of that tricky (for schoolboys) section. If you do that, it becomes obvious that Shelley can ONLY be suggesting that “those passions” are still very much with “us”, both in Shelley’s day (George III et. al) and in the 21st century (George W. Bush et. al). When you put the temporarily deleted “stamp’d on these lifeless things” clause back in, that interpretaion still makes sense I feel, if you mentally paraphrase it as “Ozymandias had those passions, the sculptor captured them well in the statue, and they are still very much alive and well in our modern times”.

    Now one bit I am still undecided about, even after all these years, is whose heart is being referred to in “the heart that fed”? Is it Ozzie’s heartor the sculptor’s? Could it even be the collective heart of Ozzie’s subjects?

    Once again, thanks for “debating” this stuff with me. It’s great to find someone with a similar interest, open mind and humility!


  60. //Now one bit I am still undecided about, even after all these years, is whose heart is being referred to in “the heart that fed”? Is it Ozzie’s heartor the sculptor’s? Could it even be the collective heart of Ozzie’s subjects?//

    My impression is that most readers prefer reading the heart as belong to Ozymandias. The first version of this poem reinforces that interpretation by placing a comma between hand and heart:

    The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

    The later revision (which is the one most of us read) omits this comma. It’s possible to read way too much into such punctuation, but in this case it’s all we have. I myself prefer reading the heart as belonging to the artist. In our own day ‘heart’ has strong associations. When we say that someone has ‘heart’, that’s a compliment. Someone can also be ‘hearty’. I don’t know if the word had the same connotations to Shelley, but a reference to the tyrant’s heart doesn’t quite jibe with me – when every other reference to the tyrant is of a cold, desiccated, waste.


  61. ‘Atlantic Salmon.’ you reckon ‘Every year they return from the ocean, swimming upstream to spawn (breed). I am not sure but isn’t it every three and a half, or seven or something?

    The ground zero and mythical heart of Irish Poetry Inc, is the source of the Boyne River and a place that’s undergone several different appellational shifts over the course of its history; as both a mythical Segais Well, Well of Connla, Nechtan and Boannd’s Well and …well – delivering the crown jewels of Irish poetry to you is information given too freely away Vermont, Stone, you two freindly ciphers, anonymous and unknown, unread, by Jove missus, a fellow comment jockey jostling in the big I Am saying hello and …anyway, you obssesive lovers in the one tru America; Segais Well is surrounded by nine hazel trees, and in summer their foliage is so profuse purple leaf beneath the light of summer’s end Lughansa, shimmering, ‘make(s) a powerful image and represent(s) nothing if not a “dying generation” – and on each tree, the annals tell you Vermont and Stone, of nuts there that fruit in such abundence, a feeding frenzy occurs in the waters below bole branch and bough, when the Salmon of Knowledge that spawned there, have returned and are feasting there on the nuts of poetic knowledge, as they are widely known among a select few Irish assholes, drunks and wifebeaters with an addiction to fraudulently claiming Atlantic Salmon of Knowledge annually return to their spawning place, Boand, Connla, Nechtan and Segais Well, on this island whose poetic soul speaks universally. America.

    There’s a 7C bardic text that was first translated in 1979, that is 120 lines and authored by the mythological Milesian Druid Amergin, who left only three poems behind but occupies a homeric postion in the pecking order of Irish poets. The original Old Irish text appears in manuscript and has no title, my guess being that after hundreds of years of use as a first primer in the bardic schools, that were live on the island for 1000 years, it was so well known it didn’t need one. The Cauldron of Poesy, as it has become known, is three and four times as long as Amergin’s other two, Song of Amergin and Amergin’s Invocation on landing in Ireland in, depending on the source, anywhere between 1600-1000BC.

    Yeats did not have the benefit of this text, but I am sure he would recognize its immediate importance, being a very important document that starts out asking ‘where is the root of poetry in a person; in the body or in the soul’, and answering says the root of poetry in a person:

    …is in the soul, for the body does nothing without the soul. Others say it is in the body where the arts are learned, passed through the bodies of our ancestors. It is said this is the seat of what remains over the root of poetry; and the good knowledge in every person’s ancestry comes not into everyone, but comes into every other person.

    The verbal gift, this seventh century bard tells us, comes not into everyone but every other person, 50% of us are born with an ability to become as Yeatsean as Silly Willy himself, away with the Tuatha De Danann Sidhe, should you wish, knowing the reason and logic behind fairies that few beyond the shores of Banbha, Eriu and Fodla, can get your intellect around because doing so takes at least five years continual head-banging on a corpus of English language versions from the original Gaelic, that are so mind bendingly challenging to understand in their fullness and entirity, it’s easier retaining your sanity by walking away baffled and agree it’s meaningless because a brain so able as your own came to the Well of Segais only after a benevolent blogger from bog standard answers arrived, swept down and linked that Yeatsean puzzle of A Vision and his mumbo jumbo you dismissed, in truth who can blame you, because, I think, you need to come here and ‘get it’; this thing Yeats called poetry Ireland, a sincerely interesting and ancient poem still going strong, there’s so much to learn in your 15 year studying in filidh school, from your year-one grade focloc ‘word-weaving beginner’, to Ollamh (pronounced ulav) poetry professor, the final grade of seven, attained after a final five year period, going from year-10 grade six Anruth ‘great stream’, to the professorial nobility Yeats’s Hibernian Order of Bards can express. When.

    Yeats he extemprozed into being perne circuiting from the top of what bardic branch Mr Yeats sat on and cast from, his mind invented it, creating in an exercise of Ascendency, the connection to his ancient, almost, at the time of Yeats, lost altogether Tradition of the Celtic Absence, imagine that, the manuscripts in which the filidh (poets) Tradition reside, yeats was, in a very big part, Responsible for creating them, ‘not long after spawning (some’ Student poets reading over 177,000 useless pages of gobble dee gook, from cover to cover, ‘sea to shining sea’, spawned unlevel poetry to die about, never returning to the ocean, surrendipity succombed to chance as you stumble blindly blundering online and randomly arriving at this forum for lovers, this one true guild of wannabe know-alls aware of what Yeats may have meant, or not, who ask questions and posit this and that de facto-cryptic fictionalized assay onto the meat and two veg at our academic breeze-fest coming thru the ‘conduit for that which comes’.

    David Meltzer wrote that, in a seminal manifesto, the title of which need not detain us here, Dearest Vermont Stone poet-knower conversing on the intricacies of experience and …I dunno.

    No, no, this is not a country for ancient windbags to expire their final inelegant breath, America the Brave; political presence in the one left-wing communist terror expert opining on the bestial floor at your incredibly prescient election debate, where our Future lies, that’s decided by millions of you voting for, er, me, thee and You assaying ‘ay up tha’ ‘Merican masses, why is Gingrich such a sprout? Santorum the fecund mix of whatever the neologism some comic made official with an entry in the oh English dick-shon-ree, is/was?.. I dunno.


  62. Hello VP, sorry about that, my email address is No probs if it doesn’t appear. I am only fizzing on the imbas, as the word for ‘poetic inspiration’ was originally spelled in the ancient annals almost altogether unknown until the time of Silly Willy’s re-invention when scholars were first translating all this, hitherto, mysterious poetry tradition Yeats cleaved to and from his first poem to last.

    But seriously, great stuff, very impressed with your dedication and eloquence Vermont poet mate. Do speak with Thomas Graves’s online avatar, Thomas Brady. He curates Scarriet, a wordpress site set up after the Machevelian jection of he and I just before the last presidential election, Lughansa, Sep 1 2010, that will go down in the annals of American Poetry, as a most educational enactment by this go to that person whose name is …I dunno.


    • Yes — you know, I clicked on the link, eager to read the article and never realized that it was you, Eugene, who sent me the link!

      Instead, I googled your name and contact info; than, after finding nothing, I reluctantly returned to thank whoever sent me the link. Lo and behold!

      I think your article is right on, reminds me very much of the one I wrote just a couple years ago: Let Poetry Die and later, as a rewrite for the Wall Street Journal (which they ultimately rejected) Let Poetry Die: Redux. I thought, at times, that you might have read my own article. You will have to include me with William Logan, who finds “that not much that is memorable, meaningful or musical has been written by an American poet in decades.”

      And I’m going to make the following my motto:

      “Under these conditions one hopes that their love of their art will sufficiently inspire them despite their long treks towards probable nothingness.”

      What kind of responses did you get to your opinion piece?


  63. Hi,

    I discovered your site a week or so ago, read a bunch of your posts, and wanted to say that I’ve found your insights on the inner workings of meter incredibly helpful. I’ve mainly been going off instinct for my own verse so far, and while I think my instincts are pretty good, it’s so much more satisfying to have an idea of how a particular meter or substitution produces the effect it does.

    And it’s always refreshing to find someone with a sensible attitude towards rhyme and meter in today’s climate. Vive la forme!



    • Thanks Pyrrha, I owe that sensible attitude to George T. Wright. He wrote “Shakespeare’s Metrical Style”. Everything I’ve written about meter proceeds from his sensible approach to meter.


  64. I have been reading your words about Emily Dickinson with great enthusiasm, and I am more appreciative than I can possibly express here or at the moment. I rarely write free verse. I’m not a “tennis without the net” scribbler. I have studied with (under?) a number of excellent poets. I was in an MFA program, but once my thesis was approved, I lost interest in the actual degree. It’s a young person’s game. I’m 67. If I were to recommend a primer for prosody, it would probably be John Hollander’s Rhyme’s Reason. Now, what I really want to say is I found your blog because I was searching for some corroboration regarding my use of the word “Fourteener” in one of my recent poems. I’m in a peer group, and one of the members said she thought I might get into trouble for using the F(fourteener) word. Here are 4 of my lines:

    Fourteeners you may well employ to say what’s going on,
    as did the Belle of Amherst. Boy, she had it going on.
    There is no better meter when you trace the sky at dawn;
    The Yellow Rose of Texas was composed on her front lawn.

    I searched the web and gleaned as much as I could from The Princeton New Encyclopedia of Poetics and Poety, looking specifically for some reference to Emily Dickinson’s name in conjunction with both the word fourteener and with The Yellow Rose of Texas. I’m feel lucky, indeed, in finding your discussion on the subject. I’ve also begun to explore your blog more thoroughly.

    For now, let me just emphasize that I am grateful.


    Robert Burr / NYC
    Co-Editor with Barry Wallenstein of
    Visions and Revisions: a poet’s process (1999) Broadview Press;
    My Chapbook: Trading Bits of Dream

    P.S. I chose my handle “comprehendanectar” 6 months ago, for
    whatever that’s worth. Ha!


    • Hi Robert, thanks so much for stopping by. :-) I’m honored. I’m going to have to look up your books now. They sound very interesting. And that’s some handle. Back before the days of the web, my CB handle was BottleCap, in honor of my glasses. I don’t know why you would get into trouble using the word fourteeners? Dickinson, as far as I know, only wrote one poem in fourteeners, but that counts I think.


    • Thanks for your quick reply. I’m sure you’re busy. I’m looking forward to reading more from your blog. It’s so well set up, I think. I sent the link to my peer group (about 9 poets who meet once a month to trade comments on our poems). Two answered immediately, saying they’d learned a lot from looking at your writing on prosody. The reason I might have trouble with the word Fourteeners is that I imply that they are her metrical be all and end all, and that The Yellow Rose of Texas is a kind of Fourteener. I go on to say “The Yellow Rose of Texas was composed on her front lawn. I think you called Dickinson’s ballad form a variant stemming from the Fourteener. I don’t remember which lines I sent you. No matter. I don’t know why I’m obsessing about this. The Princeton New Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics suggests that Fourteener, as a form, belongs solely to the Renaissance, the English Renaissance, I think. I may change Fourteener to Four and Three. That will take away the jargony tone at least. Thanks again. I registered with WordPress a few months ago. Why I used E.D. “Success….” line is beyond me except it has always been one of my favorite stanzas..If you happen onto Facebook, rbrrr is my handle there or I’ll acknowledge you as a friend if you notify me. Congratulations on your thoughtful and well-written blog.


    • Thanks Bob. For the most part, my poetry has been just about been ignored. I’m touched.

      I joined facebook a couple of years ago, then quickly deleted my account. I love exchanging E-Mails and keeping in contact, but facebook just felt a little too surreal and insincere. However, if I were on Facebook, I would friend you. :-)


    • I have to agree regarding Facebook. There’s always that underlying feeling that it might blow up in everyone’s face. “Surreal” is a good word for its fly-by (kind of) landscape. I’ve looked through more of your writing, and I like it.


  65. I am currently a student studying computers. But I have just begun this year to really love and adore poetry after taking a general education class taught by the poet Dana Gioia (former chairman for the NEA!). I really am an artist at heart and am overwhelmed by the amount of great content on this website. You seem to be in the very position I would love to be in years from now: self-taught, writing (and skateboarding!). I can tell this site took tons of work, and hope you know its appreciated!


    • Hi Spencer, thanks! Doesn’t take much to be self-taught. and it’s a lot cheaper than some of the alternatives. :-) I’ve been longboarding a little, but haven’t gotten the nerve, yet, to go out to a skate park.


  66. I can’t resist identifying with Spencer’s Reply. I would only add that I don’t know about “tons of work,” but it does feel as though exploring your blog could take some substantial time. I trust what I’m finding, but I think I’ll have to go more slowly. The care taken here makes that feasible.


  67. Patrick,

    Thank you, thank you for all the information.


    A fellow writer, (alas in NYC & not the idyllic landscapes of Vermont but still a pretty rich environment)


    • Thanks Anita. I’m always happy to hear from a fellow writer. NYC is beautiful. If I had the disposable income, I’d have a nice little flat down there.


  68. I’m so glad to have found your blog site. I was looking for Ben Johnson’s critique of John Donne’s meter, and here it is. I am a sometime poetry student living in Mountain View, CA. When I have lots of $$ I take evening poetry workshops at Stanford Extension. They are taught by their newly hatched Stegner Fellows and they are all about traditional forms. I have been wrestling with what it means to have/not have an MFA. I have recently self-published a novel and have also recently started a poetics blog ( but you put me utterly to shame. Just printed out your posts on Yeats (anthimeria) and Enjambment, to read when I get home from work tonight. Anyway, thanks for your amazing commitment (it’s inspiring) and all best. Merry B.


    • Thanks Merry, I haven’t been all that productive lately. Your comment is much appreciated and encouraging. I, for my part, really don’t know what it means to have an MFA – whether that’s good or bad. I don’t have one and I doubt there are any colleges or Universities who would hire me for the lack of one. I think it’s good if one wants to pursue a career in poetry.


  69. Patrick,

    Commenting on “Sailing to Byzantium”: I really appreciate your very close reading of this poem.

    I have decided on PERNE = “to spin or gyrate” for my own peace of mind. As Wiktionary has it, and giving Yeats the benefit (and elegance) of parallel syntax: inviting the sages to come, to perne, to consume. “Gyre” is noun here, and a holy sage in a mosaic-fire would have no choice, really, but to pern (or perne, since these are olde Byzantine sages) if he or she found him or herself a gyre of fire. Makes total sense.

    That said, I agree with you totally about Yeats’s allusions being arcane. He must have been quite a rock star in his day—his readers are assumed to know everything about him—his output and his career, his personal constellation of myths and beliefs and political views, Irish history of both the daily newspapers and all the back into the mists of time, his failed lover affairs, etc.—including all the proper names. I am slowly finding my way into poems “Sailing to Byzantium,” but there are others, such as “Easter 1916,” an occasional poem where the reader has to know the back-story of the Easter Rising and the Irish martyrs. Yes yes the great line. “A terrible beauty is born.” It would have been just as great in a speech.

    And I absolutely agree with you that Helen Vendler goes too far when she reads into this poem a despairing preoccupation with age and loss of sexual vigor. Yeats has clearly taken the Buddhist or stoic’s stance in the beginning, that all this youthful baby-making is a mark of impermanence. He is beyond that and is owning that space.



    • Thanks Merry, I’ve always favored perne as a reference to the buzzard, if only because I like being a contrarian. Can’t think of a better reason. As to Yeat’s allusions, reading his poetry can be like reading Japanese haiku, allusions within allusions. There’s just no end to it.


  70. Well firstly, at the age of 50+ I’ve decided to try my hand at reading and writing poetry. Secondly, I’m not the most clever or articulate person in the world and though I find it rewarding, I also find it hard work. So much to learn, such little brain! I need all the help I can get. And that’s where you and your website come to my rescue. I am ploughing my way through and learning such a lot. You write with a complete understanding of the subject and you convey this in a style that is so easy to understand.
    If I could ask a question though that might help me further? I still struggle with the poetry of most poets so I was wondering, from your list of featured poets, is there a poet in particular you could recommend for me to read and study at my ‘learner’ level?


    • Hi Henry, that’s a tricky question. Any answer is going to be flavoured by my own biases, and those may or may not be helpful. But here goes: For an absolute beginner, studying a poet prior to the 20th century comes with some stumbling blocks: unfamiliar linguistic usages, differences in the use of metaphor, unfamiliar allusions and conventions along with thematic material that can feel a little dated, if not irrelevant and boring. Contemporary poets are, in many cases, poets in name only. They might as well be writing prose and you might as well be reading prose (or flash fiction). You may get some conventionally generic images or watered-down metaphors, but nothing that will really teach you about the sorts of thing real poetry is capable of. There are also schools of modern poetry that, unless one is familiar with the school, leave one feeling as though the poems are a bit arbitrary, convoluted or pointless.

      Edna St. Vincent Millay is a good bet. She’s slightly old fashioned, in her style, but nevertheless writes about subjects that feel modern. Her sense of form is almost effortless. A.E. Stallings, alive and kicking, is also a very good poet and writes in the tradition of Millay (pursuing old-fashioned subjects). Robert Frost is obviously a great poet and the best possible model for a contemporary poet wanting to master traditional verse in a modern vernacular. A good, and contemporary, free verse poet is Mary Oliver. She’s a bit of a one-trick pony, but she’s the Vivaldi of the prepositional metaphor. A lot of poets could stand to study her for that reason alone. You might also try Yeats. Yeats can be hit or miss, in terms of comprehending his arcane Irish and metaphysical/religious allusions, but most of his poems can be enjoyed (without understanding them the way Yeats intended them). You might also consider a poet like James Wright or Theodore Roethke. Oh, and Richard Wilbur! Wilbur, in my opinion, is our greatest living poet.

      Anyway, as you can see, my bias is for traditional poets. If you would like recommendations for free verse writers, I’m happy to make recommendations there too.


  71. Well thank you for your comprehensive reply.
    I am familiar with some pre 20th Century poetry as there is a great tradition of such poetry here in North Wales. And it is true what you say that these poems were written in a time unfamiliar to us and so can be difficult to read and relate to. There is also a great tradition of 20th Century poets here and my favourites are, luckily for me, local. RS Thomas, TH Parry Williams, R Williams Parry.
    I try to read contemporary modern poetry but most leave me confused and cold. But then that just might be a lacking on my part.
    I have started to look at your recommendations which I am very grateful for. I asked for recommendations from you because otherwise I waste a lot of reading time trawling aimlessly when I would rather be focused. So for starters I will be concentrating on Millay.
    I am glad you mentioned Yeats because I have been reading your work on ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ which I’ve found riveting. And I must tell you that a light bulb went off in my head when you suggested he could be enjoyed without understanding them the way Yeats did. I spend so much time trying to discover the literal meaning when really I should also try and enjoy them for what they are. So a BIG thank you for that.
    And a BIG thank you for your reply. Very much appreciated. So love and peace from across the pond to you and your wife.


  72. Hello again, I have just been reading your article on adjectives which I found very interesting. Especially as I have no idea what an adjective is. I think I have a little grasp on what it means and why it’s over use isn’t desirable in poetry. Here is a poem I wrote. Do you think it is a good example of the overuse of adjectives?

    Manicured Moustache.

    A whiskered treasure in pride of place,
    Precious plume of pure panache.
    If ever a masterpiece graced a face,
    Manicured his Regal moustache.
    But now to see it, unkempt, overgrown,
    Sealed beyond, the conclusive moan.

    Hair as grey as Arthurian armour,
    Hoary shades on an ice glazed lake.
    Hypnotic harebell eyes of a charmer,
    Stunningly sharp, acute as a snake.
    Pupils now dwell on dilated days,
    Sleep, The Last Sleep, in a morphine haze.



    • Hi Henry, I highlighted all your adjectives:

      Manicured Moustache.

      A whiskered treasure in pride of place,
      Precious plume of pure panache.
      If ever a masterpiece graced a face,
      Manicured his Regal moustache.
      But now to see it, unkempt, overgrown,
      Sealed beyond, the conclusive moan.

      Hair as grey as Arthurian armour,
      Hoary shades on an ice-glazed lake.
      Hypnotic harebell eyes of a charmer,
      Stunningly sharp, acute as a snake.
      Pupils now dwell on dilated days,
      Sleep, The Last Sleep, in a morphine haze.

      Simply in terms of adjectives I would say that, yes, you’ve got too many. When there are that many, reading the poem gets to be like swimming through molasses in wool long-johns. As I wrote in the post, if you’re suffering from an addiction to adjectives, the best thing to do is to not use them (and adverbs too). Just say no. Ideally, this forces the poet to fill their lines with ideas rather than fluff. :-)


  73. Thanks so much for your reply it has given me lots to think about. I’ve worked quite hard on the poem and have, I hope, reduced the adjectives by half. And I think it is improved as a consequence.
    If you find the time could you cast your experienced eye over it and tell me what you think of it as a result of reducing the adjectives, and if you have any time left could you tell me what you think of it as a beginners poem?
    After your comments I enjoyed researching the use of adjectives in poetry and thought the Mark Twain quote was pretty cool, “When you catch an adjective, kill it.”
    Thanks ever so again.



  74. Moustache.

    If ever a masterpiece graced a face,
    His show of whiskers would take pride of place.
    Pampered and cherished a plume of panache,
    Work of a Dali that imposing moustache.
    With increasing neglect and overgrown,
    Shadowing over that final moan.

    Hair as grey as Arthurian armour,
    Hypnotic and harebell eyes of a charmer.
    Stunning and sharp, acute as a snake,
    A false impression of a mind awake.
    Pupils dilated in misplaced days,
    Sleep, The Last Sleep, in a morphine haze.


    • Hi Henry, I do think you’ve improved the poem from a technical standpoint. However, the poem remains “beginnerish”. For example, all the lines are end-stopped. This suggests a poem that was written line by line, rather than organically. Syntactically, your first three lines end in identical propositional phrases: graced of face, pride of place, plume of panache. The second and third lines of the second stanza repeat this pattern: eyes of a charmer, acute as a snake. What this suggests is a poet working hard to fill the lines because there’s more bucket than water, if you know what I mean. The inverted grammar of “Work of a Dali that imposing moustache” feels forced for the sake of rhyme.

      The challenge for you, and all poets who want to write traditional poetry, is to not sound as though you’re writing traditionally. When I read your comments, written as prose, they sound absolutely nothing like the poem. Your prose is modern, relaxed and straightforward. Your poetry feels contrived, forced and a little antiquated. I notice you use very few adjectives or adverbs in your prose. The trick for you, Henry, is to bring your prose into your poetry. Not fully. You will have to find the balance yourself, but your poem shouldn’t sound is though its straining to fit in its bottle; and it shouldn’t sound as though it’s written by an entirely different person. Your poetry should sound deceptively like your prose without being prose. Wilbur, Frost, Stallings and Roethke all do this sort of thing. Millay, when she’s not writing antiquated verse, pulls this off too. All the traditional poets whose poetry survives, learn to bring a prose-like ease and naturalness to their poetry.


  75. Hi again, and a big THANK YOU for taking the time again.

    And how right you are, ‘more bucket than water.’ And I would add, more thesaurus than ‘naturalness’.

    This poem I’m hoping is sailing more in the direction you are advising. I am not forcing words to fit, I am not end-stopping every line, I am using less adjectives, and overall I am hoping it is more organic and prose like. You have helped me enough I think so if you wish, a simple ye or nah regarding the direction of this poem will be okay if you find time to glance over it. I also hope you enjoy it.

    Teddy Boys.

    I recall a Christmas night,
    Sheets of ice on the inside
    Of my bedroom window panes!
    I reached for my torch light
    That was next to my bedside
    To shoot down model planes
    Dog fighting on the ceiling.
    My head was cold, my fingers
    Freezing, couldn’t feel my feet!
    What, with church bells ringing,
    Along with carol singers,
    And drunks brawling in the street!
    Then from amongst the racket,
    Dad whistling ‘Tutti Frutti’
    As he climbed the stairs. I knew
    He would take off his jacket,
    A smile, then place it over me.
    I gladly put my hands through
    The sleeves of his teddy boy
    Tweed down into the silky
    Pockets. Snug and warm, I lay
    Under my dad’s pride and joy,
    Dreaming I was Elvis Presley,
    And my dad was Johnny Ray.


    • Hi Henry. Yea. I think this effort is in the right direction. Keep at it. If you can marry this tone with meter, then you’ll really have something (if that’s the way you want to go). :-)


  76. Thanks once again. I’m sure I could marry tone and meter but probably not with this particular poem. “if that’s the way you want to go” intrigued me a little. ; – )


  77. I am an artist and was looking for imagery, when I found one of your poems: “Something Within”. I love it. It is so curious that I found it searching for images that I have to come to use as symbols of personal meaning, as I work through a period of change, being ‘reborn’ from my own German family background of intolerance and self destructive systems that were channeled and magnified in fascism. I have been using the image of the goose to represent this state of weakness/vulnerability /insecurity versus emotional awareness, that gives way to anger, fear, control, heavy silence, repression and suicide, in my family. I want to write a new story for myself and my family story, through words and images. So, I was looking for images associated with the poem “Goosey Goosey Gander”, when I found your poem. Magically, it fit, so perfectly with what I feel, at this momentous shift. I am not sure what will hatch, but it will be beautiful. Thank you for your beautiful poem, and for showing me a German person can be tender and beautiful, just as I was lamenting my own pitiful family tree, yearning for some hope to make sense of my own painful family ancestry. Your poem made me see my own beautiful goose egg.


  78. Hey there! I’ve been reading your weblog for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from New Caney Tx! Just wanted to mention keep up the fantastic work!


    • Thanks Fred. Glad you got up the gumption to say Hello. New Caney must be warming up right about now. I’ve driven through New Caney many times. I used to live in Houston with a girlfriend and we’d drive north to Lake Livingston on the hot days.


  79. I like that you say you are not a critic of other poets and that we have a hard enough time as it is. That we do sir. Looks like you’ve grown a bit of a following too! Good blogging!


    • Hi Cliff, sorry I didn’t see your comment sooner. My recommendation? Oh jeez… Here’s a fun little book I picked up. It’s called The Tao and the Bard. It’s by Phillip Depoy and contrasts the writings of Lao Tzu with Shakespeare. You get it all, great philosophy, great spirituality, and great poetry. :-)


  80. Hello, Patrick

    I stumbled upon your website as I researched colloquialism in poetry. I am thrilled by your talented depth on and for poetry, and the poetics of. I’ve been infused by the passion for poetry for quite some time. I craft it and guide others in simple terms further into the world of poetry. My website is crude yet does highlight my interest. I also created and lead a poetry group of eighty plus member, and counting, through – . I randomly choose poems for my featured ‘Poem of the Month’ thread, and also entertain a weekly prompt along with abundance of discussions. I’ve linked an excerpt to your ‘colloquialism in poetry’ page for my members to read. I’d be extremely thrilled to place your ‘Death of Li Po’ poem as next months featured poem. I can’t express how much I love that poem, and Li Po’s poetry for that matter, and yours I should add. You are very talented and deserve much praise for your crafting. Nice website you have here!


    – K. Cotton aka blue angel


    • Hi blue angel, thanks so much for your comment. =) I tried to follow your link at, but came up with a blank page. Part of the problem may be that I use a variety of privacy and anti-tracking controls. I enabled scripting at your site but still no go; so I guess I’ll have to rely on your description. Congratulations on your 80 members. It takes a lot of work to maintain a poetry group like that — more than I’m good for. And if you’d like to feature the Death of Li Po, go right ahead. That’s an old poem and first written in my very early twenties.


  81. I apologize for my website, it loads very slow even at best. I will be upgrading it soon. Thank you, deeply for allowing me to feature your poem. Early twenties and pounding out such imperial writing, I’m awed by that. I will be reading more of your works asap. Here’s a small offering of poetics from me to you. I know you specialize in traditional poetry which I love and respect. I’m weak in that area. I can also be found at.

    *tendrils twist* – blue angel

    tendrils twist

    luminous intent

    whispers begin to shimmer

    in iridescence
    with inebriated senses
    we inhale love’s toxins

    {exhaling remembrance, long since forgotten}

    we tousle wildly
    upon the hills of audaciousness


    as the aphrodisiac
    infuses our systems chi

    with ambrosia aroused
    pearlescent promises are deemed

    above us stars dangle dim

    bare, embracing
    in elation


    we sink in opulent dreams
    gently releasing
    tender breaths

    accepting the sweet zeal of

    tendrils twisting


  82. A number of respondents have read your poetry. If you want comments, feel free to ask for them; but I think you already know my opinion. In subject and style, you’re at least 200 years too late. :-)


  83. Your very analogy, swords, sheaths, etc., is drawn from an attic stuffed with stock phrases, cliches and tired metaphors. As to lawyering over whether I said 400 or 200 years, let’s put it this way: your poetry is a potpouri of theft from just about every period prior to the 20th century. Take your pick. Sometimes it sounds like this, sometimes like that. My opinion hasn’t changed; but maybe someone else who reads your writing will have a different response.


  84. //I have read somewhere in this same block, about some of the poets who were very critical of John Keats…//

    Yes, and out of the thousand or so poets who consider themselves a misunderstood and falsely maligned John Keats, maybe one of them, every two hundred years or so, will be right. You may go on comparing yourself to Keats, Shakespeare and every other genius. You certainly aren’t the first and won’t be the last.

    The mark of genius, however, is in it’s the ability to recognize and correct its own mediocrity and mediocrity, its inability.


  85. Typos:

    “Colapsed on them”


    “It it the swaddling cloth”

    Random missing words:

    “And that, to my regret, it has done on
    Same nest” (missing “the”)

    “we may been spied” (missing “have”)

    Un-metered (when compared to metered lines, will also show huge variations in meter):

    “Dear father, I am your son Esau.”

    “Day of rest?”

    The fact that you needed any of this pointed out it is…sad and bizarre. I was being sarcastic when I wrote “All of that might be intentional…”


    You misquoted me by adding “un” to “intentional.” You also have a typo in your response to me, but I’ll let you find it. This is my final reply to you.


  86. Hello. Since you seem knowledgeable on the subject, could you please comment on the meter of my poem ?


    Dear sensitiveness, beacon of my heart,
    Your composure makes me a composer,
    The architect of our small shelter: art,
    And to poetry, the staunch bricklayer.

    Whimsy whispers become wise words of cheer
    When the feather moves, before thoughts turn faint;
    In vibrant verses your veiled voice will veer:
    Your forms I shall sculpt, your face I shall paint!

    My sensations and deepest desires
    Through melodies you thoroughly explain,
    Uncovering patterns one admires,
    Thereby nude for whom you entertain.

    Whenever I write, your sultry scent sticks;
    Sincerely yours, an ardent lover speaks.


    • Hi Ray, there are two standards by which to judge the poem. By modern standards, the poem is fine. It keeps the pattern in some places, it doesn’t in others. That’s about right. By traditional standards, the meter varies too much in such a small poem. The first line starts as Iambic Pentameter, the second feels trochaic, the third is IP again, and the last altogether falls apart. So, no real pattern is established and the stanzas that follow, likewise, don’t resolve it. If you want to write the poem so that it stands comparison to more traditional forms, it’s back to the drawing board for you. :-) Here and there you’ll have to rephrase some words and thoughts.


    • Thank you very much for your comment ! Is regular meter an absolute requisite for writing a sonnet, or can it be carefully crafted and mixed to different extents ? Or is it just about being traditional ?


    • Hi Ray, sonnet form, since the 20th century, has been all over the map. William Carlos Williams, for instance, finally gave up and dispensed with rhyme and meter altogether. Williams just couldn’t write a good sonnet. (With that in mind, Tony Barnstone wrote a Sonnet Manifesto whose viewpoint you might find informative.) My own opinion is that however you want to write a sonnet, you can find a poet and viewpoint willing to rationalize it. In other words, there are poets who write 14 lines without a shred of meter or rhyme, and still consider them sonnets because, well, it has 14 lines. So, is regular meter and absolute requisite for writing a sonnet? Depends on who you ask. If you don’t think it should be, then you merely need to find the right person to ask and off you go <— sardonic comment. :-)

      If you're asking me, then yes, a regular meter and rhyme are an absolute requisite, otherwise you’re not writing a sonnet (you’re writing a blob that you’re merely calling a sonnet). Likewise, if you play tennis with the net down, then you’re not playing tennis anymore. The whole fun of a sonnet is in creating something organic and inevitable despite the restrictions and unreasonable demands of form. That’s the challenge. That’s what makes a sonnet a sonnet. It’s a showpiece. It’s a demonstration that you’ve actually mastered a difficult poetic form. Who wants to solve the crossword puzzle where none of the words actually cross? The careful craft happens when the poet transcends the form by way of the form, not when the poet expediently dodges the form (howsoever carefully crafted those expedient dodges may be).

      My attitude is this: Master the sport first, then show the world what you can do.


  87. Knock, knock. Anyone in Vermont? Things have been kinda quiet at your website so I thought I would drop off a poem. Enjoy! Or if need be, enjoy critiquing…

    A Beer at Jenny’s

    I want a beer so bad!
    But none I shall imbibe
    Nor pay the toll of brain and sense
    To even bleaker night.
    Or might I be already
    There, in the parking lot,
    In homage haste with my tribute
    Oh Capital of Hops!
    I shall not say
    But only say
    How secret adds to thirst.


  88. Vermont, I’ve been tearing plywood siding off an old storage building and during a break wrote his poem. It was not “intellectually induced,” to say the least. I just started typing and it happened. Now back to the siding. Await your “Critics’ Choice Award”!

    The Wax Museum

    What noisy hullabaloo
    But silent, very
    Silent, here for me.
    “Is any one home?”
    “Is any one me!”
    Oh not again have I
    Crashed this party
    Of the cosmic dogma,
    The revelry and revelers
    Of a pc wax museum.
    My apologies to the academy
    I depart early, my blonde
    Mannequin (Gender Studies
    Ph.D.) a little stiff from it all
    Herself, but melting,
    I agog to mold her in
    The perfect image of Rebel desire
    Or she I, whatever,
    Her latest psycho study maybe.
    Hmph. But if we don’t talk politics…
    At the apartment we talk
    About the weather, warm,
    A kiss and cuddle,
    Dance a little. Miraculously
    The wax museum recedes
    To bouncy life.
    She laughs. I laugh.
    “Yee-aay-ee! Wah-Who-Eeee!”
    The wax museum be damned
    And vanquished in this bed!
    Only a Secesh blow up doll
    Folded discreetly beneath its springs
    Begs to differ.


  89. My “poem of the month.” But it seems too familiar to me. I hope I haven’t read it, or something like it, before and am inadvertently plagiarizing. Vermont would know, I assume.


    tree is cut
    house is built
    house burns down
    tree grows back


  90. Lovely, even the licence plate, Patrick. I, too, find I own too many things. I am downsizing as I tappy-tip (since a “picker” will come visit next week to remove the stuff I no longer need nor use). I am an editor, not a collector. Groucho Marx once opined, “The problem with the world? There are too many people and too much stuff in it.” Glad I found you. Hope you continue to thrive. Undeniably, J/DiT


    • Thanks Judith. I just caught a later-summer cold from my kids. Other than that, the weather is fair. I closed parens for you. Sometimes, when I comment at other blogs, I wish the blogger would feel free to correct my typos. I often do the same for others here, though I probably wouldn’t have noticed the parens. On the other hand, maybe losing a parens is the beginning of downsizing.


  91. Hello Patrick,
    I am teaching poetry to my kids (apart from what little they learn at school).
    I came across your blog by accident. Its is a wonderful resource.
    Thanks for your deep insights. I love the way you write. There is lot to learn.
    Below, this is for you (imperfect as it is):

    How lovely to stumble, be lost, then find a spring
    whose bubbling water, on a sizzling summers day,
    can sustain my curiosity, how cool, it does bring
    a rhapsodic moment, an inspiration, to make hay.

    A bard, a carpenter, I wonder how you bred
    intimacy with dead poets, your devotional craft
    your eloquent blog, a lifeline, I hang by a thread
    this compliment, therefore, is just a sparse draft.

    Taking delight, in matters of metre and rhyme
    I acknowledge, like nectar, your taste is sublime
    I write, read aloud, seeking echoes in dark caves
    It isn’t easy, to entertain, dead poets in their graves
    So here goes, I come out, to see the light of day
    Hoping to quote you, as I go about my way.

    Yesterday, while taking part in a photography caption contest, I wrote a poem as it came to my head.
    It took me just five minutes, perhaps less. So I started to think about metres and rhymes, stuff learned at college and forgotten soon after. Then, suddenly inspired, I wrote a second piece. If you have time to critique those 2 poems, I would appreciate that very much. The link is below. I sometimes write for myself, not often though. This is one of the rare times, I share with anyone else.



    • Hi Deba, I’ve never had a dedicatory poem written to my blog. Thanks! And sorry for not answering sooner. I’m sitting at the local garage while my truck is inspected. Catching up. You said there’s a link to your other poem, but I don’t see it. But if you do want me to critique our poem, be sure and tell exactly what you’re interested in knowing. It’s easy for me to say way too much. :-)


  92. Hi Naz- Welcome back. That little paragraph at the end of your comment? That’s better than any of your poetry. Your poetry postures. Your poetry is conventional, derivative, unoriginal, cliched and fusty. If you stopped trying to write like a dead white guy you might actually get somewhere. Why? Because you have some incredible talent. Too bad you keep drowning it in neo-Restoration, quasi-Biblical drivel.


  93. //What your audience here did contemplate, on my posing that quotation to thwart your position above, was, that, you would have siezed the opportuniry to expound on the notion of ORIGINALITY,//

    Actually, I’ve already done that here.

    But discussions of “originality” are besides the point. The problem is your poetry. You need to stop writing neo-Restoration, quasi-Biblical drivel.


  94. Okay Nazaritus, once again I’m deleting your posts. If you can’t write straightforwardly I’m not going to waste my time trying to decipher your comments. This kind of nonsense:

    “d d d d rank. It is a me me me me meental faculty, so tu tu tu tu tu trust trusting, so carefree, so uns s s s s smart, gu gu gu guli guli gu gu gu gullible and easily di di di di se se se se se sembled. It is a mental mental state, that po po po po po possesses”

    Ain’t gonna’ fly on my blog. It wastes my time and it wastes the time of other readers. No more comments from you unless its intelligible, readable, honest and straightforward.


  95. good morning patrick…………….enjoyed finding your website………..also your comments on poetry……….i am a bit saddened by the large increase of free verse in modern poetry……… in abstract art, it seems to require no real discipline of words or meter…………and the inevitable conclusion is that……….hell,anyone could write such stuff……………not quite true of course.
    i taught school in vermont for some time…………..loved the place,met my love there…… on,carl johnson


    • Hi Carl, thanks for writing. I was recently corresponding with a poet interested in my haiku, and recently out of a graduate creative writing/poetry course. I was told that the instructor didn’t allow them to write short form poetry or anything with rhymes — just free verse.

      This was a couple days ago and it still irritates me.

      Hopefully we’ll get one or two good or great poets in the next hundred years despite the rank and utter incompetence of poetry in academia. There’s a whole generation of “poets”/free-versifiers to be avoided, at all costs, by younger pots. They’re infinitely better off teaching themselves. Sorry. As you can see, I’m still vexed.


  96. Many thanks for your piece in the 6/17/16 Valley News. I’m not a student of poetry, just someone who enjoys reading it. But somewhere along the line poetry got redefined, or perhaps undefined. I have never been able to figure out why prose that’s arbitrarily split up into different lines is called poetry. If it’s no longer defined by meter or rhyme, then what the heck makes it poetry? As I say, I’m no student, so perhaps I’m missing something.


  97. 7:15am 11-7-2016

    ACT 1 SCENE 1
    CURTAIN. In Persia, Shushan, court of the king. Curtain reveals a grand feast. King Xerxes, Governors of the hundred and twenty jurisdictional districts, other Nobles, armed Guards at their posts, and several Attendants.

    Under my clasp of sceptre,
    Merely three slithering summers have relinquished
    Their slough on surface of enduring time,
    And mantled the look of the world with the
    Impact of incidents their passage shed.
    Yet, though it insignificant seems from bounty
    Of ceaseless harvest of years, same period has
    Afforded the winged bear of triumphing Persia–
    Amidst the emulations likewise striving–
    Foray for grandeur in the world; and make
    Farthest incursion into the grove of fame.
    Hence, now, the envy of her former rivals,
    Her matchlessness and more superior mandate,
    On prowess prey and prowl for escapades
    Exclusively on territories that span
    The great expansiveness of soil between
    The jeweled orient and bedazzling Ethiope.
    But since ambition is like appetite
    That has a throat and gut, which, in the instance,
    By much consumption could soon be assuaged
    Yet empty itself through the nethermost
    And plead perpetual insatiability,
    The ravenous beast of aspiration on which
    Imperious Persia rides, deems it due time
    It ventures too across the Aegean;
    And wrought the enclaves of sagacious Hellens,
    Another conquered and enriched reserve
    Of kingdoms, populations, crowns and states;
    Who, nourishing us with their tides of tribute,
    Shall wrought us grandest cataract of wealth
    And huge resources, in sight of the world.
    In that regard, we did, some full moons back,
    Dispatched our emissaries to creased-brow Greece.
    They have repaired to us; bearing from that shore,
    A dozen urns; all brimed with golden laurels,
    That signify, without debate of swords,
    The willingness of Greece to recognize
    Supremacy of Persia over all.
    Now, then, it seems their pile of crowns of will
    And grave authority, though toweing high,
    Before our mountain-like proportion of power,
    Is stunted; and, awares, abases itself.
    If it be so, then pantheon of their gods,–
    The very height of venerated Olympus,–
    Before ours, in enforced humility,
    Shall homage do; even condign obeisance.
    To mark this triumph of our stateliness
    Over all such who jealousy affect,
    From the full foliage of the verdant year,
    We have alloted four scores and a hundred
    Sunrise to sunset, to commemoration of
    The many counted chariots of victory
    That have advanced us to this junction of time,
    In which we find a universal nod
    And concord of opinion and consent
    To grander Persia’s influence and dictation.
    Behold, we have appareled russet morns
    In purple robes; adorned the garish noons
    In wind-caressing softest linen; and
    The vigil nights attired in the garment
    Embroidered with winking stars: and all enticed
    Into this festival and dance of glory
    Performed alone by grandios Persia on
    The very pinnacle of peerless might
    In this ephemeral peep of ageless time.
    As we carouse the days and banquet the nights,
    With delicacies glutton up your bowls;
    And all your cups make drunk with savoury wine.
    We shall make delighful feast belabour days,
    And jocund fanfare burdensome to hours;
    Till dainty ornament of festivity
    Becomes as cumbersome and shoulder-wearying
    As the beleaguered drapery of husbandry.
    Carxes, Herxes; two names of prominence
    Attending grave affairs in my grand court;
    Proceed you swift to quarters of my queen,
    Delectable Verxes. Intimate her of
    How her invitingness and rare seen face,
    This very instance, breaking into this court
    While I role honoured host of this assembly
    And concourse of the jurisdictional chiefs,
    Than all the pleasantness of the event,
    Shall satisfy my heart; and make my word
    No less indebted to the satisfaction of
    What undisclosed wish that may later sue
    For her discreet compliance to my will.
    (Exit Herxes and Carxes.)
    The sun is sinking and its radiance wanes.
    The constant bearers of the tapers of night
    Are smashing the flints to enkindle them;
    That, when soon sable night descends on the world,
    The vast array of the refulgent stars
    The sight of things shall yet enlighten keep;
    And the preponderance of cunning shadows
    In stint of darkness, curb and oversight.
    But, at this grand event, complying with my wish,
    When my queen, Verxis, paragon of grace,
    Appearance wroughts here, you shall all attest,
    Within the ceilin and canopy of this feast,
    The advent of another nocturnal queen,
    That beauty of the full-face moon does twin!


    10:39am 12-7-2017


  98. Just have to say, Sheathword, this is a fairly misogynistic passage. No less misogynistic 400 years ago, but more expected at least. In this day and age? No. The demand for this sort of writing has long since passed. And no, I’m not going to discuss it with you and I’m not interested in your opinion of me or my judgment. The deal is that if you continue posting here, you have to bite your tongue when comments are made. This isn’t a discussion forum.


  99. Hi Patrick, I just read your introductory page and I especially noticed your comments on free verse versus “traditional poetry.” I was simply wondering, were those opinions influenced by Ezra Pound? I’ve been reading many of Pound’s essays lately and I’ve come to similar conclusions – namely, that free verse is strictly easier than poetry with meter and/or rhyme, and usually a result of laziness. I’d like to know what you think of that, or if you even know of Pound’s opinions on free verse.


    • I’m only familiar with Pound’s opinions indirectly. That’s to say, I’ve never read much of Pound beyond his poetry and only know of his more general opinions while reading biographies of other poets. What I have read of him, I’ve liked though. My opinion on free verse is largely my own. But this whole refrain (that free verse is more difficult to write than traditional poetry) was utterly deflated long before me. When free verse first got started that same conceit was making the rounds and prompted EA Robinson to reply: “Judging by the results, I’d have to agree”.

      If free verse were really more difficult, then every free versifier should be able to write “easier” traditional poetry with ease and grace. That never happens. Even “formalists” have a hard time with traditional poetry, which is probably why contemporary verse and rhyme has such a poor reputation. It’s much easier to be mediocre when writing free verse.

      All that said, was there something of Pound’s you had in mind?


  100. Dear Patrick,

    I feel warm about your life, your writings, and what you have to say to the world!
    At times, that innocence is desired and valued all over the world…
    If all would be and think like you. My grandmother used to say, “It’s not good for
    friends or guests to talk about politics, religion, or food, keep yourself safe.” At
    my age I agree … she was totally right!!! I am a grandmother now, I have four
    children and 6 grandchildren!
    Thank you for illumining the world with your life and poems!
    A poet from Texas!


    • What a wonderful note. Just the reason for a guest book. I do have very strong political opinions, compassion above all, but we only have so much time in this world. :) My grandmother, by the way, used to say the same thing.

      My favorite history book is about art and music — barely a mention of warfare or politicians. Thanks for stopping by and sharing the world.


  101. Patrick, I just want to say how pleased I am to have found your website! I alighted here by chance, as I have to write a sonnet for an evening class, so looked at some posts of yours from a few years back. I am delighted to see that you’re still posting and I really lok forward to looking round your site more, and getting notifications of updates. Thank you!


    • Thanks so much Kate, I suppose I’ll keep posting here till the bitter end. :) Though there’s no remuneration, it’s much more satisfying than “publishing”.


  102. Thank you for your wonderful writing on Sonnet 116. I have just found your blog because I was looking at meter to try to confirm my reading of the sonnet which I am currently teaching as a guest at the Tibetan Children’s Villages (TCV) school in Dharamsala, India.


  103. Shalom Patrick,
    I enjoyed reading your commentary on Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium.” Thank you.
    Would you kindly share your thoughts on the following verses :
    ” unless soul clap its hands and sings,” might be interpreted as : an aged man is analogous to a tattered coat unless he is happy on the inside ?

    Additionally, why does the speaker aspire to be in eternity an artifice used by the aristocracy for trifle tasks such as waking up a ” drowsy emperor” or being set upon a bough of ” lords and ladies of Byzantine,” rather than being used for pragmatic yet meaningful purpose ? Isn’t there ironic/ sardonic tone about the readers of art who are restricted to the aristocracy , reading and interpreting art superficially?
    Thank you in advance for your response.
    Ilana Ben Harav.


    • I would probably be skeptical of your tattered coat analogy only because Yeats doesn’t really say that an aged man is X (a tattered coat) unless Y. He says he is “paltry” unless Y (his soul clap its hands). That is, even if the aged man clap his hands and sing, his raiment (his physical being) remains a tattered thing. He may not be a paltry thing, but still remains a tattered coat. The country of the young remains a land in which the aged man doesn’t belong. What the aged man has to offer is something different — the clapping (a reference to poetry’s meter perhaps?) and song.

      //why does the speaker aspire to be in eternity an artifice//

      Who would? Not me. But I’m not sure Yeats means us to read this literally. As I wrote in the post:

      Yeats, in my opinion, is describing a personal, spiritual transformation as manifested through his art – his poetry. He is, in a sense, identifying himself as his poetry – which is all that will remain after he has died. In this guise, the gold bough is like the magnum opus of his poetry (his Collected Poems).

      Further, if one continues to interpret Yeats’s last stanza metaphorically rather than literally, “drowsiness” isn’t a reference to “sleepiness” but to a lack of spiritual awareness. All of us, Lords and Ladies, are drowsing in the sense that we’re not spiritually awakened (in Yeats’s opinion). By addressing us as aristocracy, my own feeling is that Yeats is asserting that his poetry (spiritual meaning and awakening) isn’t (or isn’t going to be) for everyone but, to quote Shakespeare, caviar for the general.

      Your own interpretation is a possibility. I resist it only because it strikes me as a rather bitter way to end the poem. It also robs the poem of its metaphorical content.


  104. I really enjoy this blog! Thanks for all the work you put into it.

    I have little experience writing verse, but I mustered some ironic pomposity in order to compose a few heroic couplets:

    Excess of Trust in modern Criticks’ Lies
    Portends a Poet’s premature Demise.
    Their nasty Creed leaves every Poem despoil’d,
    Of Metre robbed, and thereby Beauty foil’d.
    Obserue, instead, the learned Ancient’s ways,
    And humbly serve their old Pierides.
    Who Metre joins with Matter, shall amend
    Foul Impudence, and Helicon ascend!


    • Hah! Since I was only trying to pastiche an antiquated style that today seems absurd indeed, I won’t take that harshly. I do wish I’d put the apostrophe in the proper place in “Ancients’” however—oops.

      Anyhow, thanks again. I look forward to the posts yet to come.


    • Reminds me of those commendatory verses (written by this and that enthusiastic nobleman or aristocrat) ahead of this or that play. You do a wonderful pastiche of those bombastic squibs. My hat is off to you. Awful stuff, and I write that with an admiring smile.

      We’ll blame a compositor for the misplaced apostrophe—a compositor’s error. Damned compositors…


  105. Would you consider writing a post about the poem in Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire? It provides a fun example of heroic couplets written in modern English, and I’m sure you would have a lot to say.


    • There’s already so much that’s been written about this poem/novel by far better and more informed readers (as regards Nabokov and novels in general) then me, that I’m afraid anything I’d have to add wouldn’t do readers any favors. Besides that, one can’t really treat the poem in isolation—and to do so somewhat misses the point (though some do). My own view is that while there are reasons to admire the poem, the quality of its poetry is near the bottom of the list. The poetry of Pale Fire, as poetry, is competent and relentlessly efficient in its competence. (Novelists tend to write poems like novelists. Which is to say: their poetry always reads like triumphantly self-conscious prose.) There are other reasons to love the poem, but they’re not generally why I read poems or want to talk about them.

      Probably best that I leave Pale Fire to abler readers than me. There’s a neat article here, that discusses Nabokov’s poet, John Shade, as having been inspired by Nabokov’s exposure to Robert Frost (in person mainly, it seems). I don’t think I could do better than this.

      All that said, I don’t dispute that Pale Fire is, as a novel, one of the great ones. :) I love Nabokov.


    • Fair enough! Thank you for writing a thoughtful response and for sharing that fine article.

      One other request, then: a post about Housman!


  106. Hello Patrick,
    or good morning in my lokal Swedish time! It is a very long time since I visited your blog and very satisfactory indeed to find that you are still writing loveley and memorable poetry!
    I will pop in more often from now on!
    With love
    Eva Skoog aka ”lustigkulle”


  107. A wonderfully serendipitous search on the internet led me to your door this evening (its probably obvious from this that I don’t use Google) looking for the full text of the poem ‘I had a little nut tree’. The search was itself inspired by an equally serendipitous communication from a friend, informing me of a forthcoming meeting (him not me) with the King of Spain, which put me instantly in mind of the poem. A poem I had not thought of for 50 years -it was one that my parents were used to reading to me from a nursery rhyme book. I was captivated by your analysis and comments and thoroughly stimulated intellectually and really enjoyed it.
    I do have a bone to pick with you however -as a consequence of being drawn ineluctably into the interstices of your website / ‘blog’ I have spent the last ninety minutes roaming through the ways and byways contained therein and its now way past by bedtime.
    Amongst many thoughts and wonderings, somewhere or other in the pages there was something that put me in mind of Burns’ ‘My love is like a red red rose’, or perhaps it was the red rose in a vase on my desk, or perhaps both. I thought of the love as a love of poetry…
    I ended up by picking up the nearest poetry book to hand which happened to be Cautionary Verses by Hilaire Belloc and spending 30 minutes laughing my way through too many poems (for this time of night). It was close to hand as I am reading some of the poems to my 5 and 7 year old boys. I still have a volume from my childhood. I wonder if you have come across this work and if so what you make of it? You have to allow for the epoch and context in which they were written, but I find them timeless, tremendously amusing and the poetry is fun (almost pokes fun at itself) and a great introduction to poetry for children. There are some real gems and they most of them work for adults, as satirical comment.
    I have just done two things which I rarely do, bookmarked your website and even more rarely, sent this missive. I applaud you for your commentary and I very much like your own work. I would like a copy if you can let me know the postage to Europe (France).
    Your truly. Chris
    PS, don’t have a website so I was not sure what to put in the url space.


    • So glad that you stopped by. :) The way things are going in this country, I’ll be headed back to Europe. Then it will be easy to send you something in the mail.

      Anyway, I think I mentioned it in the post, but ‘The Little Nut Tree’ remains my very favorite nursery rhyme. As for Belloc’s “Cautionary Verses — love them. One doesn’t go to them for their transcendent poetry — but his sardonic sense of humor makes him like the W.C. Fields and Edward Gorey of poetry.

      I’ll look up the postage, but my book of poems doesn’t include any poetry since 2000.


  108. I’ve just realized I had confused the question form up in your post with the comment form down here – such a rookie mistake! 😱

    In my defense, some call it weariness. I totally missed the monospace-font-in-the-box hint.

    I’ll make up for it by copying my message here:

    Hello fellow poet! ❤︎

    I share with you time and possessions issues, too – albeit having no children.

    I’ve found your blog while trying to learn more about the English meter. At the very least, I owe you a big, heartfelt thank you!
    Having too little time (as you might guess), right now I can’t browse your blog as much as I would like.

    I still wanted to drop you a line though, and hopefully I’ll stick around long enough to catch up some.

    Best wishes, Patrick! 🍀

    P.S. I might as well steal from you this lovely idea of the Guestbook thingy! 😍

    As a side note, I have spent the last couple of hours (or possibly more) reading some of your (astonishingly insightful) articles. And it’s fuckin’ 1:13 a.m., here in Italy!
    Please forgive any possible typos and/or spelling mistake. It’s high time to go to bed.


    P.S. I took a peek at your poems, too – but that’s a topic for other comments, I guess! :P


  109. Hi to my old neighbor Bart found your book last nite and called me . He would like to g et in touch with you and say hello. I hope your family is well and the girls are probably grown .


    • Hi Pat! I think of you and Bart often. I was just reading Peanuts last night and remembering how Bart reminded me of Snoopy and of the Charlie Brown Christmas we decorated out in the field. I miss those days. I’ll write more directly. :)


  110. Petrarch is up next month up in a book group my husband and I have joined, and I came looking for sonnets to illustrate “Petrarch in English.” I will take away Spenser’s Sonnet 75 and Milton “On His Blindness.” Thank you for your schema and comments. –JoAn in Palo Alto


  111. Hello! I remembered reading a post on this blog in which you mentioned that you’ve written a novel.

    Just now, I tried but couldn’t find any information on it here — the Bio section of the blog didn’t mention it along with your book of poetry. So, if I’m not actually misremembering and you’ve in fact written a novel, could you tell me the novel’s title, or provide a link to a blog-post or webpage with some basic information about the book?


    • Hi Neeraj, thanks for asking. :) I’m still seeking a publisher—currently deliberating between a traditional publisher and a hybrid publisher, so there’s nothing out/published yet. But I’ll post updates. Right now, I’ve been circulating the novel among agents (no responses yet) and am submitting it to a hybrid publisher.


  112. Hi! I commented earlier on this page, but my comment hasn’t appeared yet. Can you check if it was blocked by the spam filter for some reason, and respond to it?


  113. Thanks a lot for your blog! Your text on Shakespeare x Spenser helped me so much at college! I found it really informative and easier to understand than most college books I came across. Thank you!


  114. I just discovered your blog, and am left wishing I’d discovered it much sooner. I am in love with John Donne’s poetry, especially since I read Margaret Edson’s play Wit, and she (the playwright and/or the protagonist) displays the same concern and care with scansion and orthography that you do. It’s reassuring to know there are people out there who still care about things like rhyme and prosody. Poetry is meant first to be recited and heard is what I believe. Thanks for your work and for sharing your love of great poetry.


    • Thanks for the comment. I agree with what you say about poetry. The further back in time you go, the more closely music and language, in the guise of meter and rhyme, come together—both meant to be heard.


  115. Hi, we were wondering had you written something using prosopopoeia as a device, particularly for something like Courage, bravery or truth. What would that sound like when written from the 1st person perspective?


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