Rhyme & Meter Online: Sunday March 1, 2009

  • As with last week, many discussions on various forums which, though interesting, are too changeable to reference.
  • If any readers would like to recommend sites or blogs please do! Feel free to recommend your own blog or poem if you like but please don’t post your poem in the comment field (provide a link and the first lines).
  • Search terms used to find these posts: Rhyme, Meter, Formal, Formalist, Poetry


Mike Snyder’s Formal Blog

…given that a good long narrative is hard enough on its own, given the additional difficulty of making effective use of rhyme and meter (or at least line breaks), and given the common reader’s reaction when he or she sees poetry (you know it’s not “Oh, Goody!”), why the hell does anyone want to write a verse novel?… Why do I want to?

In free verse, the line break is either a purely visual artifact to organize a silent reading (viewing?), or else it’s a rhythmic marker to organize a performance. In either case, it forces the reader to experience language differently than in prose: the rhythm of the sentence is broken; the forward thrust of argument and narrative are diminished…



And the forms which are all over the place right now are forms which emphasize craft, but which don’t require deep acquaintance with pre-modern poetry– they are forms whose difficult requirements don’t include scansion or rhyme. That’s why young poets are (mostly) writing sestinas, pantouns, lipograms, anagrams, alphabetical acrostics, rather than Spenserian stanzas, ottava rima, or rime royal…. Such forms not only allow us to avoid measuring ourselves against Victorians who really knew how to do stuff we haven’t learned…


Poetry Foundation

Maybe poetry is so marginal, so fragile a commodity, we worry about kicking it when it’s already pretty clearly down. Whatever the reason for our anxiety, the negative review, when it appears in magazines like this one, is often more of an event than it ought to be. But negativity, I’m starting to think, needs to be the poetry reviewer’s natural posture, the default position she assumes before scanning a single line. Because really, approaching every new book with an open mind is as well-meaning but ultimately exhausting as approaching every stranger on the street with open arms…



…the Romantic Era had begun. This was the beginning of the age that emphasized the pastoral over and above the urban – an intuitive grasp of the world began to supercede the classical emphasis on reason. The world’s natural state was a central metaphor for the Romantics with its the inevitable cycle of creation and loss.

While pursuing discussion on Orr’s article over at A Compulsive Reader, another question occurred to me. Why is it that practically no poets after the moderns seem to be widely read, remembered or recognized by the general, non-poetry reading public. Almost everyone I ask (who maybe reads three or four poems a year) knows of Robert Frost, can name a poem by him and maybe even recite a line or two. No one, (during my unscientific survey), could do the same for any poet of the later generation.



The sonnet is an old and challenging way to write a poem due to the rules of meter, lines, and rhyme scheme. Probably the most notable sonnet writer in the world is William Shakespeare. But sonnets are still being written today! My aim, dear reader, is for these sample sonnets to inspire you to search for more contemporary sonnets.


Frederick Turner’s Blog

New research has shown that the prosodic character of spoken language is essential to its meaning.  This is obvious in a tonal language like Chinese, where the very meaning of a word depends on its tone. But English is no less tonal, except that we use tone and pitch not to establish our lexicon but to establish our syntax and logic.  In English we cannot speak a sentence without instinctively giving it a melody—all songwriters understand this.  It is a natural genius that we all possess, and that poets refine and amplify by the arts of meter and rhyme…


Welcome to Dr. Roger K.A. Allen’s Blog

With regards poetry, this is ephemeral a bit like origami, fresh bread or the morning newspaper. Poetry is meant to be read fresh. Fashions and written expression change. Today’s formless and often artless style would not even be recognised as “poetry” by Shakespeare or Milton. There are no rules now. The bar has been lowered as with our education. Only editors have the divining rods to detect good poetry. Rhyme and meter are gone. It is now McDonald’s poetry a bit like most modern art and modern education. What matters now are content, mood, fuzzy feelings and most of all, what’s in fashion.


February 26, 2009

Calling on North Shore poets to create

Anyone who feels like saying “Give peace a chance” in meter, rhyme or free verse may submit one poem of 50 lines or fewer to the 10th annual Peace Poetry Contest. The deadline is Friday, April 10.

The contest is sponsored by the Samantha Smith North Shore Chapter of Veterans For Peace. Submissions should focus on the nature and value of peace, and call for an end to war and to violence and hatred in our communities.

Children in grades kindergarten to 12, as well as adults, may participate. A public reading will be held Sunday, April 26, at 2 p.m. at Salem State College.

Only original, previously unpublished compositions will be accepted. Writers, children and adults, should send poems, with contact information, to peacepoetry@massvfp.org, or to: Peace Poetry, Veterans For Peace, P.O. Box 177, Ipswich, MA 01938.

Students should include names of their parents and schools, and a parent or teacher’s phone number and e-mail address for notification.


Gently Read Literature

One of the remarkable discoveries in Things, for those of us who know only his translations, is that Cole’s own poetry is driven by a pulsing formalism—not only in the taut meters and insistent rhymes, but also in the tendency toward received forms: the villanelle, ghazal, sonnets, sestinas. Though he occasionally lapses into abstractions—as Fried noted, “his embrace of abstraction…can make the eyes cross, at least out of context”—his willingness to “stumble” both into philosophically “abstract” and politically incendiary terrain make him an unusual and courageous contemporary poet…

4 responses

  1. In his response to Frederick Turner’s Creating a Culture of Gift, Richard P. Gabriel chastises Turner using what I call the naive view of artistic creation — a view which I believe to be a barrier to truly understanding art, artistic creation, and perhaps to the healthy creation of art at all.

    In the naive view of artistic creation, a work of art comes spontaneously, miraculously, inexplicably — a gift from the Muses. To propose a theme for art to investigate is heresy in such a view. A theme would provide fetters on art, and we all know art is unfettered. Such is the naive view of artistic creation, where style, not content, is what is relevant.

    But style can be taught. I can teach someone to write in iambic pentameter, to rhyme, to develop a work so it has an introduction, thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, to create a sonnet. Milan Kundera identifies the art of the novel as prose-poetry variations on a theme. For him, the theme(s) is/are selected beforehand, and the novel constructed with that idea/theme in mind. Style affects content — but one must first have content. When I write a play, I have a plot first, then characters and setting, then I flesh it out with poetry. The idea for the work my come from something I hear in a church sermon (as happened this past Sunday) or on the news. I may have a theme I’m concerned with, or a human problem I want to work out. From whence does the art spring forth? In the initial idea? In the conscious planning? In the choice of style? In the word-explosion encased in the engine block of structure to create the work? And the Muse? Those who now invoke the Muses as a “mindless” source of art forget (or never knew) that the Muses’ mother’s Memory, their father’s Zeus, god of wisdom and power. Memory means content — to remember, there must be something to remember. We must have knowledge to be artists. We must, too, have wisdom, an understanding of the whole. Wisdom and knowledge, the system asa whole and the parts of the system, are the necessary elements of beauty.

    The more we know — the more we have in memory — the more there is for our minds to work with, assimilate, make connections, re-member, see the system as a whole. Insight or inspiration, that sudden flash, is the coming-to-consciousness of our brain’s work. If we give our brains good content, good themes, and good styles, we can then create good works of art. My poetic dreams come to life in iambic pentameter only after I learned how to write in it and internalized it to such a degree that it became a part of the artistic flash that comes to me. Externalities also inform my art. I see my 2-year-old daughter go up to a pansy and say, “Hi flower.” and I delight, see what she’s done, understand it in light of evolutionary and emergentist psychology, transforming it into iambic lines, and a poem is born. Wisdom in art — there there is wisdom or else it’s not art — comes about from this kind of deep understanding.

    Fetterless art? Art without rules? THere is no art without patterns. There are no patterns without rules. Fetterlessness is randomness, and randomness is patternless — the opposite of art. No system is random or patternless. If a work of art to be a work of art is wise and born of knowledge, it is a true system, and thus a patterned work. Art, to be art, is complex, emergent, beautiful. If it is not, it is something else. Rhetoric, perhaps, but hardly art. And then, it’s probably not even very persuasive rhetoric, either.


  2. Troy,

    I couldn’t ask for a better comment than yours.

    I haven’t read or heard Turner’s “Creating a Culture of Gift”, so your characterization of it is all I have to go on. I found a PDF here:


    And after a quick glance, it’s not clear to me that I have the right article. Turner doesn’t seem to set out the theory of creativity you describe – but maybe a glanced through it too quickly.

    Anyway, setting Turner aside, I agree with what you’ve written. What you describe as Turner’s “view of artistic creation” *used* to be applied to Shakespeare in the decades following his death. He was called “the Poet of Nature” – sometimes as a compliment and sometimes derisively.

    His flexible verse was seen as too libertine by the Restoration Poets. They valued a far stricter verse and saw Shakespeare as uncouth – for lack of a better word.

    The implication was that Shakespeare wrote spontaneously and uncritically, as prompted by nature. That view of Shakespeare lasted a very long time and profoundly influenced the Romantics’ conception of poetry, lasting well into the 19th Century, but has since given way to a much more pragmatic and “comprehending” understanding of the creative process, essentially what you have described.


  3. That reminds me of something Heinrich Heine said on nature and poetry:

    “Like a good poet, nature does not like abrupt transitions. The clouds, as bizarre as they sometimes appeared to be shaped, have a white or at least a soft tint that corresponds harmoniously with the blue sky and the green earth, so that all the colors of a region melt into one another like gentle music, and every view of nature has the effect of quieting pain and calming the spirit. […] Just like a great poet, nature knows how to produce the greatest effects with the fewest means. It has only a sun, trees, flowers, water, and love. To be sure, if the last is lacking in the heart of the observer, the whole view will probably seem to be a poor one; the sun is then only so-and-so many miles in diameter, the trees are good for kindling, the flowers are classified by their stamens, and water is wet.”

    — from The Hartz Journey, The German Library 32, pg. 125

    However, one should read Sister Mirium Joseph’s “Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language” to learn just how carefully and critically Shakespeare actually wrote.

    My response to Gabriel was based more on what Gabriel said in response to Turner’s paper. You found the right article. This is Gabriel’s response to it:


    My response to it should make somewhat more sense in context, though I thought it equally apt for what you had here.


    • I’ve referenced Joseph’s book several times on this blog. It’s a great book. I have two copies. Because when I find something I really like, I can’t have just one. (That’s why I have twins, I guess.) She also recently released another book – to my surprise.


      I read Gabriel’s response. Parts of his post are Romanticism in its purest form.

      There can be no great art on demand—any great art comes at the cost of strangeness and othermindedness, and what we take as great art on demand is merely the results of great craft and skill but without the depth of meaning of art, without its inherent isolation.

      Really? There can be no great art on demand?

      I think he had better qualify that.

      I mean, it all depends on the tenor of the age. Some artists thrive “on demand”. Just about all of JS Bach’s music was written on demand. Leonardo DaVinci, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Marlowe, etc…

      For centuries, the history of Great Art is the history of art “on demand”.

      If some patron wants to pay me a sustainable wage for a Blank Verse Drama or Narrative of one kind or another…

      I’m for sale.


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