On Robert Frost’s After Apple-Picking

      My long two pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
      Toward heaven still,
      And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
      Beside it, and there may be two or three
5     Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
      But I am done with apple-picking now.
      Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
      The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
      I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
10    I got from looking through a pane of glass
      I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
      And held against the world of hoary grass.
      It melted, and I let it fall and break.
      But I was well
15    Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
      And I could tell
      What form my dreaming was about to take.
      Magnified apples appear and disappear,
      Stem end and blossom end,
20    And every fleck of russet showing clear.
      My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
      It keeps the pressure of the ladder-round.
      I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
      And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
25    The rumbling sound
      Of load on load of apples coming in.
      For I have had too much
      Of apple-picking: I am overtired
      Of the great harvest I myself desired.
30    There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
      Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
      For all
      That struck the earth,
      No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
35    Went surely to the cider-apple heap
      As of no worth.
      One can see what will trouble
      This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
      Were he not gone,
40    The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
      Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
      Or just some human sleep.
Frost reciting After Apple-Picking:


  • Interestingly, in Robert Frost’s reading (or memorization) of the poem, the line: “Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall…” is spoken as “Cherish in hand, let down, and not let fall.”

After Apple-Picking is one of Robert Frost’s great poems and among the greatest poems of the 20th century. The first thing I want to do is to revel in the structure and form of the poem. I’ve seen several references made to Rueben Brower’s analysis of the meter in this poem, and all the frostsources concur in calling Brower’s analysis a tour-de-force. I have not read Brower’s analysis and won’t until I’ve done my own. I love this sort of thing and don’t want my own observations being influenced. So, if there are any similarities, I encourage you to conclude that fools and great minds think alike. Here we go. First, T.S. Eliot:

“The most interesting verse which has yet been written in our language has been done either by taking a very simple form, like iambic pentameter, and constantly withdrawing from it, or taking no form at all, and constantly approximating to a very simple one. Is this contrast between fixity and flux, this unperceived evasion of monotony, which is the very life of verse… We may therefore formulate as follows: the ghost of some simple metre should lurk behind the arras in even the ‘freest’ verse; to advance menacingly as we doze, and withdraw as we rouse. Or, freedom is only truly freedom when it appears against the background of an artificial limitation.”

Eliot could have been describing Frosts’s After Apple-Picking (though he doesn’t say). Despite the appearance of free verse (which it is) Frost’s poetry moves toward and away from a regular meter, and into and out of rhyme, so that the arrhythmia of free verse  and the rhythm of meter co-exist and beautifully blend.

After Apple-Picking (Scansion)

  • Unmarked feet are iambic. Yellow is pyrrhic (which I will never learn to spell). Purple is spondaic. Red is trochaic. Green is an amphibrachic foot (called a feminine ending when closing the line).

Worth noting is that the poem is, allowing for the usual variant feet, as iambic (if not more so) than many of his more “regular poems”. The difference is in line length. The alternate lines are trimeter, dimeter and one monometrical line.  There are no alexandrines however. Frost seemed unwilling to extend the line beyond iambic pentameter. I listened to Frost’s own reading of the poem so that the scansion would more accurately reflect what he had in mind. Interesting to me is the fact that Frost, when he reads at least, prefers to emphasize the iambic lines. For instance, I was initially tempted to scan the following line as follows:

One can see |what will trouble

That’s two anapests, the second has a feminine ending. Frost, however, reads the first four syllables with an almost equal stress:

One can see what will trouble

This makes me more apt to scan the line as trimeter with two strong spondees:

One can |see what |will trouble

It may be reading too much into Frost’s performance (since he tends to emphasize the iambics in many of his poems) but the poems hard, driving iambics lend the poem an exhausted, relentless feel that well-suits the subject. There is no regular rhyme scheme, but there is a sort of elegant symmetry to the rhyming that’s easier to see with some color and some visual aids.

After Apple-Picking (Rhyme Scheme)

My own feeling is that one has to be careful when ascribing too much intentionality to the poet. How much of this rhyme scheme was the result of deliberate planning and how much arose naturally as the poem progressed? In other words, I grant that none of the rhymes are  accident, but I doubt that Frost sat down in advance to build his poem around a rhyme scheme. The poem has the feeling, especially given the shorter (almost opportunistic) line lengths, of a certain improvisation. When he needed to rhyme earth, he cut short a line (making it dimeter) to end up with “As of no worth”. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s coincidence that we find bough/now just after the start of the poem, and fall/all shortly before the poem finishes. In the middle, as though bracketed by these two couplets, is the triple rhyme well/fell/tell. The effect is to nicely divide the poem and give a certain symmetry.

The last element to include is the phrasing, something I haven’t done in other poems, but will try to elucidate in this one. Part of the art of poetry, too often overlooked, is the achievement of phrasing that, at its best, mimics human speech. We don’t tend to speak in one long sentence after another and we don’t favor an endless stream of short sentences (unless “dramatic” circumstances call for it). Not only was Frost keenly interested in the colloquial voice, but also understood the importance of phrasing, of the give and take of normal speech. A mistake that many beginning poets make, in their effort to so much as fit their ideas into the patterns of rhyme and meter, is to sacrifice a naturalness in their phrasing. A telltale feature of such writing is a poem dominated by end-stopped lines — syntax and phrasing that slavishly follows the line.After Apple-Picking (Phrasing)

So, what I’ve done is to color code what I perceive to be the rhetorical structure of the poem. I’m iffish on a couple details, but let’s get started. The fist five lines are a simple, declarative sentence. Frost (I’ll refer to the speaker as Frost) begins the poem with a scheme called the Italian Quatrain. This only means that the rhyme scheme follows an abba pattern one would find in Petrarchan sonnets. ( I don’t, for an instant, suggest that Frost was thinking to himself: I shall now write an “Italian Quatrain”.) I do mean to suggest that the quatrain has a certain closed feel to it. But the poem isn’t done and neither is the work of apple-picking. In the fifth line there are some apples “still upon some bough” and there is new rhyme, bough,  dangling like an unpicked apple.

Frost turns inward:

6  But I am done with apple-picking now.
   Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
   The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.

The light green and “Dartmouth” green (couldn’t resist calling it that) signify the moments when Frost’s gaze turn inward. This happens four times in the poem.  Whereas the first five lines are comprised of syndetic clauses (clauses linked by the conjunctive and), the  second clause, the apple ladderturning inward from the orchard (which places the poem) to Frost’s exhaustion, is asyndetic. The first five lines, with their repeated and’s are the way we speak (and you’ll even notice it in children) when we want to express the idea of endlessness.  We might say: I have this and this and this and this to do. In a similar sense, Frost wants to communicate the endlessness of this chore. The first five lines are a rush of description.

When his gaze turns inward, to his own exhaustion, the lines become asyndetic. The fifth line, introducing a new rhyme, is complete in and of itself. The syntax, I think, mirrors Frost’s own exhaustion. The sentences are short. Clauses are no longer linked by conjunctions (they could be).

But I am done with apple-picking now.

By rights, one could pause after that line as though to catch one’s breath. The pause is reinforced when the line completes the rhyme of bough with now, as if Frost had picked the apple. In some ways, one could stop the poem here. The rhymes are complete. We have an Italian Quatrain followed by a concluding couplet. In a sense, the first six lines are the larger poem in miniature. “Essence of winter sleep,” not just the sleep of a night, already hints at a longer hibernation.  From there Frost sleepily stumbles onward and the rhymes, like unpicked apples, will draw him. The sentences become progressively shorter as though Frost’s ability to think and write were as curtailed as his wakefulness. The eighth line ends with the simple, declarative, “I am drowsing off.” There’s nothing poetic about such a line or statement; and that’s part of its beauty and memorableness.

  • An apple ladder is usually tapered, much narrower at the top than bottom. This makes pushing them up through the limbs much easier. Some are joined, like the ladder in the picture, while others are not. Frost’s ladder was “two pointed”, and so not joined at the top. The ladder going up to my daughter’s loft is an old apple ladder.

The next six lines, beginning with “Essence of winter sleep…” are another set of interlocking rhymes DEDFEF

7   Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
    The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
    I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
10  I got from looking through a pane of glass
    I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
    And held against the world of hoary grass.

The rhetorical course of the poem links lines 6-8 while the rhyme schemes of lines 1-6 and 7-12 are separate. There is an overlap between the subject matter (in green) and rhyme scheme (purple).

After Apple-Picking (Overlap)The overlap draws attention away from the rhyme scheme (at some level, I think, disorienting the reader). I know I’m flirting with Intention Fallacy, so I’ll try not to draw too many conclusions as to Frost’s intentions when writing a given rhyme scheme. However, whether he wrote these lines on purpose or instinctively, they produce a similar effect in this given poem. The poem’s rhetorical structure, which doesn’t always mirror the rhyme scheme, draws our attention away from the rhymes and may contribute to any number of the poem’s effect, including the feeling of exhaustion. At its simplest, the crosscurrents of rhetoric and rhyme, I think, help to create an organic feeling in the poem — the feeling that it’s not a series of stanzas knit together.

”Are you trying to tell me that I don’t know what I’m doing when I paint?” ”Well, not exactly . . . ,” I began. ”My God,” he roared, ”every time I put a brush to a canvas, I have an intention. And I damn well better know what it is, or else the painting ain’t gonna be any good.” He rolled his eyes. ”Intentional fallacy,” he muttered. Then with a weary sigh: ”What do these critics think art is? Monkeys dabbling? Art is nothing but decisions. Decisions, decisions, decisions.”

My response Ben Shahn’s outrage would be to point out that it’s all well and fine for the artist (or poet) to indignantly claim an intention behind every brush stroke, line break or stanza break. It’s another to expect the reader or critic to guess it right. This issue is what was behind the failure of Charles Hartman’s Free Verse, An Essay on Prosody. Hartman was essentially (in my opinion) trying to turn every line break into a prosody of free verse. The problem is that a prosody depends on the reader correctly guessing an author’s intention. Without that, all you’ve got is a game of Russian roulette called Intention Fallacy.

The rhyme scheme of DEDFEF forms a sexain, but Frost’s thoughts veer beyond it.

After Apple-Picking (Overlap-2)

Just as before, there is one line more than the rhyme can bear: “It melted, and I let it fall and break.” Once again, the analogy of the unpicked apple comes to mind. Is this the analogy Frost had in mind? To say so would be an Intention Fallacy, but I think the analogy works in the context of the poem. Anyway, we’re left with an unresolved rhyme.

But Frost has other matters to address. As if remembering the course of his poem after an aside (a wonderful and colloquial technique that appears in many of his poems – Birches) he seems to gather his resolve with three rhyming lines, short and quick.

   But I was well
15 Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
   And I could tell
   What form my dreaming was about to take.

Take resolves the hanging rhyme of break. For a moment, both the poem’s rhetorical course and the rhyme scheme meet. There is a moment of resolution before Frost’s dreaming overtakes the poem, and with it an interlocking set of rhymes that don’t find resolution until line 26.

 25 The rumbling sound
    Of load on load of apples coming in.

At this point, the poem will once again pivot. Here’s another image to help visualize what I’m describing.

After Apple-Picking (Rhyme & Rhetoric)

In terms of rhyme and rhetoric (in the sense of concluding thought and concluding rhyme) the poem could be divided into three parts. Until then, subject matter and rhyme overlap in a way that, to some extent, might subliminally propel the reader.

    Magnified apples appear and disappear,
    Stem end and blossom end,
 20 And every fleck of russet showing clear.
    My instep arch not only keeps the ache,

The word end like the stem end of an apple (or itself another unpicked apple) won’t find it’s blossom end until the next three lines that are (now this gets really cool) the only three lines where an identifiable rhyme scheme isn’t matched to subject matter. That’s to say, most of the other rhymes come in tercets and quatrains (look at the boxes surrounding them). It’s only in the weightless center of the poem where any sort of identifiable scheme more or less breaks down. There’s a kind weightlessness, right after the dreaming and at the center of the poem, seems almost meant to imitate the dreaming exhaustion of the poem itself. I would love to think he did this on purpose.

  • I’ve suggested that other poems by Frost can be understood, beneath their surface, as extended metaphors for the writing process. Some others are much more transparently about writing (as much as saying so), so I don’t think such speculation is without merit (though I realize I could be accused of playing the same ace of spades with each hand).  After Apple-Picking could easily be read as analogous to the writing process itself — apples being understood as poems. Frost, by this point in his career, may have been feeling like writing poetry was like picking apples. While Frost didn’t think much of Yeats’s description of writing as “all sweat and chewing pencils” he also stated that after getting paid for the first poem he found he couldn’t write one a day for an easy living: “It didn’t work out that way”. Poems were like apples, it turned out. One couldn’t just shake the tree and let them fall. Doing that would leave them “bruised or spiked with stubble”, which is another way, perhaps, of saying that the hurried poem would be the flawed poem. They had to be cherished. Writing the poem, imagining its landscape of imagery, perhaps was like looking through “a pane of glass… skimmed… from the drinking trough/And held against the world of hoary grass.” Looking at the world through a poem is, perhaps, a bit like looking at the world through ice, a distortion that is both familiar and strange.
21 My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
   It keeps the pressure of the ladder-round.
   I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

Ache remembers the rhyme of break and take, but is far removed and seems more like a reminder than part of any rhyme scheme. Round is new, and sends the ear forward with the expectation of a rhyme.  Bend turns the ear back, remembering end (is far removed as ache from take). The poem “sways”, in its center, like the ladder. The reader is never given the opportunity to truly settle in with any kind of expectation, but like the speaker of the poem, is drawn forward in search of a rhyme’s “blossom end” and, with the next line, is drawn back to a different rhyme’s “stem end”. Rhymes are magnified, appear, then disappear.

  • Notice too how Frost divides the central portion of the poem into three of our five (or seven) senses.
 What form my dreaming was about to take.
 Magnified apples appear and disappear,
 Stem end and blossom end,
 And every fleck of russet showing clear.


 My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
 It keeps the pressure of the ladder-round.
 I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.


 And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
 The rumbling sound
 Of load on load of apples coming in.

Earlier, Frost touched on the sense of smell with the “scent of apples”. The point here is that part of what makes this poem so powerful are the concrete images and the evocation of our senses. Don’t ever forget this in your own poetry. I know I’ve written it before, but it bears repeating: remember each of your senses when you are writing poetry. Don’t just focus on sight (which the vast majority of poets do) but think about sound, smell, touch, movement, texture, etc… Notice too, how Frost turns the ordinary into some of the most beautiful poetry ever written. There are no similes to interrupt the narrative. There are no overdrawn metaphors. Frost makes poetry by simply describing and evoking the every day; and doing so in ordinary speech. The rhyme scheme knits the poem together in an organic whole. Think how much less impressive the poem would be if it were simply free verse, free verse as it’s written by the vast majority of contemporary poets.

Notice Frost’s thought-process. He muses over “what form” his dreams will take, then expands on it (in yellow). He mentioens the ache of his instep arch, then expands on that (in lavender), then describes what he hears from the cellar bin (in purple). It’s a nice way of writing that reminds me of the rhetorical figure Prolepsis (or Propositio) in Shakespeare’s To be or not to be….

With coming in we arrive at the third portion of the poem.

      For I have had too much
      Of apple-picking: I am overtired
      Of the great harvest I myself desired.
30    There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
      Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
      For all
      That struck the earth,
      No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
35    Went surely to the cider-apple heap
      As of no worth.
      One can see what will trouble
      This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
      Were he not gone,
40    The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
      Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
      Or just some human sleep.

Frost turns inward again.The phrase, “I am overtired…” reminds us of his previous declarative statement “I am drowsing off”, inviting a sense of symmetry and closure. This time, though, Frost won’t digress. He is overtired of the great harvest. He will plainly say what exhausts him and why. The rhyming couplet fall/all adds to the sense of symmetry, hearkening back to the couplet bough/now. In both subject matter and form, Frost is recollecting himself. Again, it’s a similar structure to Birches — an assertion, a digression, and a concluding restatement of the original assertion.


…every fleck of russet showing clear.

The closing rhyme scheme of lines 33-41 is essentially comprised of two Sicilian Quatrains, the same that characterize the Shakespearean sonnet. However, the first Quatrain is interrupted by heap. You can see it above in the overall rhyme scheme (at the beginning of the post), but also directly above. It’s as if the poem is coming out of a sort of fever, a confusion of consciousness, and back to order. The rhyme heap/sleep might have been the concluding couplet in a Shakespearean sonnet, but that kind of epigrammatic finality would have been out of place in a narrative poem like this. Instead, the word heap slips into the first quatrain, another new sound, and the ear perhaps subliminally or subconsciously looks for the rhyme, but it doesn’t come. We finish the first of the two quatrains without it.

With the second quatrain of this third section:

      This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
      Were he not gone,
40    The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
      Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,

The speaker seems almost recovered from the confused reverie of the poem and once again the poem’s beautiful symmetry is upheld. The poem begins with a Sicilian quatrain and all but closes with a Sicilian quatrain. But there is still one loose-end, one apple that has not been picked. Frost metaphorically picks it in the last line.

Or just some human sleep.

It’s a beautiful moment. The line is short and simple. It’s shortness may remind the reader of the speaker’s own weariness. He doesn’t have it in him to compose a fully Iambic Pentameter line. His sleep may just be some human sleep, and nothing more.

  • Frost asks whether his sleep will be like that of the woodchuck’s. The comparison seems almost like a moment of levity after so much profundity. Some critics throw all their weight into these last 5 lines. Because sleep is repeated several time, Conder (as is the habit with some critics I have noticed), take this to mean that “sleep” must be central to the poem’s meaning and that all other considerations are mere trivialities. As example, consider John J. Conder’s analysis of After Apple-Picking. There, you can also find a collection of other essays on the poem.  Personally, Conder’s analysis makes my eyes badly cross. Almost every sentence seems like a Gordian Knot. Here’s an example:
But if the speaker’s dream and sleep exist in life, then to assert that, after his labors, the speaker “is now looking not into the world of effort but the world of dream, of the renewal,” is to oversimplify the poem. This view identifies the dream (interpreted as pleasurable) with the sleep (seen as a time for contemplation as well as renewal) and in the process limits both. Such a reading qualifies the word “trouble” into insignificance (to be troubled by a lovely dream is to be superior to the woodchuck, who cannot dream) and oversimplifies the speaker’s attitude toward his experience. Given the feats of association that he makes, given the fact that he speaks in contraries, the speaker’s attitude toward his sleep is far more complicated than at first seems clear, and his trouble far more real than might be supposed.
And here is Conder’s entire essay much simplified:
Conder AnalysisAnd now you don’t have to read the essay. (You can thank me by e-mail.) You’d think the poem should have been called: Before Going to Sleep.  My point, besides having a little fun at Conder’s expense, is to argue that it’s possible to read too much into Frost’s comparison of his sleepiness to that of the woodchuck’s. My own feeling is that he’s not suggesting a sweeping metaphor of man, sleep and nature, but that the analogy is what it is. He’s overtired. He’s almost feverish with exhaustion and speculates that the only sleep to recover from that kind of weariness (the weariness of a whole season of apple growing) might be a whole season of sleeping – the hibernating sleep of a woodchuck. It’s an earthy, slightly sardonic, reference in keeping with the colloquial tone of the poem.
I also resist the temptation to draw comparisons between apple-picking and the apple in the Garden of Eden. I won’t go so far as to say that close-readers who suggest this allusion are wrong, but where do we honestly draw the line? Is every single mention of an apple, in every work of literature, an allusion to Genesis? Really? Really? That just feels facile to me. In truth, the myth of the Garden of Eden could be suggested as “alluded to” in a disturbingly large portion of literature. But so be it. I’m not going to go there (if only to be contrary). There’s not one quote from Frost, that I’m aware of, that suggests any of these readers are correct, so just keep that in mind when making comparisons to Genesis.
Lastly, there’s no doubt that Frost delighted in the close readings his poems were subjected to (what poet wouldn’t be flattered), but we also know that he expressed more than a little frustration and exasperation. The usual defense (which I get a little tired of) is that Frost was a dark, disturbed, calculating and suicidal man. Ever since Lionel Trilling described Frost as a “terrifying poet”, critics (William Logan among others) have taken that as open season. There’s always the urge to look for the “darkness” in his poems. There is undoubtedly much darkness in Frost (as there is in all of us) but I think this too must be treated with moderation. It’s possible that a reference to a woodchuck is just  that — an old New Englander’s sardonic reference to a woodchuck — not the sleep of man-out-of-nature, nature-out-of-man, or the sleep of death.
In her (strongly to be recommended) book, Robert Frost: The People, Places, and Stories Behind his New English Poetry, author Lea Newman has this to say:
“The reference to the woodchuck and his long sleep in the concluding lines of the poem has confused many readers. Frost probably found the idea of comparing humans to woodchucks in Emerson’s essay “Nature,” where readers are told, “let us be men instead of woodchucks.” A discussion of hibernation in another Emerson essay, “Fate,” may have been the source for the term “the long sleep”. In terms of the dream-ridden and exhausted speaker state of the speaker in Frost’s poem, he could be seeking the dreamless sleep of an animal or the month-long sleep of hibernation.”
My point is that you are free to interpret the poem how you will. No one but Frost knows what Frost meant.

On Linux, Software Patents, Shakespeare & the Web

My first love wasn’t poetry but computers. My first substantial work was not a poem, fable or story, but a piece of software written on the Apple IIe. Presently, my primary OS is Ubuntu and I keep partitions free just so I can ‘distro hop’. The term, if you’re not familiar with it, means trying out one distrobution of Linux or BSD (or any operating system) only to remove it as soon as you’ve got it working. Every so often, I use Windows. Windows is like a dependable pony. For the most part, you can trust Windows to keep a steady pace, but that gets dull after a while. I yearn for the unpredictable stallion, the temperamental, wild and maybe ungrateful horse that would just as soon kick you out of the barn; but that’s the horse that runs like lightning.

The beauty of Linux, if you’re not familiar with it, is the vast and varied community developing both the operating system and the software that runs on it. There are hundreds, perhaps over a thousand, different Linux distributions. At the core of every Linux distro is the Linux Kernel. The Linux kernel could be compared to an engine. That one engine is the same in every car, but every car that’s built around it is different, specialized and custom. Many countries produce their own distro. At present, I’m writing this on a distribution called Ubuntu – probably the best known distribution. Sometimes I use Fuduntu. The Turkish government is putting funds behind a beautiful linux distro called Pardus (which I’ve also installed). The Chinese have been developing Red Flag Linux. From Spain you can get Triquel. Each has its own peculiarities, advantages and even disadvantages. What’s incredible though, is that all of these distributions are free and they are developed by a community of programmers who might or might not receive remuneration for their work. They do what they do because they believe in the free and, most importantly, creative sphere entailed by the free exchange of ideas.

To me, there is a striking similarity between great poetry and great programming. They’re both a kind of literature. Great poetry and coding are both jaw-droppingly elegant. A great programmer can do, in just a few lines, what takes the uninspired programmer a thousand lines. Great programming is an art form. When you see it, the first thing you ask yourself is this: Why didn’t I think of that? Just four lines of code can match and outperform 200. When we read a great passage from Shakespeare or Keats, the effect can be the same. They can make the poetry look effortless and inevitable. The same could be said for music. Johann Sebastian Bach, my favorite composer, (in another time and place) would have been a programmer of unrivaled genius. He sets forth his musical ideas with precision and develops them with such a sense of simple inevitability that one could be forgiven for thinking that his music wrote itself.  Bach was God’s sewing machine and his cloth was sound.

What’s so unique about the Linux ecology (and without getting too specific) is the licensing under which the software is circulated. The license requires that anyone can look at the source code. In other words, any programmer is entitled to look at the work of another programmer and, hopefully, tweak and improve the previous programmer’s work. This is a supreme advantage when security issues arise. The openness of the architecture means that anyone — the little kid with a great idea to the computer scientist at CERN — can patch a problem. By way of comparison, all Microsoft software is closed source.  This means that no one — not the curious child, not you, not me, not the computer scientist — can look at  Microsoft’s code. If we tried, we would risk legal reprisals. Such is the case with the brilliant young man, George Hotz, who is presently being sued by Sony. When Sony initially sold their PS3, it was advertised as being Linux capable. This opened a wide world of exploration for kids, teenagers, and even the defense department. Why was the United States government interested in Sony’s PS3? Because it could run Linux. When the natural genius of curious youths opened a pandora’s box of problems for Sony, the corporation forced them and everyone who had already bought the units to disable the Linux functionality of their PS3s. In the meantime, Sony is seeking to brand George Hotz (and the other youths associated with him) as criminals.

The dispute is between the free exchange of ideas, exploration and innovation on the one hand, and a closed, litigious and insular development model on the other. Businesses, justifiably, need to protect their intellectual property. To do so, they’re increasingly using the software patent as a means to assert property rights not just over actual programming but ideas and concepts. (See also here.)

Now, you may be asking yourself, why is a poet talking about software patents on a web site dedicated to poetry? Consider the New York Times article by Scott Turow, Paul Aiken and James Shapiro: Would the Bard Have Survived the Web? You would think, with that kind of firepower, that the authors, one of them teaching Shakespeare at the University level, would have written a more persuasive editorial.

But their editorial doesn’t do justice to the phrase cherry picking. They didn’t just cherry pick, they killed the tree. They draw an analogy between copyright law and a certain kind of Elizabethan “paywall”:

“cultural paywalls” were abundant in London: workers holding moneyboxes (bearing the distinctive knobs found by the archaeologists) stood at the entrances of a growing number of outdoor playhouses, collecting a penny for admission.

Their use of the phrase “cultural paywall” is loaded. They seem to want to imply, without doing the work to support the contention, that the culture (and by that I assume they mean the great poetry and drama that we inherited from the Elizabethans) was only possible because playgoers were forced to pay for content. The analogy, as far as it goes, asserts that the web is a kind of modern day playhouse that lacks a “cultural paywall”. Therefore, no modern day Shakespeare could possibly make a living or “survive the web”.  Fair enough, but their argument is embarrassingly simplistic and glosses over a far more complex relationship among the poets themselves.

For instance, while they credit the very existence of Hamlet to the “cultural paywall”, they completely ignore or are collectively ignorant of the fact that Hamlet was probably a derivative work based on a play by Thomas Kyd. If the copyright laws had been enforced then, as they are today, Kyd would have sued Shakespeare for every nickel he was worth. Hamlet wouldn’t have been possible. In fact, Shakespeare had the reputation, rightly or wrongly, (and early in his career) for being a hack and a plagiarist.

Money changed everything. Almost overnight, a wave of brilliant dramatists emerged, including Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd, Ben Jonson and Shakespeare. These talents and many comparable and lesser lights had found the opportunity, the conditions and the money to pursue their craft.

Yes it did. And if the Elizabethans had anything like our modern laws, money would have kept changing everything. Here’s what Robert Greene, a slightly older playwright, had to say about the young Shakespeare:

‘Base-minded men all three of you, if by my miserie you be not warnd: for unto none of you (like mee) sought those burres to cleave: those Puppets (I meane) that spake from our mouths, those Anticks garnisht in our colours. Is it not strange, that I, to whom they all have beene beholding: is it not like that you, to whom they all have been beholding, shall (were yee in that case as I am now) bee both at once of them forsaken? Yes trust them not: for there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tyger’s hart wrapped in a Player’s hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Iohannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey. O that I might entreate your rare wits to be employed in more profitable courses: & let these Apes imitate your past excellence, and never more acquaint them with your admired inventions.’

Now, this is nothing if not a searing accusation of plagiarism. He refers to Shakespeare as nothing more than an actor, diminishing his role as an author, by calling him a Puppet who does nothing more than use

Robert Greene

the Anticks, the words and phrases, of the authors who have come before — “garnisht in our colours”. In a sense, the actor is the consummate plagiarist. That’s his job. He mouths the words of the author, but don’t confuse the actor with the author, says Greene.

Greene then goes on to prick his target with the point of his quill. There is an upstart Crow, he says, beautified with our feathers. Still don’t know who Greene is talking about? He drops a hint. He is a “Tyger’s hart wrapped in a Player’s hyde”. This is a sly phrase mocking a line  from Shakespeare’s early play Henry VI, part 3: “Oh, tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide.” Evidently, the play and the phrase were well enough known that Greene assumed most literate persons (or playgoers) would recognize Shakespeare as the target. However, Greene’s not taking any chances. He next calls Shakespeare a Iohannes fac totum, a Jack-of-all-trades, who considers himself the only “Shake-scene” in the country. Greene all but removes any doubt as to the target of his barbs.

If only Greene and Kyd had had a modern patent or copyright lawyer. Turow, Aiken and Shapiro can rest assured that, yes, money would have changed everything. Were Kyd and Greene the only playwrights who considered Shakespeare a plagiarist? Probably not. If Sidney hadn’t been killed, he probably would have wondered at the many echoes of his own sonnets in Shakespeare’s sonnets. It’s not unreasonable to wonder whether Shakespeare would have survived our modern legal system, let alone the web. The web would have been the least of it.

But there are more problems with Turow, Aiken and Shapiro’s cherry picking.Their argument dies an ugly death when they write that Elizabethan theater’s end,

came in the mid-17th century, at the outset of a bloody civil war, when authorities ordered the walls pulled down. The regime wasn’t motivated by ideals of open access or illusions of speeding progress. They simply wanted to silence the dramatists, who expressed a wide range of unsettling thoughts to paying audiences within.

I hope the irony of this final paragraph isn’t lost on advocates of free and open exchange. Turow, Aiken, and Shapiro, themselves state that the theaters were closed because the “regime” wasn’t motivated by ideals of “open access or illusions of speeding progress”. Nothing so describes the current attitude of corporations like SONY, Apple or Microsoft. They have no interest in “ideals of open access or illusions of speeding progress”, unless it serves their bottom line. (The censors during the time of Shakespeare, likewise, had little interest in permitting plays that didn’t serve their bottom line: power.) When open access competitively threatens the bottom line of modern corporations, they have shown a willingness to use and abuse current copyright and patent law to criminalize whoever is cramping their wallet.

How does this relate to poetry and literature?

Poets, like composers, borrow from each other. Händel’s organ concertos shamelessly borrow whole lines of music from Telemann’s Tafelmusik (Händel liked and admired Telemann). Mozart shamelessly plagiarized an entire opening melody from JC Bach in one of his piano sonatas — a melody from one of Bach’s piano concertos (Mozart befriended JC Bach while a child). Not only that, but Mozart’s first four piano concertos were all orchestrations of piano

JS Bach by Pascal Moehlmann

sonatas by other composers. Bach rewrote Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater as Psalm 51.  The Elizabethan poets and dramatists were constantly borrowing lines and ideas from each other. Shakespeare, Dekker, Middleton, Jonson, all of them  stole whole passages and ideas from  translators and historians like Holinshed and Thomas North. They stole whole scenes from the Spanish poet, novelist and playwright Miguel de Cervantes. The lost play “Cardenio”, thought to be a collaboration between John Fletcher and Shakespeare, was just such a play. Cervantes died in 1616, the same year as Shakespeare. If Cervantes had had a modern copyright lawyer, and had been aware of all the borrowing, he could have died a litigiously happy man.

What if all this went on today? It does. The performer Vanilla Ice was hit hard by Queen and David Bowie for borrowing something as slight as a base line. Such borrowing is embarrassingly trivial compared to previous eras. Try Googling the words Beatles and plagiarism. Every time a composer wrote a set of variations, and made some money from it, they were infringing another composer’s intellectual property. Beethoven wrote dozens and dozens of variations for quick profit and recognition and almost all of them (but for those based on his own melodies) would presently be considered “infringements”.

The real title of Turow, Aiken and Shapiro’s article should have been: Would the Bard Have Survived the Copyright? 9 out of 10 Shakespeare plays probably would not exist, including Hamlet, the play which the authors hold forth with trembling quill.

Yes, writers and authors need to protect their intellectual property, but there’s more to it. There needs to be a balance. I have put all of my poetry, this editorial, and other writings on the web. I have gotten no money in return. Nothing. On the other hand, if it weren’t for the web, nobody would be able to read my poetry or writing. Though I have sent my poetry to dozens of publishers, my poetry has never been published or accepted by an editor. If it weren’t for the web then the body of work represented by this blog would be unavailable to you. None of my poetry or blog posts would be accessible.

Would I like to earn some money from my effort? Yes.

But the ability to reach a world wide audience, even without remuneration, is also worth something. The fact that I can put my poetry and articles on the web means that other artists will be exposed to it. Maybe it will influence them? What if an artist or another poet borrowed from my writing?


But there’s another side to the coin.

While I want other artists to borrow and be inspired by what I write, there are limits. Some artists and writers issue their works under a Creative Commons License. While I like the principles underlying their licenses, they go too far for a writer like myself. They allow not just the creative reuse of an artist’s work, but allow the wholesale copying and redistribution of that work. Creative Commons claims that their licenses “maximize digital creativity, sharing, and innovation”, but I would dispute that.

If Turow, Aiken, and Shapiro have an argument, it’s that artists like myself ought to be entitled to something. I agree. But where is the balance? I would like Creative Commons to develop a license that would truly encourage creativity and innovation, not just wholesale copying. There’s a difference and the current Creative Commons licenses fail to recognize it, either by choice or because such refinement is beyond the scope of their licenses. That’s too bad. I wish there were a truly creative copyright available to artists like myself.

And that brings me back to Linux, the open source community and software patent law. Programmers are creating their own literature. However, the current software patent law (like copyright law in the arts), threatens to drastically undermine, if not destroy, the spirit of digital creativity, sharing and innovation that created modern computing. If it hadn’t been for Compaq’s reverse engineering of the IBM PC, the course of history would be far different. Ironically, there probably wouldn’t be a Microsoft. Microsoft exists because Compaq dared to reproduce IBM’s BIOS. Their breakthrough allowed any number of business to create PC clones and vastly expanded the market for Microsoft software. Innovation exploded. The burst of creativity is comparable to the burst of poetry and drama during the Elizabethan era.

The doors to the playhouse were a kind of paywall and they were a tremendous boon but they weren’t, in and of themselves, the source and reason for the incredible flowering of literature. Poets and dramatists, though they may have sometimes resented the borrowing, were free to draw from each others work. The genius of the age was made possible by a relatively free and unrestricted exchange of ideas. Marlowe didn’t patent Iambic Pentameter, his “mighty line”.  Sidney, Daniel and Spenser didn’t copyright or patent the sonnet.

If IBM had successfully enforced a patent on their BIOS, nothing would be the same.

Companies like Microsoft, Oracle, SONY and Apple, all in the forefront of software patent abuse, are precisely (and ironically) the companies who benefited the most from the comparative absence of  aggressive and abusive patent enforcement. It should come as no surprise that they are now vigorously (and hypocritically) using patent law to suppress the very opportunities that allowed them to topple IBM. They are our modern IBMs.

Writing software for computers is a creative art. The software that you use everyday is a precise kind of poetry and the computer is its unforgiving audience. I learned to write poetry, in part, by writing for my Apple IIe. I learned to use words efficiently, how to formulate an idea and how to elegantly structure those ideas. The FOSS community, the community from which nearly all Linux and BSD distributions arise, is one where curious children and computer scientists are free to engage their creative talents. To paraphrase Turow, Aiken and Shapiro, they needn’t fear that the “authorities” will order “the walls pulled down”; but the abusive use of patent law threatens to change all that. No individual in the FOSS community has the wherewithal to fight a corporation’s patent lawsuit; and with the alarming proliferation of trivial and over-broad patents, the odds of unintentional infringement increase exponentially. Patent abuse could strangle the FOSS community. They know that corporations aren’t “motivated by ideals of open access or illusions of speeding progress.” They know that, in many cases, for profit businesses would simply prefer to silence their competition, good and bad, worried by “a wide range of unsettling” innovations.

Would a modern Shakespeare survive in our current legal climate? I doubt it.

Though there are limits to such parallels, the current world of art, music and literature has lost much because of overly litigious and legalistic copyright enforcement. A movie like Sita Sings the Blues is breaking copyright law. If Nina Paley, the creator of Sita, had strictly followed the dictates of copyright law she could not have afforded to create her movie. And that would be a tremendous loss to our culture. Correction: Nina Paley writes:

Sita Sings the Blues is in complete compliance with copyright regulations. I was forced to pay $50,000 in license fees and another $20,000 in legal costs to make it so. That is why I am in debt.  My compliance with copyright law is by no means an endorsement of it. Being $70,000 in the hole reminds me daily what an ass the law is. The film is legal, and that legality gives me a higher moral ground to stamp my feet upon as I denounce the failure that is copyright.

Check here for the full explanation. You can be fairly certain that Shakespeare, were he alive today, would suffer much the same fate despite the posturing of Turow, Aiken and Shapiro. How many works of art have not been produced because of these very constraints?

In a similar vein, a balance needs to struck as regards software patent law. Behemoths like Apple, SONY and Microsoft are increasingly using and threatening to use patent law as a bludgeon. They greatly threaten the free exchange of ideas, innovation and creativity. Bad patents can be trivial. They can be “an idea” rather than an actual piece of code. This means that even if a company hasn’t written software, they can sue a programmer who has, simply because the programmer’s idea was similar.

By analogy, the equivalent would be if a poet patented a rhyme like red and bed.

Any other poet to use this rhyme would be violating intellectual property. Yes, software patents, apparently, really can be that trivial. If IBM had pursued the idea of the BIOS under patent law, COMPAQ could not have reverse engineered the IBM PC.

If I have an argument to make it’s that there is little difference between creating software and the creation of poetry, novels, plays or music. A balance needs to be struck. Software is its own literature.  There should be some degree of protection but also an allowance for creativity and innovation. A patent or copyright, as Turow, Aiken and Shapiro would have it, can be thought of as a paywall, but abuse can turn these paywalls into the very opposite of a “cultural paywall”. They can easily stifle and kill a culture’s creative impulse. It’s this fact which the authors overlook, either deliberately or through ignorance when they vastly oversimplify Shakespeare and the abrupt closure of England’s 17th century playhouses.

I’m a believer in the free exchange of ideas for the purposes of art, creativity and true innovation.

Nearly all of my poetry is here, published on the web and free.

All my articles are free.

Greene, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson and Middleton all thrived because there was a balance, if at times uncomfortable, between what was considered private and public. While they might have resented some forms of plagiarism and the unauthorized distribution of their plays, they also benefited from the same. If there was one place where Shakespeare would currently survive, it would be the one place most like the free-for-all that characterized the Elizabethan notion of intellectual property: The Web.

Who knows, maybe Shakespeare would have a blog.

And it would be a good one.



Vermont Poetry Newsletter July 16 2009

[The Vermont Poetry Newsletter is not issued by me but by Ron Lewis, by whose permission I post this.]

Vermont Poetry Newsletter

Your Poetry & Spoken Word Gateway in the Green Mountain State

July 16, 2009 – In This Issue:

  1. About VPN/How To Print
  2. Newsletter Editor’s Note
  3. Writing Assignments/Suggestions/Exercises/Prompts
  4. Poems By Dawn Potter
  5. An Interview With Dawn Potter
  6. The Poetry of Science
  7. Slam Poetry Books In The New York Times
  8. Is Slam In Danger Of Going Soft?
  9. League of Vermont Writers Meeting 7/25
  10. Cleave Poetry, A New Poetic Form
  11. Digital-Poet-In-Residence
  12. The United States of Poetry
  13. Peter Cook, A Deaf Poetics
  14. Meetinghouse, NH Readings (Note Change)
  15. Robert Frost Farm Fund
  16. Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference –
  17. Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House
  18. Poetry Workshop: 001
  19. Interview With Kathryn Stripling Byer
  20. Book Review: Darwin By Tony Lopez
  21. Interview With Ron Silliman
  22. Book King Readings
  23. Did You Know? Table Of Forms (Poetic Techniques)
  24. Ponderings – The Marginalization of Poetry
  25. Poetry Quote (James Dickey)
  26. US Poets Laureate List
  27. Failbetter Poem
  28. Linebreak Poem
  29. Copper Canyon Press Poem
  30. American Life in Poetry Poems (2)
  31. Vermont Poet Laureates
  32. Contact Info for Publisher of VPN: Ron Lewis
  33. Vermont Literary Journals
  34. State Poetry Society (PSOV)
  35. Year-Round Poetry Workshops in Vermont
  36. Other Poetry Workshops in Vermont
  37. Year-Round Poetry Writing Centers in Vermont
  38. Poetry Event Calendar



About the Vermont Poetry Newsletter Network

The Vermont Poetry Newsletter Network is made up of people of all backgrounds, ages and skills who appreciate the craft of poetry and want to promote it in the beautiful state of Vermont. The network consists of a free e-mail list, an eventual web site, workshops, open mics, poetry performances and other literary events.  The network provides opportunities to meet local poets, talk about and enjoy poetry, and motivate and inspire yourself in whatever writing projects you are involved.

About Printing the VPN, or select pages:

Note: I don’t expect many of you will take the time (and paper/ink!) to print out the Vermont Poetry Newsletter in its entirety, but there are some of you that do.  Warning, each VPN can be 45-90+ pages long!  If you want to print out a certain page or two, then you can always take that route as well.  To do so, go to File, Print, Preview.  Then, find the pages that you’re interested in printing, then select Cancel.  Go again to File, Print, then type in that page or pages you’re interested in printing, then Print.  A second way to go about it is to open the VPN, highlight the area you want, go to Edit, Copy, then Paste it into an already opened Word document.



Dear Friends of Poetry:

I took part a week ago in one of the finest poetry readings in Vermont, ever (since Nov. 3rd, 2006, when accomplished Vermont poets, inspired to give personal expression to the threat of climate change, met at Northshire Bookstore in Manchester)!  Headlined by Paul Muldoon, there were such fine poets as Gary Margolis, David Huddle, Ray Hudson, David Weinstock, Paige Ackerson-Kiely, Leonard Gibbs, Mary Pratt, and more!  Half the Vermont Bookstore was standing-room only!  It was a true privilege to read in front of such a large crowd, and to friends of poetry.  That all poets could feel the power of such words, such community!

Ron Lewis
VPN Publisher




Writing Prompt (July 16)

Click on the image for the current writing prompt.



Poems by Dawn Potter

  • On August 9th, you will have an opportunity to hear Dawn Potter read her poetry in Shoreham!  Along with her, Dawn’s mother will also be reading her own poetry!  Don’t miss this double treat.  Here are examples of Dawn’s work.  Below, I’ve also placed a poem written by her mother, Janice Miller Potter.

Dawn Potter - Three Poems

Psalm for Appalachia
By Janice Miller Potter

Turning shifts for decades, he left a chair by the door
where he tied and untied the broken laces in his boots.

The pencil-marked white table hosts his dinner bucket
whose lid should clank it another dent, whose waxed

paper is balled up for the garbage. But he’s left that.
Damp as dug coal, the night has hauled out hard scrabble.

Shirring and bounding, crickets clear weeds and grass.
A moth-eaten beam passes over the room and shatters

the table and the ladderback chair, coal-stained as a lung.
In the skillet, soot marls the sickly white bacon grease

left for a supper of fried eggs which never break.
Nobody is coming back. Nobody is ever coming back.

[from the chapbook Psalms in Time (Finishing Line Press, 2008)]



An Interview with Dawn Potter
Dawn Potter lives and writes in rural Maine with her husband and two sons, teaches poetry, and chops her own firewood. The SR recently caught up with Dawn to discuss her work with Milton, literary influences, and the pains and triumphs of writing.

Sewanee Review

Click on Image to read the Interview.

A Second Interview with Dawn Potter!!

Potter Second Interview

  • Potter is one of several poets taking part in the Frost Place conference on Poetry and Teaching from June 30th to the Fourth of July in Franconia, NH. For more info visit the Frost Place website:

Frost Place Interview with Potter



The Poetry of Science
NY Times, July 15, 2009

NY Times Poetry is Science



Slam Poetry Books in the New York Times
By Joe Kraynak

NY Times Poetry Slam Books



Is Slam in Danger of Going Soft?
By Larry Rohter
NY Times
June 2, 2009

NY Times Slam Going Soft



League of Vermont Writers

“Writing on the Lake”

July 25, 2009 – LVW July Meeting

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
Vergennes, Vermont

with Kate Messner – “You Had to Be There…But What If You Weren’t?”
and Daniel Lusk – “Lake Studies: Meditations on Lake Champlain”

10:15 am – 2:15 pm

Register here (only $23 for non-members): http://www.leaguevtwriters.org/July09meetingregistration.pdf





What is Cleave Poetry?

What is Cleave Poetry




The Bowery Poetry Club is pleased to announce our first Digital-Poet-in-Residence-

Dr. Christopher Funkhouser

Over the next year BPC will commission a series of digital poems. These poems will reside in the front window of the BPC. As part our new media outreach BPC has installed a digital display to bring cut-edge digital poems to the Bowery.

Click here to see Dr. Funkhouser’s commissioned poem.

Dr. Christopher Funkhouser is a poet, scholar, and multimedia artist who teaches in the Humanities Department at New Jersey Institute of Technology. A leading researcher in the developing genre of digital poetry, Funkhouser was a Visiting Fulbright Scholar at Multimedia University in Cyberjaya, Malaysia, in 2006; in 2007 he was on the faculty of the summer writing program at Naropa University. He is a member of the scientific review committee of the digital literature journal regards croises, based at Universite Paris 8, and has produced and edited many online and printed publications, including an early Internet-based poetry magazine, (We 17, 1993), the first literary journal on CD-ROM in the United States (The Little Magazine, Vol. 21, 1995), and ConVERSations with Nathaniel Mackey (1999). Since 1986 he has been an editor with We Press, with whom he has produced poetry in a variety of media.

Funkhouser is author of a major documentary study Prehistoric Digital Poetry: An Archaeology of Forms, 1959-1995, published in the Modern and Contemporary Poetics Series at University of Alabama Press (2007). A bi-lingual collection of his creative and critical writings, Technopoetry Rising: Essays and Works, which includes a CD-ROM of electronic artwork, is forthcoming in Brazil. The Faculty of Creative Multimedia at Multimedia University issued Selections 2.0, an eBook (CD-ROM) of his writings and artwork (Malaysia, 2006). His critical work and creative work is widely published, and he has lectured in numerous countries, including France, Great Britain, Brazil, Thailand, and Singapore.

For more info see:
http://web.njit.edu/~funkhous (homepage)
http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Funkhouser.html (PennSound)
http://www.wepress.org (We Press)
http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/funkhouser/ (Electronic Poetry Center)
http://www.trickhouse.org/vol1/sound/chrisfunkhouser.html (book review: not a b (pdp remix)
http://web.njit.edu/~funkhous/prehistoric.html (Prehistoric Digital Poetry)
http://www.myspace.com/2007eleven (Myspace)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Funkhouser (Wikipedia)




Sounds kinda’ funky, doesn’t it?  But worth a little of your time to explore: http://www.worldofpoetry.org/usop/



This is also the site that I learned of Peter Cook:

  • PETER COOK is the most astonishing poet “writing” in American Sign Language today. Of course, for Peter the poem is composed “on” (in? through?) his body, where prepositions fail. For those who cannot speak (read?) sign, his language appears as an amalgam of gesture, dance, and almost-mimed theatrics. With the overlay of the (unspoken) language of the deaf, Peter’s performance becomes a metaphor for “The United States of Poetry”: giving voice to those who have not been heard. A native of Rochester, New York, Peter now lives in Chicago, where he teaches ASL Literature in high schools and acts in Deaf Theater.

A Deaf Poetics

Part I: A Poem

AboutPoetry Deaf Poetry Part 1

Part II: An interview with ASL/deaf poet Peter Cook

AboutPoetry Deaf Poetry Part 2

Part III

AboutPoetry Part III

Poetry is out of hand for masters of signing
From: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – Rochester,NY,USA – Jan 29, 2005

Words alone can’t convey what they have to say
Greg Livadas 
Staff writer
Poetry is Out of Hands



  • I usually don’t promote poetry events happening outside Vermont, but I find the following exceptional, and within an easy drive outside our state’s boundaries.

PLEASE NOTE: A Change for July 16th – Cleopatra Mathis is taking the place of Robert Pinsky.

2009 Meetinghouse Readings
Canaan, NH
Canaan Meeting House
Canaan Street & Roberts Road

Thursday, July 9, 2009
7:30 pm Pamela Harrison and Tracy Winn
Canaan Meeting House (Canaan Street & Roberts Road)
Author Reading & Book Signing
Canaan, NH
Phone: 603.523.9650
Info: http://www.meetinghouse.us/

Thursday, July 16, 2009
7:30 pm Cleopatra Mathis and Elinor Lipman
Canaan Meeting House (Canaan Street & Roberts Road)
Author Reading & Book Signing
Canaan, NH
Phone: 603.523.9650
Info: http://www.meetinghouse.us/

Thursday, July 23, 2009
7:30 pm W.E. Butts and Paul Tremblay
Canaan Meeting House (Canaan Street & Roberts Road)
Author Reading & Book Signing
Canaan, NH
Phone: 603.523.9650
Info: http://www.meetinghouse.us/

Thursday, July 30, 2009
7:30 pm April Ossmann and Ha Jin
Canaan Meeting House (Canaan Street & Roberts Road)
Author Reading & Book Signing
Canaan, NH
Phone: 603.523.9650.  Info: http://www.meetinghouse.us/



Robert Frost Farm Fund

College establishes Frost-related funds 
to maintain farm, support writer in residence

Frost Farm Fund



Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference

The Conference will take place from Wednesday, August 12, to Sunday, August 23.

Bread Loaf Writer's Conference

Clicking on link will open a PDF file.



Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House

“The Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House at NYU has proved to be the loveliest of boons to the New York literary community at large. It is a total delight to be there. The intimacy of the place combines with the fervor of literary enthusiasm, and the result is both charming and nourishing.”
-Alice Quinn, Executive Director of the Poetry Society of America

Lillian Vernon Writer's House



  • Here’s a nice piece of work, showing how critiquing a poem works, how a poem gets rewritten.

Poetry Workshop: 001
Posted by Robert Lee Brewer

Poetry 101



  • This is a particularly nice piece, talking about the “literary community” of a state, something the VPN has tried to bring to Vermont.

Interview with poet Kathryn Stripling Byer
Posted by Robert Lee Brewer

Interview with KS Byer




By Tony Lopez

Silliman Reviews Darwin



Ron Silliman Interview (1985)
Modern American Poetry

Interview with Ron S

Ron Silliman has written and edited over 30 books to date. Silliman was the 2006 Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere, a 2003 Literary Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts and was a 2002 Fellow of the Pennsylvania Arts Council as well as a Pew Fellow in the Arts in 1998. He lives in Chester County, Pennsylvania, with his wife and two sons, and works as a market analyst in the computer industry.



Poetry Readings Resume at The Book King, Center Street, Rutland

The Book King is returning to having public poetry readings, to be held on the last Friday of each month, at 6:00 p.m.  The next reading will be on July 31st.  There will be flyers at the Book King counter.

Please contact me (Ron Lewis – vtpoet@gmail.com) if you’d like to read; we need readers!

The theme is:


Poets and listeners will be checked at the door for happy poetry.



Did You Know?

Table of Forms

FITZPATRICK-O’DINN, Dominique. Table of Forms. Urbana: Spineless Books, 2006. Bridging the sonnet and palindrome through a rich taxonomy of new literary forms, Table of Forms is a collection of experimental, ludic, constraint-driven poetry; a puzzle book; and a writing manual. Dominique Fitzpatrick-O’Dinn and her skilled team of collaborators have created the most comprehensive survey of noncanonical poetic techniques since the Oulipo Compendium. Offering myriad reading paths, this multisequential anthology includes a Table of Contents, Table of Forms, Glossary of Forms, and a matrix on the back cover.




And now for a Rosetta Stone in the language writing movement:

By Ron Silliman
The Marginalization of Poetry by Bob Perelman

marginalization of poetry



“Poetry lies in order to tell the truth.”

Poetry Quote by James Dickey



Poets Laureate of the U.S.A.

  • A Net-annotated list of all the poets who have served the Library of Congress as Consultant (the old title) or Poet Laureate Consultant (the new title). Biographies & general reference sites are linked to the poets’ names — for the recent Laureates these are our own poet profiles with book-buying links at the bottom. Many of the other linked biographies are pages from the Academy of American Poets’ Find a Poet archive, a growing & invaluable resource. If there is no general information site about the poet, we have searched the Net for sample poems or other writings or recordings & listed those below the poet’s name.



Black Roses
by Karen Rigby

Black Roses

failbetter.com is an online journal that publishes original works of fiction, poetry and art



  • Linebreak is an online journal with a bias for good poetry. Here is a poem from their web site this week:

This week’s poem from Linebreak

If There’s Nothing You Need
by Adam Houle

If there's nothing you need



Richard Jones


The Blessing



American Life in Poetry: Column 224


When we’re young, it seems there are endless possibilities for lives we might lead, and then as we grow older and the opportunities get fewer we begin to realize that the life we’ve been given is the only one we’re likely to get. Here’s Jean Nordhaus, of the Washington, D.C. area, exploring this process.

Column 224


American Life in Poetry: Column 225


There have been many poems written in which a photograph is described in detail, and this one by Margaret Kaufman, of the Bay Area in California, uses the snapshot to carry her further, into the details of memory.

Column 225


American Life in Poetry provides newspapers and online publications with a free weekly column featuring contemporary American poems. The sole mission of this project is to promote poetry: American Life in Poetry seeks to create a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture.




1) Robert Frost – 1961
2) Galway Kinnell
3) Louis Glück
4) Ellen Bryant Voigt
5) Grace Paley
6) Ruth Stone



If you ever have a need to contact me, here’s how to go about doing so:

Ronald Lewis:
Phone: 802-247-5913
Cell: 802-779-5913
Home: 1211 Forest Dale Road, Brandon, VT 05733
Email: vtpoet@gmail.com




1) The Queen City Review

Burlington College’s  The Queen City Review is a yearly journal of art and literature and accepts the work of new and established writers and artists in the areas of poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, memoir, photography, and fine art, as well as essays and criticism on all aspects of the aforementioned. They seek to publish high quality work that ranges broadly in topic and genre.

The Queen City Review can be purchased by 2-year subscription or individually.  The price of one issue is $8 plus shipping charges ($1) for a total of $9.  Subscriptions can be purchased for #$14 plus shipping charges $2) and includes the Fall 2008 and upcoming 2009 issues.  They accept cash, check, and credit cards.  You can mail your payment to them or by calling (802) 862-9616 ext. 234 to place your order over the phone.  If mailing your payment, mail details to:

ATTN: Heidi Berkowitz
Burlington College
95 North Avenue
Burlington, VT  05401

2) Bloodroot

Bloodroot is a nonprofit literary magazine dedicated to publishing diverse voices through the adventure of poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction.  Their aim is to provide a platform for the free-spirited emerging and established writer.

The price of a single issue is $8.

Editor, “Do” Roberts
Bloodroot Literary Magazine
PO Box 322
Thetford Center, VT  05075
(802) 785-4916
email: bloodroot@wildblue.net

3) New England Review

A publication of Middlebury College, a high quality literary magazine that continues to uphold its reputation for publishing extraordinary, enduring work.  NER has been publishing now for over 30 years.

Cost: $8 for a single issue
$30 for a single year (4 issues)
$50 for two years (8 issues)

New England Review
Attn: Orders
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753

(800) 450-9571

4) Willard & Maple

A Literary and Fine Art Magazine of Champlain College, Burlington.

Willard & Maple
163 South Willard Street
Freeman 302, Box 34
Burlington, VT  05401

email: willardandmaple@champlain.edu

5) Vermont Literary Review

A Literary and Fine Art Magazine of Castleton State College, Castleton.

The first issue of Vermont Literary Review was published in 1994. The review is published once a year. Work featured in the review includes poetry, fiction, drama, and personal essays from and about New England.

From its inception until 2006, students and professors reviewed the work submitted and selected work to be published. They used to jointly edit and design the review as well. After a brief lapse, the Vermont Literary Review has resumed publication in 2008 as a journal edited and designed solely by English Department faculty. The Literary Club, which used to help create this journal, is now putting out a publication of student work.

Vermont Literary Review receives funding from Castleton State College, Castleton, Vermont.


Vermont Literary Review invites creative work from and about New England. Poetry, fiction, drama, and personal essays should not exceed 4,000 words. All submissions must be postmarked between September 30 and March 31. Include SASE. Payment: two copies. Vermont Literary Review, Department of English, Castleton State College, Castleton, VT 05735. Editor is Flo Keyes. No simultaneous submissions. Submissions will not be returned unless SASE with adequate postage is included. Authors will be notified by mail and/or e-mail. Electronic submissions are not acceptable.

Purchasing Information
Current issues are available for $8.00 plus shipping. Shipping is $1.50 for 1 copy, $2.25 for two copies, $4.00 for 3-5 copies, and $5.00 for 6-10 copies. Checks should be made out to Castleton State College, but Vermont Literary Review should be noted somewhere on the check.

Vermont Literary Review
Department of English
Castleton State College
6 Alumni Drive
Castleton, VT  05735

Editor: Flo Keyes, (802) 468-6049
email: vir@castleton.edu

6) Green Mountains Review

A Literary and Fine Art Magazine of Johnson State College, Johnson; in publication since 1987.

The Green Mountains Review is an international journal publishing poems, stories, and creative nonfiction by both well-known authors and promising newcomers.  The magazine also features interviews, literary criticism, and book reviews.  Neil Shepard is the general editor and poetry editor of the Green Mountains Review.  The fiction editor is Leslie Daniels.

The editors are open to a wide range of styles and subject matter. If you would like to acquaint yourself with some of the work that we have accepted in the past, then we encourage you to order some of our back issues here. The following is a short list of writers of varying styles who have published in Green Mountains Review: Julia Alvarez, Robert Bly, Charles Bernstein, Charles Bukowski, Hayden Carruth, Stephen Dobyns, Mark Doty, Carol Emshwiller, Linda Gregg, Donald Hall, Michael Harper, Yusef Komunyakaa, Maxine Kumin, Phillip Lopate, Heather McHugh, William Matthews, Valerie Miner, Naomi Shihab Nye, Sharon Olds, Mary Oliver, Molly Peacock, Robert Pinsky, Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Ntozake Shange, Reginald Shepard, Alix Kates Shulman, Gary Soto, Debra Spark, David St. John, Gladys Swan, James Tate, Walter Wetherell, Meredith Sue Willis, and Charles Wright.

There have been several special issues: one devoted to Vermont fiction writers, a second called Women, Community and Narrative Voice featuring short stories by women, a third filled with new writing from the People’s Republic of China, and another devoted to multicultural writing in America.  Our 10th anniversary double-issue surveyed the state of American poetry at the end of the millennium, our fall 1999 issue featured works of literary ethnography and our 15th anniversary issue, also a double-issue, featured comedy in contemporary American poetry. Our 20th anniversary issue, Literature of the American Apocalypse features poems and prose, darkly comic or deadly serious, that centers on American dread, inspired by everything from the current Administration’s war on terror and war on privacy, to continuing threats of environmental degradation, nuclear annihilation, world-ravaging disease, corruptions of culture and language, takeover by clones and computers, natural disasters that some say are caused by global warming and others say are acts of an angry god, or whatever else can be imagined by an end-of-days mind.

Subscriptions to the Green Mountains Review are $16.50 for one year (includes postage within the U.S.A.).  For Mexico and Canada, please add $2 per issue. For an overseas subscription, please add $7 per issue for shipping.

Green Mountains Review
Johnson State College
337 College Hill
Johnson, VT  05656

email: GMR@jsc.edu

7) Burlington Poetry Journal

The Burlington Poetry Journal is a new nonprofit publication interested in creating a means for provoking opinions, ideas, and thoughtful responses for poets in the Greater Burlington area. While there are numerous outlets for writers to gather and share privately in Vermont, there is no publication that brings together poetry of all styles and writers of all ages for the enjoyment of the general public. It is our hope that this journal will inspire writers to share their work with others who may be unaware of their talent, and for those who have never considered themselves writers to try their hand at poetry. We invite you to submit your work and share with others your thoughts and abilities with the Burlington community. The work you share will produce a dialogue as writers become aware of each other and begin to expose themselves and others to new poetry. The eclectic nature of the Burlington Poetry Journal will serve to stimulate its readers and authors.



Poetry Society of Vermont

The Poetry Society of Vermont, founded in 1947, is an association of poets and supporters who join in promoting an interest in poetry through meetings, workshops, readings, contests, and contributions to the society’s chapbook. Anyone may join the society including high school and college students and non-residents of Vermont. We welcome both writers and appreciative readers.

In September 2007, The Poetry Society of Vermont will celebrated its 60th Anniversary.

Membership in PSOV


  • 2 luncheon/ workshops a year where a professional poet critiques your poems
  • one hands- on writing workshop and reading under the direction of a professional poet
  • the opportunity to enter contests judged by professional poets and to win awards
  • fellowship with appreciative readers and writers of poetry
  • opportunity for publication in the PSOV chapbook, The Mountain Troubadour

How to join:

  • mail dues of $20.00 to Membership Chairman, P.O. Box 1215, Waitsfield, VT 05673
  • include your name, mailing address, telephone, and e-mail address for Membership List
  • memberships are renewed by January 1 of each year

The PSOV has 2 current books available for sale:

1) The Mountain Troubadour – 2008 – Curl up with 44 pages of interesting, award-winning poetry from a wonderful group of poets.  This book is only $8 (+$1 to mail).  To get yourself a copy, call or write to Betty Gaechter, 134 Hitzel Terrace, Rutland, VT 05701, 773-8679.  This little booklet may be just the thing to get you involved with the PSOV for a lifetime of friendships.

2) Brighten the Barn – 60th Anniversary Anthology – 1947-2007 – An Anthology of Poems by Members of the Poetry Society of Vermont.  99 pages of quality poetry; that’s a lot of beautiful poetry for only $12.  If you get it through me (Ron Lewis), it’s only $12.  If you want it shipped to you, the PSOV wants an extra amount to cover tax and shipping ($0.72 + $3.00).  This book retails for $15, but a reduced price is now in play to unload the few remaining copies.





1) Great River Arts Institute – See details elsewhere in this newsletter

2) Poetry Workshop at Village Square Booksellers with Jim Fowler (no relation to owner Pat).  The goal of this course is to introduce more people to the art of writing poetry and will include a discussion of modern poetry in various forms and styles. Each week, the course will provide time to share and discuss participant’s poetry. Poetry Workshops on Monday mornings (9:30-12:30 I believe)- Jim Fowler’s sessions continue, with periodic break for a few weeks between sessions.  Students should bring a poem and copies to the first class. The course will be limited to 5 to 8 students to allow adequate time to go through everyone’s poetry contributions and will meet in the cafe at Village Square Booksellers. James Fowler, of Charlestown, New Hampshire, has a Masters Degree in Environmental Science with a major in Nature Writing. He was the editor of Heartbeat of New England, a poetry anthology. Fowler has been widely published since 1998 in such journals as Connecticut Review, Quarterly of Light Verse, and Larcom Review. Fowler is a founding member of the River Voices Writer’s Circle, and a regular reader at Village Square Booksellers-River Voices Poetry Readings. The fee for this 6 week Workshop is $100, payable to Mr. Fowler at the first class. Pre-registration for the Poetry Workshop is suggested and may be made by calling Village Square Booksellers at 802-463-9404 or by email at vsbooks@sover.net or  jfowler177@comcast.net.

3) InkBlot Complex Poetry Workshop runs through the Vermont Independent Media’s Media Mentoring Project and is held at the Rockingham Public Library at 65 Westminster Street in Bellows Falls.  No previous writing or journalism experience or even class attendance is required.  Participants are invited to bring a project or share successful techniques.  The workshop aims to lift poetry from the page and reveal how it is a living force in daily life.  Originally taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago to great acclaim, its interactive nature and inclusion of multiple art forms leaves dry, academic notions of poetry behind.  It functions through three tenets: 1) Presentation of the art form as a living element of our daily world, 2) individualized, personal enrichment and free range of expression for each student, and 3) artistic ecultivation through unexpected means.  Taught by seasoned arts journalist, cultural critic and poet Clara Rose Thornton, this free event explores the poetry we encounter all around us – in songs we hear, the ways we express ourselves, even the advertisements we see.  In the final session students then create their own works with an increased sense of connection to the way words construct meaning.  All materials are provided.  Instructor Clara Rose Thornton is an internationally published film, wine and visual arts critic, music journalist, poet and former book and magazine editor.  Her writings on culture and the arts have appeared nationally in Stop Smiling: The Magazine for High-Minded Lowlifes, Honest Tune: The American Journal of Jam and Time Out Chicago.  Currently residing in an artists’ colony in Windham County, she acts as the biweekly arts columnist for the Rutland herald, staff writer for Southern Vermont Arts && Living and a regular contributor to The Commons.  A portfolio, bio and roster of writing and editing services can be found at http://www.clararosethornton.com.  For more information about the Media Mentoring Project, visit http://www.commonsnews.org or call 246-6397.  You can also write to Vermont Independent Media at P.O. Box 1212, Brattleboro, VT 05302.


The Wayside Poets, who share their poetry publicly from time to time, have been meeting irregularly for the past 25 years.  They used to be called The Academy Street Poets.  Membership is by invitation only.  They meet now at the Wayside Restaurant & Bakery in Berlin.  Members include Diane Swan, Sherry Olson, Carol Henrikson and Sarah Hooker.  You can contact them through Sherry Olson at: solsonvt@aol.com or 454-8026.


The Guilford Poets Guild, formed in 1998, meets twice a month to critique and support each other’s work.  Their series of sponsored readings by well-known poets which began at the Dudley Farm, continues now at the Women and Family Life Center.


The Otter Creek Poets offer a poetry workshop every Thursday afternoon, from 1:00 to 3:00 in the basement meeting room of the Ilsley Public Library, 75 Main Street, Middlebury.  This workshop, the largest and oldest of its kind in the state, has been meeting weekly for 13 years.  Poets of all ages and styles come for peer feedback, encouragement, and optional weekly assignments to get the poetry flowing.  Bring a poem or two to share (plus 20 copies).  The workshops are led by David Weinstock.  There is considerable parking available behind the library, or further down the hill below that parking lot.  For more information, call David at 388-6939 or Ron Lewis at 247-5913.


This group meets on the first Sunday of every month at the Norwich Library, 6:30 p.m.


There is another poetry workshop happening in Stowe, but unfortunately I know nothing much about this group.  If you do, contact me!


The Mad River Poets consists of a handful of poets from the Route 100 corridor.  More on this group in the future.





Scribes in the making put pen to paper as part of an open verse-writing session at the Fletcher Free Library, 235 College Street.  Three consecutive Thursdays, starting January 8, 2009, 5:00-6:00 p.m.  Free.  Contact information: 862-1094.


The Writer’s Center
58 Main Street, White River Junction, Vermont

Instructor: April Ossmann (author of Anxious Music, Four Way Books, 2007, writing, editing and publishing consultant, and former Executive Director of Alice James Books)

Info: (802)333-9597 or aprilossmann@hotmail.com and http://www.aprilossmann.com


Revived for the 2009 academic year is the InkBlot Complex Poetry Workshop, designed for upper-elementary and high-school-age students, grades 7-12. The curriculum functions through three tenets:

·     Innovative presentation of the art form as a living element of our daily world
·     Individualized, personal enrichment and free range of expression for each student
·     Artistic cultivation through unexpected means

The workshop debuted at the University of Illinois at Chicago, during a three-week summer program, entitled Project C.H.A.N.C.E., for underprivileged sophomore and senior students from area high schools. It was a fantastic success, and the program director requested its return. With this encouragement, I decided to expand and adapt the workshop for various age levels, as an educational/arts supplement for after-school programs and enrichment programs and an arts elective for more traditional academic settings. The response has been wonderful.

The curriculum is designed for a six-week duration, with one class held per week, per age group. The InkBlot Complex Poetry Workshop can be tailored to your program’s needs. It is especially conducive to schools with a progressive, child-centered philosophy. Please view the synopsis below.


A) Duration of Workshop: 6 weeks (also available as a 3-week session); one 1-hour class each week

B) Classes 1 and 2: Presentation of poetry as a force in our everyday lives, as opposed to it being a dry notion that people are forced to study in schools and think of as separated from their lives and reality. Poetry is in the music we hear, the stories we read, even the advertisements we see. These introductory segments aim to bring poetry off of the page and show how it is a lot closer to the students’ lives than they may realize. These segments serve as a way to introduce poetry by connecting it to things students are already familiar with and enjoy.

Classes 3 and 4: The study of two songs’ lyrics as poetry. I choose two songs of very differing genres, and have copies of the lyrics printed out for each pupil. Without the class being told what the songs are, their titles, or who they are performed by, we study them for meaning and expression, and the way the meaning is expressed through words. Studying them anonymously, without the connotation or attachment of what the songs may mean popularly, lets us focus on the fact that it is poetry and study how the words and metaphors are connected. At the end of class four, we listen to each song, and the students can compare what they’d imagined about the sound in their minds purely from the words, to the actual song.

Class 5: Each student creates his or her own poem, and I collect them at the end.

Class 6: I return students’ poems with any corrections for grammar and spelling and work with anyone who has questions, so that students can gain a better grasp of written expression. Then, volunteers read their poem aloud, and we discuss them as a class–what the poet was trying to express, and the unique route to that expression that he or she took–to gain better understanding of the art form and allow it to become a personal experience.

C) Instructor Fee: $600 (or $300 for 3-week session)

If you are interested in having the InkBlot Complex Poetry Workshop taught at your school or program, please, get in touch.  (802) 275-7799, clara@inkblotcomplex.com, http://www.clararosethornton.com.

  • Note: If you know of any others, or have personal information about the workshop in Stowe and Guilford, please send me that information.  I realize that there are several smaller groups or workshops around the state.  However, because of their intimacy, they are not posted above, allowing them to offer “memberships” to close friends or acquaintances that they feel would be most appropriate.





The Burlington Writer’s Group (BWG) meets on Tuesday evenings from 7-9 PM and has a new home at the Unitarian Church in the church’s little white house off of Clark St., 2nd floor. They’d like to let people know and also invite anyone interested to join them whenever folks are in town or as often as they’d like.

The Burlington Writer’s Group is a free drop-in group. They decide on a prompt and write for 20 minutes, followed by a go-around reading. They can usually get in two writes depending on group size. All genres and experience levels are welcome and there really are no rules other than demonstrating courtest while people are writing (don’t interrupt).  They don’t do much critiquing though some spontaneous reactions occur. Mainly it’s good practice to just show up and write for 40 minutes and share the writing, if so inclined…


A Writer’s Group has started to meet at the Springfield Town Library on the fourth Monday of each month, from 7 to 8 pm.  For more information, call 885-3108.


The Writer’s Center is for serious writers and nervous beginners. It’s for procrastinators who could benefit from regular deadlines – and for the prolific who could benefit from quality feedback. It’s for anyone with a manuscript hidden in a drawer, or a life story or poem waiting to be written. It’s for people who don’t know where to start or how to end. And for writers who are doing just fine on their own, but would like the company of other writers.  The Writer’s Center is for anyone who is writing or wants to write.  One of the Center’s consultants is April Ossman (www.aprilossmann.com).  Founded by Joni B. Cole and Sarah Stewart Taylor, the Writer’s Center offers instruction and inspiration through a selection of workshops, discussions, and community. We would love to see you – and your writing – at The Writer’s Center!  For more info, http://www.thewriterscenterwrj.com/.


Women Writing for (a) Change supports the authentic experience of women who honor themselves through creative writing.  Our community supports reflection as we move into our questions and awaken to change.  Participants enhance expressive skills, strengthen their voices, deepen themselves as women as writers for positive change in all spheres of life.  Creative writing in all genres is our shared vehicle.  Women Writing for (a) Change is for women who, 1) dream of writing for self-discovery, for personal or social healing, 2) hunger for creative process in their lives, 3) yearn to explore their feminine voice, 4) crave reflective, space, and 5) are in transition.  For more information, go to their web site at http://www.womenwritingVT.com/ or contact Sarah Bartlett at either 899-3772 or sarah@womenwritingvt.com.



Poetry Event


  • Below please find the most current list of poetry happenings in Vermont for the near future.  Please be aware that these events can be found on Poetz.com, but there is usually additional information that is typed here that would be cumbersome to place on Poetz.com.  Please note all events are Vermont-based unless they are of extreme importance or happen to lie just outside our borders.  If you would like to save on paper and ink, please just highlight what you need, or perhaps only events for the coming month, and print that information.

Thu, Jul 16: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, 8:00 p.m.  Poet Michael Ryan. Michael Ryan has published three collections of poetry, including In Winter, Threats Instead of Trees, has been a finalist for the National Book Award, and God Hunger, as well as A Difficult Grace: On Poets, Poetry, and Writing, and the memoir Secret Life. His work has appeared in Antaeus, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, New Republic, and elsewhere. Ryan has been honored by the Lenore Marshall Prize, a Whiting Writers Award, the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, and a Guggenheim. Ryan is Professor of English and Creative Writing at UC, Irvine. (Event originally scheduled for July 9.)

Mon, Jul 20: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, 8:00 p.m.  Poet Doreen Gilroy to read.  Doreen Gilroy’s first book, The Little Field of Self  (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), won the John C. Zacharis First Book Award from Ploughshares.  Her second book, Human Love, was published by the University of Chicago Press in October 2005.  Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Slate, TriQuarterly and many other magazines.  (Event originally scheduled for July 27.)

Tue, Jul 21: Lawrence Memorial Library, Bristol, 2:00 p.m.  Poetry and Creative Writing Workshop for ages 11-18.  For info, 453-2366.

Tue, Jul 21: Colchester Meeting House, 898 Main Street, Colchester, 2:00-3:30 p.m.  “That Poetry Guy” Ted Scheu shares his penned works before participants compose fun rhyming stanzas and share them aloud.  For info, 878-0313.

Wed, Jul 22: The Norwich Bookstore, 291 Main Street, 7:00.  Pamela Harrison.  Norwich resident Pamela Harrison is a “Must-Hear.”  This time it is to celebrate the publication of her new poetry collection. Out of Silence is an unsentimental portrait of her parents that mines a rich story from her family experiences.  Info, 649-1114.

Thu, Jul 23: Parima, 185 Pearl Street, Burlington, 8:45 p.m. -10:00 p.m.  Poetry Jam.  This is a continuing series, happening on alternate Thursdays.

Wed, Jul 29: Stardust Books, 1276 North Craftsbury Road, Craftsbury Common, 7:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m.  Back by popular demand–Stardust Books & Cafe is pleased to host their second Poetry Slam of 2009.

Poets, listeners, and art enthusiasts of all ages are invited to attend this high-energy literary event. Poets should bring two original poems. A voluntary donation of $1 is requested at the door. Income from donations goes to the winner. Poets are free to perform original works in any style on any subject. No props, costumes or instruments.

All members of the public are invited to listen, compete or judge. Free refreshments will be served.

Poetry Slam, the art of competitive poetry can incorporate
elements of storytelling, hip-hop and stand-up comedy. The open format of the competition, along with the absurdity inherent in trying to quantify art, have inspired slammers to take the stage for over 20 years.

For more information, call Stardust bookstore at 586-2200 or email stardust AT vtlink.net.

Fri, Jul 31: Book King, Center Street, Rutland, 6:00 p.m.  Poetry reading: Poems That Put a Smile On Your Face.  Ron Lewis and friends will read from their own poetry with aforementioned theme, upstairs in the beautifully restored historical building in downtown Rutland.  Gauze and bandages will be available.  For info, Ron at 247-5913.

Sat, Aug 8: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

Sun, Aug 9: Platt Memorial Library, Shoreham, 7:00 p.m.  Poet and musician Dawn Potter from Harmony, Maine, will be reading with her mother, Janice Miller Potter. Dawn is the author of BOY LAND AND OTHER POEMS (2004), and is a freelance book editor and associate director of the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching in Franconia, New Hampshire. Her memoir Tracing Paradise: Two Years in Harmony with John Milton is due out from the University of Massachusetts Press in May 2009. In 2010 CavanKerry Press will publish her second poetry collection, How the Crimes Happened.  New poems and essays are appearing in the Sewanee Review, Threepenny Review, Prairie Schooner, and many other journals. A member of the Beloit Poetry Journal’s editorial board, she has taught at Haystack Montain School of Crafts and for the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. She has also worked extensively in the public schools, both as a visiting poet and as a staff music teacher.

Wed, Aug 12-Sun, Aug 23: Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Ripton.  Poetry readings TBA.

Wed, Aug 12: Vermont Humanities Council, 11 Loomis Street, Montpelier, 5:30-6:30 p.m. “You Come, Too.” Spend autumn lingering on Robert Frost’s celebrated depictions of the rural life with Peter Gilbert’s readings and discussion of his seasonal poems.  Free.  For info, 262-2626, x307.

Wed, Aug 12: Bradford Academy, Main Street, Bradford, 7:00 p.m. “Poems & Pieces.” Audience members contribute to an evening of poetry readings by sharing their favorite works – with special emphasis on local materials.  Free.  For info, 222-4423.

Wed, Aug 12: Outer Space Café, 208 Flynn Avenue, Burlington, 7:45 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.  “Get the Word Out.”  Mouths form a medley of audible thoughts through slam poetry, open mic spoken word, rap battles and more.  Free.  For info, 318-6162.

Wed, Aug 19: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, Alice B. Fogel,  Strange Terrain: A Poetry Handbook for The Reluctant Reader.  This book and workshop fills an empty place.  It is an essential resource for anyone who wants to feel more comfortable with reading poetry: individuals, reading groups, teachers, even friends and families of poets.  In 8 simple steps, readers will find the tools they need to make their own confident way through poetry’s strange terrain.  For info, 463-9404, vsbooks@sover.net.

Thu, Aug 27: First Congregational Church, Route 13, Newcomb Room, Thetford, 7:30 p.m.  Readings by the authors in Bloodroot literary magazine.  Readings of poetry and prose are by VT and NH authors published in the 2008 and 2009 editions. The event is free, open to public and there will be light refreshments served after the reading.  (Also, Bloodroot is accepting submissions for the 2010 edition, deadline is Sept. 1, 2009, and The Poetry Contest deadline is Sept. 15, 2009. Guidelines are on their website: http://www.bloodrootlm.com.)

Wed, Sep 9: St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, St. Johnsbury School, St. Johnsbury, 7:00 p.m.  “Readings in the Gallery” Series: Poet Marge Piercy, author of the 17 poetry collections and most recently Sex Wars, shares her printed words aloud.  For info, 748-8291.

Wed, Sep 9: Outer Space Café, 208 Flynn Avenue, Burlington, 7:45 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.  “Get the Word Out.”  Mouths form a medley of audible thoughts through slam poetry, open mic spoken word, rap battles and more.  Free.  For info, 318-6162.

Thu, Sep 10: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, 8:00 p.m.  Poet Marge Piercy to read.  Marge Piercy has published 17 books of poetry, including What Are Big Girls Made Of, Colors Passing Through Us, and most recently her 17th volume, The Crooked Inheiritance, all from Knopf. She has written 17 novels, most recently SEX WARS in Perennial paperback now.  Her memoir Sleeping With Cats is also in Harper Collins Perennial.  Last spring, Schocken published Pesach for the Rest of Us.  Her work has been translated into 16 languages. Her CD Louder We Can’t Hear You Yet contains her political and feminist poems. She has been an editor of Leapfrog Press for the last ten years and also poetry editor of Lilith. (Event originally scheduled for September 3.)

Sat, Sep 12: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

Wed, Sep 16: Vermont Humanities Council, 11 Loomis Street, Montpelier, 5:30-6:30 p.m. “You Come, Too.” Spend autumn lingering on Robert Frost’s celebrated depictions of the rural life with Peter Gilbert’s readings and discussion of his seasonal poems.  Free.  For info, 262-2626, x307.

Mon, Sep 21: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, 8:00 p.m.  Poet Cole Swensen to read.  Cole Swensen is the Director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Denver. She is the author of five collections of poems, including Try (University of Iowa Press, 1999), winner of the 1998 Poetry Prize; Noon (Sun and Moon Press, 1997), which won a New American Writing Award; and Numen (Burning Deck Press, 1995) which was nominated for the PEN West Award in Poetry. Her translations include Art Poetic’ by Olivier Cadiot (Sun & Moon Press, Green Integer Series, 1999) and Natural Gaits by Pierre Alferi (Sun & Moon, 1995). She splits her time among Denver, San Francisco and Paris. (Event originally scheduled for August 17.)

Thu, Oct 1: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, 8:00 p.m.  Poet Pattiann Rogers to read.  Pattiann Rogers has published ten books of poetry, a book-length essay, The Dream of the Marsh Wren, and A Covenant of Seasons, poems and monotypes, in collaboration with the artist Joellyn Duesberry. Her 11th  book of poetry, Wayfare, will appear from Penguin in April, 2008.   Rogers is the recipient of two NEA Grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2005 Literary Award in Poetry from the Lannan Foundation, and five Pushcart Prizes.  In the spring of 2000 she was in residence at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Study and Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy.  Her papers are archived in the Sowell Family Collection of Literature, Community and the Natural World at Texas Tech University.  She has taught as a visiting professor at various universities, including the Universities of Texas, Arkansas, and Montana, Houston University, and Washingon University.  She is currently on the faculty of Pacific University’s MFA in Writing Program.  Rogers has two sons and three grandsons and lives with her husband in Colorado.

Sat, Oct 10: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

Tue, Oct 13: Bear Pond Books, 77 Main Street, Montpelier.  Poet David Cavanaugh reads.  More on this event later.  For info, 229-1069, info@bearpondbooks.com.

Tue, Oct 20: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, 8:00 p.m.  Poet Major Jackson to read.  “Jackson knows the truth of black magic. It is a magic as simple as the belief in humanity that subverts racism, or the esoteric and mystical magic of making jazz, the music of hope and love.” —Aafa Weaver.  Major Jackson is the author of two collections of poetry, Hoops (Norton: 2006), a finalist for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature-Poetry. and Leaving Saturn (University of Georgia: 2002), winner of the 2000 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award.  Poems by Major Jackson have appeared in the American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Callaloo, Post Road, Triquarterly, The New Yorker, among other literary journals and anthologies. He is a recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. He has received critical attention in The Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Parnassus, Philadelphia Inquirer, and on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.  Jackson is an Associate Professor of English at University of Vermont and a faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars. In 2006-2007, he was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

Sat, Nov 14: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

Tue, Nov 17: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, 8:00 p.m.  Poet Sebastian Matthews to read.  Sebastian Matthews is the author of the poetry collection We Generous (Red Hen Press) and a memoir, In My Father’s Footsteps (W. W. Norton).  He co-edited, with Stanley Plumly, Search Party: Collected Poem s of William Matthews. Matthews teaches at Warren Wilson College and serves on the faculty at Queens College Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing. His poetry and prose has appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Georgia Review, New England, Review, Poetry Daily, Poets & Writers, Seneca Review, The Sun, Tin House, Virginia Quarterly Review and The Writer’s Almanac, among others. Matthews co-edits Rivendell, a place-based literary journal, and serves as poetry consultant for Ecotone:
Re-Imagining Place.

Sat, Dec 12: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.


Mon, Feb 22: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, 8:00 p.m.  Poet David Shapiro to read.  David Shapiro (born January 2, 1947) is an American poet, literary critic, and art historian and . Shapiro has written some twenty volumes of poetry, literary, and art criticism. He was first published at the age of thirteen, and his first book was published at the age of eighteen. Shapiro has taught at Columbia, Bard College, Cooper Union, Princeton University, and William Paterson University. He wrote the first monograph on John Ashbery, the first book on Jim Dine’s paintings, the first book on Piet Mondrian’s flower studies, and the first book on Jasper Johns’ drawings. He has translated Rafael Alberti’s poems on Pablo Picasso, and the writings of the Sonia and Robert Delaunay. Shapiro has won National Endowment for the HumanitiesNational Endowment for the Arts fellowships, been nominated for a National Book Award, and been the recipient of numerous grants for his work. Shapiro lives in Riverdale, The Bronx, New York City, with his wife and son.

  • Again, if you become aware of an event that isn’t posted above, please let me know. My apologies if I have left off anything of importance to any of you, but it can always be corrected in the next Vermont Poetry Newsletter.

our finitude as human beings
is encompassed by the infinity of language

~Hans-Georg Gadamer

Your fellow Poet,

Ron Lewis



Robert Frost’s “The Pasture”

  • September 28 2011: Be sure and read the comment section, especially the comments by Richard Lawrence, who shares with us a seemingly lost verse from the original version of this poem.
  • July 18, 2009: New PostRobert Frost’s “Out, Out”
  • June 6 2009: Tweaked and expanded.

About the Pasture

I’ve been following the lead of my readers, noting on the Stats page what searches you use to find my blog. The most popular poet remains Robert Frost. And I’ve noticed several searches for Frost’s “The Pasture”.

Robert Frost's: The Pasture

Robert Frost recites The Pasture

There are few poems in the English language that can compare. Right now? I can’t think of one. In terms of brevity and memorability, it’s unsurpassed. Why? Subject matter, rhyme and meter are perfectly suited to each other.

Frost-NewmanRobert Frost himself, according to Lea Newman (book at left), stated that it was “a poem about love that’s new in treatment and effect. You won’t find anything in the range of English poetry just like that.”

I have several books on Robert Frost and all of them only mention this poem in passing – giving it short shrift. Lea Newman’s book, in terms of the poems themselves, remains the best of any of them. Her opening paragraph describes some of the inspiration for the poem:

One spring evening in 1905, Frost took a walk over those fields with his wife, Elinor, and their six-year-old daughter, Lesley. According to the notebook Lesley kept as a child, she and her mother picked apple and strawberry blossoms while her father went down to the southwest corner of the big cow pasture to check on how much water was in the spring. In 1910, when Frost wrote “The Pasture” he used a walk to a spring in a cow pasture as its centerpiece. The experience was still a favorite memory thirty years after he wrote about it. In 1940 he reminisced, “I never had a greater pleasure that coming on a neglected spring in a pasture in the woods.

Newman’s introduction to the poem continues and I wholly recommend the book as a companion to his poems. But what does the poem mean? (It never seems enough to say that the poem means what it says.) It’s a poem of invitation first and foremost – Frost chose this poem as a sort of introduction and invitation to his collected poems.  More than that, the poem typifies what many readers love the most about Frost: his connectedness with nature and the everyday; his contemplative ease; and, above all, the approachable  content of his thought and poetry. Frost was a poet with whom most everyone felt a kinship and understanding. He was comprehensible during a time when poetry was becoming increasingly incomprehensible. Saying he won’t be gone long could summarize his craft. There are depths to his poetry, but they are such that the reader returns. He won’t go too far. He won’t be gone too long. You come too, he says to the reader and to anyone who wants to go with him.

Meter and Rhyme

The internal rhyme that contributes to the poems lyricism is the most important and also the most difficult to describe, but I’ll try. And it may seem like  I’m making too much of vowel sounds, but sound is everything in poetry. Consider the following anecdote which occurred between Keats and Wordsworth (from John Keats: His Life and Poetry, His Friends, Critics and After-Fame by Sidney Colvin pp. 401-402):


And here is another sample about Keats’s as related by his friend, Benjamin Bailey:

…one of Keats’ favorite topics of conversation was the principle of melody of verse, which he believed to consist in the adroit management in verse, which he believed to consist in the adroit management of open and close vowels. He had a theory that vowels could be as skillfully combined and interchanged as as differing notes of music, and that all sense of monotony was to be avoided, except when expressive of a special purpose. (Richard H. Fogle – The Imagery of Keats and Shelley, p. 63)

In point of a fact, I write my own poetry with the vowel sounds in mind. I hear words as music and tones, which makes me an “ear reader” rather than an “eye reader”, as Frost put it, and a very slow reader.

Keats was conscious of his choices, and Frost was too. (However, it’s definitely possible to read too much into “word sounds”, vowel sounds, percussive consonants and the like  – I’ve seen it done by plenty of critics and analysts.)  Such analytic overreaches are called Enactment Fallacies – a term I first came across in one of David Orr’s New York Times reviews. He defines it:  in the following passage:

Basically, this is the assignment of meaning to technical aspects of poetry that those aspects don’t necessarily possess. For example, in an otherwise excellent discussion of Yeats’s use of ottava rima (a type of eight-line stanza), Vendler attributes great effect to “the pacing” allegedly created by “a fierce set of enjambments” followed by a “violent drop” in the fourth stanza of the poem “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen.” Here’s the stanza in question:

Now days are dragon-ridden, the nightmare
Rides upon sleep: a drunken soldiery
Can leave the mother, murdered at her door,
To crawl in her own blood, and go scot-free;
The night can sweat with terror as before
We pieced our thoughts into philosophy,
And planned to bring the world under a rule,
Who are but weasels fighting in a hole.

“With each new verbal or participial theater of action of the stanza, there arrives a new agent,” Vendler writes, “making the clauses scramble helter-skelter, one after the other. The headlong pace is crucial.” Since the stanza involves words like “dragon,” “nightmare,” “murdered,” “blood” and “fighting,” it’s easy to see what she’s thinking here. But to make a more modest use of Vendler’s rewriting trick above, what if we kept the same enjambments, syntax, rhyme scheme and basic rhythm — yet changed some of the words? We might get this (my words, with apologies to I. A. Richards for adapting one of his tactics):

Now days are slow and easy, the summer
Sighs into fall: a purring bumble-bee
Can leave the flower, softened to a blur,
To soak in the noon sun, and fly carefree;
The night can breathe with pleasure as once more
We weave our visions into poetry
And seek to bring our thoughts under a rule,
Who are the mindful servants of the soul.

Not so “helter-skelter” now, is it? In a book review or essay, committing this particular fallacy is a minor error. Most critics do it regularly (I certainly have). In a book that sets out to explain why a poet makes particular formal choices, however, the mistake is more serious, because it replaces the complex relationships among a poem’s elements with just-so stories in which it always turns out — surprise! — that meaning has been mirrored by shape and sound. Think of it this way: we don’t enjoy a bowl of gumbo because it “feels” exactly the way it “tastes”; rather, we find the combination of “taste” and “feel” pleasing. Similarly, a particular stanza arrangement can reinforce our experience of a poem, but only because that arrangement is working in harmony with the poem’s other aspects.

I quote the better part of the passage because I think it’s something every novice in poetry and poetry criticism should be aware of. Read all criticism and analysis with skepticism. Including, obviously, mine; though I try to be reasonable in my assertions.

Anyway, back to Frost and The Pasture. Whether intentional or not, the first line’s variety of vowel sounds is lovely – no two are repeated.

I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;

That in itself isn’t so remarkable, but what happens next, to me at least, beautifully sets off the first line.

I’ll only (stop) to rake the leaves (a) way
(And wait to (watch) the (wa)ter clear, I may) :

The two lines are rich with internal rhyme – the long A’s of rake, away, wait and may bracket the short, rhyming  vowel sounds of stop, away, watch and water. The Pasture - Manuscript Robert FrostThe effect of these internal rhymes (interlocking in the second line and bracketed in the third) will be different for different readers, though I think all readers, but those with tin ears, will register them. To me the internal rhyming creates a sort of sing-song effect in perfect keeping with the light-hearted, carefree, teasing tone of the poem. And, again for me, the “long A” vowel sound has a sort of easy-going and open feel to it. There’s no way to know whether Frost had this in mind, but I’m sure that the music in the lines, however he interpreted their effect, was intended.

I sha’n’t be gone long. (You) come (too).

Up to this point, the lines have been Iambic Pentameter. But the fourth line (repeated in the second stanza) is Iambic Tetrameter. The effect is lovely and though it can be imitated in free verse, it can’t be reproduced.

The first three lines could be spoken to an unnamed companion or to oneself. We read the poem in the same manner that we read first person narratives (where our presence is irrelevant to the narrator). But then Frost does something  magical. He talks explicitly to “you” and he does so in Iambic Tetrameter. “You come too”, he says, and the shortened tetrameter line has same effect as an aside in a play or drama – an effect of immediacy and personableness. Suddenly we find ourselves in the poem!

The internal rhyme of gone and long anticipate and are complimented by You and too. The musicality of the line heightens the feeling of intimacy, unselfconsciously inviting – the appeal of a close friend. And, as a final note, notice too how the Iambic pattern is broken in the last two feet (spondaic variant feet) of the Tetrameter line.

I sha’n’t |be gone |long. You |come too.

This too adds to the air of informality. The formal Iambic Pentameter is broken for the sake of a friendly aside. The ceasura (the break between the two sentences), occurs in the middle of the third foot, also disrupting the metrical pattern of the previous lines. It all contributes to the informal, intimate feel of the fourth line. Again, it’s an effect that free verse simply can’t equal.

Frost’s Colloquialisms

robert_frostOne of Robert Frost’s most powerful poetic figures (as in a rhetorical figure or figure of speech – also called figurative language) is anthimeria. It’s also one of my favorites and one of the truly beautiful ornaments in the toolbox of poetry – adding vitality and rigorousness when done well. (Shakespeare was one of the greatest users of this figure.) In short, anthimeria is the substitution of one part of speech for another – “when adjectives are used as adverbs, prepositions as adjectives, adjectives as nouns, nouns as adjectives” (Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language p. 63) . Turning nouns into adjectives is Frost’s favorite substitution and he does this because, interestingly, this form of grammatical substitution is typical of New England dialects. (For a more thorough treatment of colloquialism in poetry, see my post Vernacular Colloquial Common Dialectal.)


Instead of saying “I’m going out to clean the spring in the pasture”, he says “pasture spring”. Pasture, normally a noun, becomes an adjective modifying spring. Et viola! Anthimeria! If you read enough of Frost’s poetry you will see this figurative language recur again and again. And if you hang about Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine, and hear some old-timers, you will hear this same grammatical short-cut. I don’t know why it’s more prevalent in New England (more so than in other regions of the United States) but it may be a hold over from the speech patterns of a much older generation.

Anyway, Frost always keenly observed, recorded and remembered the speech habits of New Englanders and deliberately infused his own poetry with the patterns he heard. Techniques like anthimeria, the substitution of a noun for an adjective, helps give his poetry a dailectal and colloquial feel. In a similar vein, the contraction sha’n’t, for shall not, adds to the colloquial informality and intimacy of the poem. “I sha’n’t be gone long” is a style of speech that’s almost gone. Probably more typical of what was heard among an older generation of New Englanders if only because the region is where American English is the oldest.

I’m going out to fetch the little (calf)
That’s (stand)ing by the mother. It’s so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I (sha’n’t) be gone long. You come too.

Again, I’ve tried to emphasize the play of internal rhyme – to make it visible. The short i sound of little is bolded. The short a sound of calf is italicized and (bracketed). The short u sound of young is underlined. I won’t belabor the same points I’ve already made discussing the previous stanza. The effects are the same. There are no internal rhymes within the first line of the stanza, as in the first line of the first stanza. The sing-song informality and intimacy created by the internal rhymes that occur in the lines that follow, once again, find completion and resolution in the final invitation:

You come too.

If this post has been helpful to you; if you enjoyed; if you have suggestions or questions; please comment!

Rhyme & Meter Online: April 19 2009

  • Missed last week. This one is a little delayed.
  • 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



Reading Richard Wilbur’s “Mind”

If a bat becomes lost in your house, don’t cringe in a corner. Here’s something you might not know. If a bat can’t escape from a room after a certain period of time, it will indeed assume that it knows all the obstacles. It has memorized your room. It will stop echo locating and fly and fly and fly – no matter what windows you open. A memory is like an opinion. In a sense, the bat becomes trapped by its own opinion. The bat won’t falter. The bat/mind assumes that it has no need to explore. The most inflexible opinions are the loneliest ones and, as Wilbur tells us at the outset, the mind is like the bat that beats in its cavern all alone…


Got a poem – by heart?

In our second hour today we’re talking with writer Jim Holt about learning poems by heart — and reciting them from memory.  Who needs an iPod, he says, when you’ve got great verse running through your head! We’re hoping our listeners, on the air and online, will bring their own favorites to the party. If you have a great poem you want to recite, from memory (no cheating!), then let’s hear it — call in this morning between 11am and noon Eastern, at 1-800-423-8255, and we’ll try to get you on…


‘Book of Rhymes’ by Adam Bradley: Professor of literature takes us inside the rhythms of rap

Some folks may scoff at the comparison of hip-hop to metaphysical poetry, but Bradley wouldn’t be among them. A literature professor at Claremont McKenna College with a doctorate in English from Harvard, he is keenly attuned to what he calls “the poetics of hip-hop,” the ways that rap both converges with and distinguishes itself from what we traditionally think of as poetry.

Here you’ll find Yeats and Frost alongside Nas and the Wu-Tang Clan, together forming a discussion on meter and accent, scansion and slant rhymes. More important, the old-timers and the new jacks seem to get along just fine: Book of Rhymes, MLA vocabulary or no, takes great joy in the written and the rapped word, and it will leave you listening to your favorite MCs with bigger and better ears than before…


Read Write Believe

Poetry Quote of the Day: Rilke Defends Rhyme

“Do not say anything against rhyme! It is a mighty goddess indeed…


New York Times

Sunday Book Review

“A Greek gentleman in a straw hat, standing absolutely motionless at a slight angle to the universe.” With this sentence the novelist E. M. Forster introduced the Alexandrian Greek poet Constantine Cavafy to the English-speaking world in 1919. Since then, Cavafy’s distinctive tone —wistfully elegiac but resolutely dry-eyed — has captivated English-language poets from W. H. Auden to James Merrill to Louise Glück. Auden maintained that Cavafy’s tone seems always to “survive translation,” and Daniel Mendelsohn’s new translations render that tone more pointedly than ever before. Together with “The Unfinished Poems” (the first English translation of poems Cavafy was still drafting when he died in 1933), this “Collected Poems” not only brings us closer to one of the great poets of the 20th century; it also reinvigorates our relationship to the English language…


All Rileyed Up

Poetry Talk with Ginny Kaczmarek

I like so many different poets for different reasons, and I’m always discovering new ones (or old ones I never read deeply before). I go through phases, too. Lately I’m really into formalist poetry, sonnets, villanelles, rhymes and meter, so I’ve been reading Gwendolyn Brooks, Claude McKay, for their takes on old forms. I love Thom Gunn, who wrote formal, British- proper poetry about biker gangs and his gay lovers and the plague of AIDS in the ’80s. Annie Finch inspires me with her feminist formalist experiments…



Why do Poets write Iambic Pentameter?

Iambic Pentameter originated as an attempt to develop a meter for the English language legitimizing English as an alternative and equal to Latin (as a language also capable of great poetry and literature). Encyclopedia of Spenser – ExtractSince meter was a feature of all great Latin poetry, it was deemed essential that an equivalent be developed for the English Language. But poets couldn’t simply adopt Latin’s dactylic hexameter or dactylic pentameter lines. Latin uses quantitative meter, a meter based on the alternation of long and short syllables…


Poetry By Stacey

Battle of Wills [Extract]

Fighting the urge was becoming too strong,
It had only been days but seemed so long,
Temptation all around, pulling him in,
Would its magnetic power finally win?

Desparately trying to keep occupied,
Pushing the thought to the back of his mind,
But despite everything he tried to do,
A voice screamed ” go on you know you want to…


[Don’t know if this is recent – or just recently indexed – but an interesting post.]

The Politics of Meter: on Traditional Forms
by Catherine Wagner

For decades, traditional patterns have been distrusted by, for instance, the “organic form”/”projective verse” avant-garde, as well as by writers working with nontraditional word-patterns—the Language poets, Jackson Mac Low, Susan Howe, and others. The distrust of verse is widespread. Even my dad tells me he knows that poetry shouldn’t rhyme or be in regular meter anymore. And poets of all stripes still get suddenly bored or nervous when they detect traditional forms. Not very many years ago, some members of the Buffalo Poetics listserv were provoked to anger when Annie Finch joined the list to ask for input on the anthology of forms she was putting together. And after a reading I gave recently in England, a poet (a committed political activist and self-declared member of the avant-garde) congratulated me on my “anti-prosody.” She was certain that what she’d heard meant I was working in ironic opposition to traditional meter. Not so…

Rhyme & Meter Online: April 5 2009

  • 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


New York Times

Got Poetry?

A few years ago, I started learning poetry by heart on a daily basis. I’ve now memorized about a hundred poems, some of them quite long — more than 2,000 lines in all, not including limericks and Bob Dylan lyrics. I recite them to myself while jogging along the Hudson River, quite loudly if no other joggers are within earshot. I do the same, but more quietly, while walking around Manhattan on errands — just another guy on an invisible cellphone…


Author’s Den

A Poem Is A Creation

A poem is a creation of English language , a result of learning poem foundation,
It is a creation of imagination, of memory’s recall and retention of education,
Of alphabet’s vowels, a,e,i,o,u, and any consonants combination,
Of b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, and z  that make syllable formation,
Of their dissimilar, multiple mixed natures that become all word creation,
Words are but syllables, but vowels and consonants made arrangement,
All are made definition in any dictionary and an exact denotation,
Sometimes also explained in varied ways within any connotation.


Rhyme, meter and my musings

Selfish Want

I wrote this today actually and I am so proud of myself. Not the subject of the poem, but myself. The poem itself is going to make me look badly I’m afraid, but then I wouldn’t be a very honest person if I were unwilling to show my flaws. This is a rather profound piece on my part really. It says a lot about myself and my own conception of morality, of right and wrong. I enjoy my random moments of self-discovery and introspection. I like epiphanies and it is nice to have one now and again even if they are about myself and not some other problem with society or something more important. I hope all of you enjoy my poem even if it doesn’t make complete sense to you.



Sir Phillip Sidney: His Meter and his Sonnets

So… Sidney is slyly suggesting that, if only his Sonnets achieve their aim, she might take some pleasure (her own orgasm) from his orgasm. If you think this far-fetched, then I would recommend a book like Filthy Shakespeare. The Elizabethans saw life very differently than we do. Death and sex was ever present. Life, in all its glory and decay, was intimate. They weren’t nearly so prudish about the realities of life as we have become – which isn’t to say that prudishness didn’t exist. The Elizabethans were all too ready to find sly humor in the crudities of life – much to the dismay and denial of our more puritan contemporaries.


The University of Arizona Poetry Center

solar poetry contest [Only open to University of Arizona Students and Staff]

This spring the Poetry Center is partnering with the Arizona Research Institute for Solar Energy (AzRISE) to present a university-wide Solar Poetry Contest. The contest is presented in celebration of the University of Arizona’s upcoming participation in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, an international student competition to build a house fully powered by the sun.

The final judge for the contest will be UA Creative Writing Professor Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of Science and Other Poems and numerous essay collections about the role of literature in our natural world. Deadline for submission (one poem per entry) is May 15, 2009. Winners will be announced in August 2009 and will have the opportunity to read their work at the public viewing of the solar house on August 28….


  • I’m not sure if this was posted during the last week. Google states it was posted Mar 29, 2009. The information is interesting enough to merit a link.


Teaching Form Poetry

by Yvonne Blomer

Although modern poetry tends to favour what we call “free verse,” lately there seems to be a revival of “form poetry,” or poems that make use of traditional structures, such as the sonnet, pantoum, glossa and ghazal. For many, writing in form is a way to create a framework in which to work. For others it feels like a constraint. W.H. Auden went as far as to say that “The poet who works in free verse is like Robinson Crusoe on his desert island: he must do all his cooking, laundry, and darning himself.”

As Auden suggests in this quote, free verse is formless. Though that can be argued, it can also be said that free verse does not contain many of the constraints or rules that apply to poetry in form. Formal poetry contains lines that are broken into a pattern of stress, often iambic pentameter. It follows a rhyme scheme. Though in contemporary poetry, even formal poems break many of the rules of the traditional form, the poems still contain within them the essence of the original, a framework within which to write. Based on the Auden quote above, this framework does some of the work for the poet. The difference between free verse and traditional forms, as well as modern takes on traditional forms, are important distinctions for students to note.

The Gods Are Bored

Why Does He Hear Singing Now?

Welcome to “The Gods Are Bored!” Today we add a new hero to our Pantheon of Special Mortals. He is Walt Whitman.

I think Walt Whitman must have been very brave to pen the poetry he did in an era so dedicated to rhyme and meter. His courage certainly bore fruit. Who among us does not love the guy? ….


Shelley’s Sonnet Ozymandias

It is the heart – the synechdocic figure of the human soul, compassion, and capacity to empathize – that is at the heart of the sonnet and that is alive within the sculptor. The heart is what fed the hand – the hand that mocked and gave life to lifelessness through compassion and morality – through art. It is because of the human heart that anything at all survived and continues to survive. And perhaps Shelley means to instruct us that art is the highest and most durable manifestation of the human heart.


Open Letters A Monthly Arts and Literature Review

Steve Donoghue: The Aeneid of Vergil
translated by Sarah Ruden
Yale University Press, 2008

Virgil took the assignment and went to ground, laboring for ten years (sometimes, if legend is to be believed, at the rate of only a line or two a day). There were work-in-progress readings given to friends and colleagues (who assured those not present that a great work was being born), and we may presume that when Augustus met with Virgil in Athens in 40 B.C. the emperor inquired after more than the weather. But even after ten years, there was no finished epic. Virgil grew sick during a trip to the East, gave the standard poet-deathbed instructions to destroy his work, then promptly expired, leaving behind literature’s single most impressive fragment, which, of course, Augustus ordered preserved….

Danna Williams: Surreal Estate Agent

Animal Flower Cave Sonnet

The following poem was almost submitted to H&H for review, but I considered it a waste of an effort so snatched it from the queue to place here as the early start of National Poetry Month.  “Animal Flower Cave” is one of a few recent attempts to compose a contemporary sonnet.  I won’t bore readers with the source of inspiration, but I will admit it has been too long since I’ve done a strict meter and rhyme verse.  My hope is that anyone reading it won’t judge it or the poet too harshly.  This may be my last sonnet, unless the ghost of Shakespeare inhabits my body, which is very unlikely.

Without further ado about nothing:
Animal Flower Cave Sonnet

Your parting lips that touch the brazen sun,
also graze my tongue – suddenly struck dumb.
The thought of our sex under a sea bed,
and Barrett Browning swimming in my head…


  • In case you need a rhyme for velocity…

Baroque in Hackney

Elegantly Dressed Dressing Down

“Having climbed to the summit and started to cross it, he
rolls down the side with increasing velocity.”

What! We’re already up to G20 Summit and they still haven’t sorted it out?? Well – Obama’s here now. Really. He’s here in London. Everything’ll be fine. Michelle came off the plane and onto the front pages in a wonderful yellow statement dress & hopefully London will bask in the glow, rather than being smashed up by a crowd of idiots as predicted.


The Formalist Portal


Girls come in assorted sizes,
Predictable, and sans surprises.
But there’s one who breaks the quota:
The guys all call her Rear-Meat Rhoda.

Rhoda has a rounded bottom
(Not too many females got ’em).
Men who pass say “Get a loada
That caboose!” when they see Rhoda…


Lemon Hound

Strange Bedfellows and inquiry

But then I find these poets coming from very different places who are both speaking directly, in very different ways, getting it on with language, and I am moved to write of them, and share. Is that not a call to action if nothing else? And actions are many, some of them more meditative than others, as with Johnson: “our text today is the heliotrope/swiveling its holy troupe.” We are down in the violet bed oh, natural poets, we are down in “hoar” and our tongues a “fovent choir” (10). How unhip the language: “vulgate,” “spinal block” and “womb,” not the province of language poetry, far too sincere and bodily, far too rhythmic, but more unwieldly than the formalists. What would Heaney think? What would Silliman say? Can one have an opinion?…

Ana Verse

Sylvia Plath’s “I Am Vertical”

As an experiment I have opened to a random page in Sylvia Plath’s The Collected Poems (New York: Harper’s and Row, 1981). The volume encompasses four collections of poetry: The Colossus, Ariel, Crossing the Water, and Winter Trees (all copyright dates 1960, 1965, 1971, 1981). She died in 1963 at the age of 30. Four of the poems in the collection originally appeared in The American Poetry Review and four in The New York Times Book Review. I opened randomly to page 162, poem numbered 143: “I Am Vertical” (28 March 1961)…