TO THESE PAGES ON POETIC PROSODY:
METER AND FORM
TO CONTINUE . . .
MANY READERS THINK OF FORMAL
forbidding topic and hesitate to enter into its precincts. But all poets
whose work continues to attract readers, including those who write mainly
or exclusively in free verse, possess a deep understanding of the rhythmical
qualities of language. For the most part, they acquire this understanding
by immersing themselves in the poetry written in their own tongue (frequently
in others as well) and working in that medium, just as great musicians,
dancers, athletes, or scientists gain their proficiency by active engagement
with their own disciplines. The study of meter and form for its own sake
cannot make anyone into a poet, especially when the application of formal
principles is mechanical and inept .
Poetic metrics is among the more sterile and useless of human enterprises
to unreasonable lengths. Also, an insistence that poets conform to supposed
rules of poetic composition can do as much harm to poetry as a determination
to write with no pattern or purpose whatever. To say this, however, is
not to embrace the deliberate indeterminism of L=A-N=G=U=A=G=E
poetry. A healthy and intelligent interest in--even a fascination with--the
formal properties of poetry often can be found in company with genuine
talent and enduring achievement. And the greatest poets have always been
the greatest technical innovators, even when they give no evidence of having
rationalized their inventiveness into (or from) abstract patterns. A spirit
of rhythmic and structural experimentation always informs good poetry.
The purpose of these pages is to encourage that kind of experimentation.
William Blake's illustration to Dante: The Gates of
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