poetic meter and poetic form

TorgoX has a great RSS feed for Arts and Letters Daily. Not too long ago, they posted an interesting article on the fate of formalism in English poetry. So many current poets are rushing into free verse without learning the received forms that they never master the techniques that formalism tries to perfect.

I have always enjoyed formal verse, but never with any great understanding of how it worked, so I started to look for a book on the subject and eventually found “Poetic Meter and Poetic Form,” by Paul Fussell. Amazon wanted $30, Alibris had it for $9, but the public library had it for free. I am now borrowing it and reading it on the bus, and let me tell you: it is fantastic.

I’m about fifty or sixty pages in, and already I have a much better understanding of why I like certain poems or passages. Even better, I am suddenly finding myself enjoying poems that I previously did not, because I didn’t understand how to read them. It all reminds me of something one of my English teachers said to me once: “When someone tells me he doesn’t like Shakespeare, I ask what is wrong with [the speaker] that causes him to be broken in this way.”

I am looking forward to getting through the material on meter and reading his thoughts on the received forms.

Written on June 23, 2005
books   poetry