Saturday 6 January 2024

Formalish verse

Deviations from standard forms are common - to reduce rhythmic monotony; to surprise; to emphasise a word/phrase, etc. These deviations work because of readers' expectations. In mosques, Islamic art deliberately breaks the pattern too.

But other deviations are harder for me to understand. Here are some comments by poets about their poems in "The Best American Poetry, 2000"

  • Olena Kalytiak Davis's "Six Apologies, Lord" is one of a "sequence of 'Shattered Sonnets' that sort of simultaneously distort, discard, and highlight formal, thematic, and rhetorical sonnet conventions."
  • Adrienne Su says of the 6-stanza "The English Canon" that "I deliberately ended the first four stanzas with '-ing', which is a kind of cheater's rhyme, and the last two with the imperfect rhyme of 'combat' and 'scratch.' I threw in 'protest' and 'trust' near the end, for fun. Between the cheating, the imperfection, and the distance between rhymes, I hope that the poem reads as free verse, yet looks formal because of the tercets. The combination of the free and constrained, of modern and traditional, seemed suited to the subject, writing to and from the canon".
  • Mary Jo Salter says "The poem was a liberation to write, technically speaking; though it rhymes, the rhyme scheme changes every stanza, and the meter is deliberately clunky."

In my Relaxed Forms article I list further examples. I still struggle with the idea of random deviations - if I can't see a reason for breaking a pattern, my instinct is to query the craft. I'm most suspicious when the deviation comes in the lines which the poet particularly wants us to understand, as if clarity and form are in opposition.

No comments:

Post a Comment