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Free verse vs. formalism

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Benjamin Will

on 28 November 2013

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Transcript of Free verse vs. formalism

Free Verse vs.

The Debate
Is free verse dead?
Is new formalism revolutionary?
Is this debate valid?
Is free verse dead?
free verse
Stanzas: Irregular or none
Metre: Irregular or none
Rhyme: Irregular or none

Other Distinctions: Free verse generally follows the rhythms of natural speech.
Is new formalism revolutionary?
Stanzas: Sometimes
Metre: Sometimes
Rhyme: Sometimes

Other Distinctions: Formal verse adheres to a specific pattern of metre, rhyme, stanzas, syllables, vowel length, word or line repetition, or some combination thereof.
new formalism

1920s: The Fugitives form at Vanderbilt University, Nashville Tennessee. Advent of New Criticism. Focus on poetry a self-contained unit of meaning. Focus on capturing the closest thing to real human experience.

1937: Robert Lowell pitches a tent on Allen Tate’s yard, gets schooled in formal verse, becomes gatekeeper of modern poetry in the fashion of T.S. Eliot before him.

1946: Lowell wins Pulitzer for Lord’s Weary Castle. Close friend Elizabeth Bishop publishes North & South, which includes the sestina “A Miracle for Breakfast”
A short history of
[North] American
New Formalism:

1968: Lewis Turco publishes The Book of Forms at a time when most poets are writing in free verse. Adam on goodreads. com calls the book “an invaluable pocket-sized manifesto of poetic forms and examples.”

1985: The term “New Formalism” is used in an article that decries this return to form as hyper-conservative and anti-historical.

1987: Dana Gioia writes “Notes on New Formalism.” A movement is born. Early key figures include Charles Martin, Brad Leithauser, Timothy Steele, Molly Peacock, Phillis Levin, Marilyn Hacker, and Mark Jarman.
Is new formalism revolutionary?
A return to formalism is a trend in contemporary poetry, especially among young writers
“Form poetry is anything but dead; in fact, it might just be the next step in the evolution of contemporary writers.”–Connor Doyle in Pulp Mag, Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s literary and arts magazine
Young writers breathing new life into old forms
“The boundaries inherent in writing form poetry will frequently act as a funnel of creativity; they force the young writer never to accept the easiest answers, to think outside the box in order to make everything fit within the box. Working within an established structure, even if it’s just rhyme scheme, scansion, or rhythm, can open up a whole new world to consider in the creation of a poem…”

Tyler Knott Gregson
Contemporary American poet (Montana)
Photographer, artist, poet, author, and Buddhist
Launched the Daily Haiku on Love project in 2013
Active on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, etc.

Gregson’s internet presence allows for his poetry to reach people across the globe
Proof that formalism can still move people, especially younger generations
One haiku from the Daily Haiku on Love project has over 4,400 reblogs on Tumblr, over 1,000 likes on Facebook
Back against the wall
and your legs around my waist
I kiss you again.

Let grow the branches
from my tree and yours, until
they tangle as one.

The cold of morning
crawls across the empty bed
and finds me alone.
“For me, when I write anything but poetry, I often find myself using too many words, I love to describe, and just like I always try to use photographs to convey the same spirit as a poem, in a sense I think I try to use writing to make photographs in the reader’s mind. With poetry, however, I have tried to simplify.  To whittle it down to the minimum that expresses that feeling or emotion I felt whilst experiencing it. I think sometimes, less is more and it’s such a challenge to say what you need to say without taking pages and pages to do so.” –Gregson, in a 2013 interview with The Society Cynic
Is free verse dead?
Is this debate dead?
Is this debate possible?
lines that closely follow the natural rhythms of speech. A regular pattern of sound or rhythm may emerge in free-verse lines, but the poet does not adhere to a metrical plan in their composition.
-Poetry Foundation

Poetry that is based on the
irregular rhythmic cadence
or the recurrence, with variations, of phrases, images, and syntactical patterns rather than the conventional use of metre.
-University of Pennsylvania

What free verse claims to be
free from is the constraints of regular metre
and fixed forms. This makes the poem free to find its own shape according to what the poet - or the poem - wants to say, but still allows him or her to use rhyme, alliteration, rhythms or cadences (etc) to achieve the effects that s/he feels are appropriate.
-Poetry Archive

free verse

verse composed of variable, usually unrhymed lines having no fixed metrical pattern.
-The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

(Literature / Poetry) unrhymed verse without a metrical pattern.
-Collins Complete English Dictionary

verse with no fixed metrical pattern.
-Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary
Poetry that overtly uses the effects of metre, rhyme and form, especially the fixed forms (sonnets, villanelles etc) is known as formal verse.
-Poetry Archive
“The form of free verse is as binding and as liberating as the form of a rondeau.”
-Donald Hall

There is an implicit constraint, however, to resist a regular metre in free verse - a run of a regular metre will stand out awkwardly in an otherwise free poem.
-Poetry Archive
Christina Rossetti

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;—
All ripe together
In summer weather,—
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
Come buy, come buy.”
Psalm 30

I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.
O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.
Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.
I cried to thee, O Lord; and unto the Lord I made supplication.
What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?
Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me: Lord, be thou my helper.
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.

Free verse may be written as very beautiful prose; prose may be written as very beautiful free verse. Which is which?
-John Livingston Lowes
Geoffrey Chaucer, trans. Gerard NeCastro

But as I slept I dreamed I was within a temple of glass, in which were more golden images standing on various stands, and more rich decorative niches, and more pinnacles of gemmed work, and more skilful portraits and curious types of figures in old work than ever I had seen. For truly I did not know where I was, but well I knew, truly, that this temple was of Venus; for immediately I saw her figure pictured, floating naked in a sea; and her white and red rose-garland, by God, about her brows; and her comb to comb her hair; her doves, and Sir Cupid, her blind son, and Vulcan, with his brown face.

But as I roamed about, I found a tablet of brass on a wall, where was written: "I will now sing, if I am able, of the arms and the man also, who, fugitive from Troy, first came by his fate into Italy to the Lavinian shore with great suffering." And then after this the story began, as I shall tell you all.

“Being an art form, verse cannot be free in the sense of having no limitations or guiding principles.”
-William Carlos Williams

“No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job.”
-T S Eliot
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