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About this book

This book explores the art of poetry writing from a practice-based perspective, showing how form, trope and theory inform the practical craft of writing poems. It is divided into three key sections:

Form and structure, covering sonnets, ballads, blank verse and more

Trope and device, introducing topics such as irony, imagery and voice

Poetics and practice, which discusses the writing of poets such as Robert Frost, Amy Lowell and Frank O’Hara

Each chapter unpacks a particular concept or form, using examples to display it in practice. The book is filled with exercises to get you writing, and hints and tips for effective re-writing and for avoiding common pitfalls. Written by published poets, many of whom teach writing or literature, The Portable Poetry Workshop will push you to explore beyond your creative writing boundaries.

Table of Contents

Form & Structure

1. Varieties of the Sonnet

Abstract
Traditionally, the sonnet is thought of as a poem of 14 lines which exists in two main variant forms: the Petrarchan sonnet and the Shakespearean sonnet. These two main forms take their names from Francesco Petrarca and William Shakespeare, but the sonnet evolved gradually. It is thought to have originated in Provence although the location is disputed. Originally, the Italian word sonetto meant a little song or short refrain and was recited to musical accompaniment, and it became fashionable in English poetry after it was imported from Italy around the start of the 1500s. In the sixteenth century, Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, brought the sonnet form to England mainly through translations of Continental poets. Howard modified the form and began a process of evolution. He used a variant that became the Shakespearean sonnet. Later, Sir Philip Sidney used Petrarch as a model, but with some variation, when he composed his sonnet sequence Astrophel and Stella. These various early acts of translation, modification and modelling offered flexibility and hybrid vigour, and resulted in a strong tradition of sonnets in English.
Nigel McLoughlin

2. Terza Rima

Abstract
A terza rima is a linked rhyming lyric and/or narrative poem made up of three-line stanzas (tercets); it translates from Italian as third rhyme. Iambic pentameter is often used in English, but it is not a specific requirement. The rhyme scheme runs a-b-a, b-c-b, c-d-c and so on until the end - theres no fixed length to a terza rima. The structure of the final stanza can be varied to a single line - for example, d-e-d, e - or a couplet - for example, d-e-d, e-e. The rhyme scheme has been described as two steps forward, one step back giving it a rolling momentum and waltz-like rhythm, with the middle lines as backward glances. The capitolo is a fifteenth-century Italian form that shares the same meter, rhyme and structure as a terza rima. It came into being when terza rimas became more didactic. By the nineteenth century it evolved to be a term used for light or satirical terza rimas. A later variation invented by Edward Lowbury (1913–2007) is the piccola, which restricts lines to six syllables.
Nigel McLoughlin

3. The Villanelle

Abstract
The villanelle is a poem of 19 lines made up of five 3-line stanzas and a 4-line stanza (quatrain) at the end. It has two repeated refrain lines and just two rhymes. The tercets rhyme a-b-a and the concluding quatrain rhymes a-b-a-a, with the sixth, twelfth and eighteenth lines repeating the first line, and the ninth, fifteenth and nineteenth lines repeating the third line. A tercet is a group of three lines of verse that rhyme with each other or with another group of three and it is partly the break between this 3-line stanza form and the final 4-line stanza that energizes the villanelle. The challenge for a poet is to establish two refrain lines that have equal power. These lines are kept apart from the beginning where they form the first and third lines of stanza one and though they relate to each other throughout the work, they do not appear as the couplet they really are until the end when they should come together in an unexpectedly satisfying way.
Nigel McLoughlin

4. The Ballad

Abstract
The ballad is the narrative poetic form par excellence, characterized by directness of address, simplicity of language and a strong rhythm. Surviving from the late medieval and early modern periods, topics include contemporary events, love found and (more often) lost, the supernatural, military might, murder, betrayal, banditry and bawdry. The main common denominator is that all were composed to be sung, this musical origin reflected in the forms name which is derived from the Italian ballare, to dance. Some were no doubt sung first and recorded later, whilst others may have been composed for the growing market in cheap broadsides which flourished in the seventeenth century; in either case, the ballad was very much common property to be shared orally. Consequently, the majority of early ballads exist in numerous variants, each bearing the imprints of those through whose hands they have passed. Although there are a great many collections, the landmark remains Francis James Childs The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, which was published in ten volumes between 1882 and 1898, and which comprises more than 300 ballads, each with full discussion and, in most cases, variant forms. More than a scholarly work, the series has, appropriately, functioned as a key text in folksong revivals in both Britain and the United States.
Nigel McLoughlin

5. Sestinas

Abstract
The word sestina is believed to derive from the word sesto, meaning sixth in Italian. As a form, it emerged from a group of twelfth-century poets, the troubadours, in Provence, France. Particularly associated with Arnaut Daniel, the complex form was the signature form of a master troubadour. Troubadours (in all probability from trobar - to invent or compose verse) were court poets. They sang, accompanied by joglars or jobbing minstrels, for French nobles at their courts. Thematically, the troubadours poems were highly wrought lyrical poems, dealing with courtly love, and often about or respectfully addressed to the wife of their particular patron. Well-written troubadour poems became popular as they were disseminated from court to court and troubadour to joglar and back again, enhancing reputation and standing for composer and patron alike.1 Troubadours competed with one another to produce witty, sensational poems.
Nigel McLoughlin

6. The Ode

Abstract
The Latin ode developed a distinct identity and these two classical forms provide the basis of the modern ode, which extends far beyond these origins. Typically the ode is elaborately or showily formal, elevated in tone and addressed to a person or object. It is a poem about something, rather than a dramatic or expressive piece. The Greek or Pindaric ode, associated with the poet Pindar, was a highly public form performed by a chorus with dancers and used to praise or celebrate athletes. The elaborate structure consists of three parts: the strophe, antistrophe and epode. The strophe introduces a subject, the antistrophe develops it and the epode provides a conclusion. Metrically the strophe is a complex stanza with lines of varying lengths; the antistrophe repeats this stanza, but the epode uses some different stanza form. The set of three stanzas may then be repeated. There are very few true Pindaric odes in English; the term comes to be used of any elaborately formal ode divided into stanzas, even where the strophic structure is not used.
Tony Williams

7. Modern Syllabics

Abstract
In the twentieth century, English language poetry began to include poems which were syllabically measured but not otherwise metered. Every syllable in the line was counted and a pattern of syllable counts established. Previous to the twentieth century, poems with lines of a regular syllabic number were also metered. Shaping a line simply by counting the number of syllables in it has been done through many centuries in a wide variety of poetic traditions for example in Welsh, French and Japanese poetry. The syllable is the single respiratory event in the spoken material of a poem. It is sound-based, typically a consonant plus a vowel plus perhaps another consonant. But it can be as simple as O and as convoluted as the word trench. Many languages use syllable count in the poetic line because there are no stresses in the language. But English is a stressed language, so it developed meters, ways of measuring a line which use the common stresses that English words carry. But is modern syllabics a meter? Some critics say yes; others believe such a form is not measured at all because you do not hear the count of syllables. Those critics would call it free verse. But if measure is defined as a count of some kind, then syllabics must be seen as metered and at least there is more measure in a syllabic line or set of lines than in prose.
Claire Crowther

8. Blank Verse

Abstract
Blank verse, sometimes confused with free verse, is a metrical form, being unrhymed iambic pentameter. It is flexible enough to lend itself to a number of uses, but has most commonly been employed in long narrative and epic poetry (when it is sometimes known as heroic verse), dramatic monologue and drama. At the time Hamlet was written, blank verse was only around 60 years old. It can be dated to circa 1540, when it was first developed by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, who also with Thomas Wyatt was responsible for adapting an Italian form into the English (often called Shakespearean) sonnet. Howard, who was executed at the age of 30, translated two books of Virgils Aeneid into unrhymed iambic pentameter, creating a form that has proved itself the only English corollary of Latin heroic verse. The first blank verse play, Gorboduc, was written in 1561 by Thomas Sackville and Thomas Norton. It is monotonously end stopped. It was Christopher Marlowe who wrote the first consistently successful blank verse dramas in the late 1580s and early 1590s, and his techniques were developed further by Shakespeare, who used increasingly more enjambment and feminine line endings, as well as variation within the line, to break up the meters regularity.
Ros Barber

9. Vers Libre/Free Verse

Abstract
If you are from Canada or the United States and are reading this chapter, then you might almost wonder why it needs one of its own. Probably more than 95 per cent of contemporary North American poetry is written in what was once called free verse though the term is increasingly outdated and is often replaced with the broader open form. What is of interest to creative writing students and poets is the recognition that in other parts of the English-speaking world, such as Ireland and the UK, it is by no means certain that most poems are in free verse at all. This is because free verse has often been seen (incorrectly) as a foreign form, derived either from nineteenth century French practitioners of Vers Libre, such as Rimbaud or Laforgue, or Americans such as Walt Whitman somehow unnatural to the English poetic tradition. Many contemporary Irish and British poets enjoy writing in forms that tend to work better with some sort of rhyme or meter, and free verse neednt have those; it is almost like walking naked. Free verse can be quickly traced back, at least in English, to the King James Bible translation, where, for instance, the psalms sound like this.
Todd Swift

10. The Prose Poem

Abstract
While critics cite a number of possible antecedents for the prose poem in poetic prose, it first appears as a discrete form in 1842, with the publication of Aloysius Bertrands Gaspard de La Nuit in France. Thirteen years later, Charles Baudelaire publishes his first prose poems, and in a later letter turned preface, he cites Bertrands work as the source of his inspiration for the form, though Bertrand never used the term prose poem. Baudelaires prose poems do not appear in book form until after his death, but nonetheless proceed to popularize the form in French, most famously with Stphane Mallarm and Arthur Rimbaud. In the United States, Baudelaires influence led to the occasional use of the prose poem by individual writers such as Gertrude Stein, but it does not appear more widely until employed by a handful of American writers in the 1950s and 1960s, including Robert Bly, Russell Edson and Allen Ginsberg. In Britain, as N. Santilli explains, after the appearance of the first identifiably prose poetic texts in England in the Romantic era, From there the genre appears in somewhat bloodless imitations of Gallic imagism, fake scripture, or Ossianic gasps before Eliot finally scolds Richard Aldington in his Borderlines of Verse for attempting an impossible genre and since then the prose poem has proved more of a pathological itch for some experimental writers.1
Carrie Etter

11. Taking Form: Experimental and Avant-Garde Forms

Abstract
Traditional forms work by making the form of the final poem (its unique formation) a variation of the ideal form. Think of the sonnet frame and then of the form of any sonnet; it differs from it, while demonstrating it at the same time. Free verse and Olsons Projective Verse were reactions against that.1 The form of the free verse poem develops as it is formed, the better to register the minds thought or the bodys movement, it is often said. It may be improvised or carefully constructed, but in both cases (and in combinations of them, of course) the line whether short or long, visually scattered or in paragraph blocks becomes the unit of the poem. For a long time, free verse remained the most radical technique in the toolkit of the formally inventive poet and it certainly hasnt been rejected as a look at Harriet Tarlos anthology The Ground Aslant will show.2 Indeed, despite its thematic focus upon rural landscape, even a flick through its pages will demonstrate the vitality and variation of visual forms in page space, to use a more accurate way of phrasing these things. In this chapter I make reference to available books, anthologies and online works, which I hope you will follow up from the bibliography.
Robert Sheppard

12. Spatial Form

Abstract
Whenever poets or critics discuss free verse they often imply (whether or not they actually mean to) some deep relaxation of form by the poet or suggest that there is little apparent form to be had. That is to say, they might seek form that is present in some subdued or organic way. Free verse (or vers libre) is certainly a move away from traditional or conventional forms such as the sonnet or ballad. It suits many modern poets who prefer to explore rhythms and scansions that are more personal, more flexible. These poets, one supposes, wish to discover poem by poem, line by line forms that are appropriate to their voice and to the particular content of each statement. I sometimes refer to free verse as using ragged lines. Its my tongue incheek way of making a more serious point about the dangers of free verse. For a start, free verse can get lazy. Anything goes. Form can be overlooked or given only cursory attention. Now, Im not saying that poems cant splurge. Some of the greatest poets have, in some sense or other, splurged. What Im saying is that, actually, composing in free verse needs a sharp ear and an experienced eye. You dont have the scaffolding of an established form to climb up, so you have to have, instead, an incredible sense of linguistic balance and an acute sensitivity to the more subtle aspects of form, rhythm and the arrangement and length of lines.
Mario Petrucci

Trope & Device

13. No Title

Abstract
One frosty night, not too long after Christmas Day, 1066, with William on the throne and England duly conquered, the most typical Norman teenager you can imagine muttered a quick slew of choice Old French swear words and slipped out to meet her new heavier tongued Anglo-Saxon friends. And the rest, as we English speakers say, is history. In coming to terms with prosody and the rhythmical nature of anglophone poetry, it may help to bear in mind these two main forebears of our messy language. Even now, the combination of Germanic Anglo Saxon (or Old English) and Old French sounds gives modern English its particular texture. Anyone who has ever looked up a word in a dictionary and found one or more of its syllables marked with an accent or in bold knows that language has such a thing as stresses. Its the property that makes Americans say AD dress when they mean ad DRESS. Broadly speaking, every syllable in English is either stressed or unstressed. What you may not realize, however, is that the difference between stressed and unstressed syllables varies significantly between languages and that this variation has a profound effect on different poetic traditions.
J.T. Welsch

14. Rhyme

Abstract
Rhyme, the deployment of words with matching sounds, is a useful and popular device in poetry. So popular in fact, that there are people who feel that poems must rhyme. People who hold this view are invariably thinking of masculine end rhymes in a set pattern. However, there is far more to rhyme than this. It is essential to experiment with different ways of making music with words to master your craft. Ruth Padel articulates a truth in The Poem and the Journey:1 The poets job is to get syllables to belong to each other so ear and mind are satisfied; so that readers, even if they dont understand at once, can trust the words and feel they belong together musically and emotionally, and feel that meaning will flower from their relationships. Rhyme is one tool in the poets grasp for accomplishing this task and those who take the trouble to learn skills beyond hammering masculine end rhymes into place (although they do have their uses) can extend their work so that it rhymes in more subtle ways. The practice of making unnatural inversions to accommodate rhyme is a serious error made by proponents of rhyming at any cost. Poets such as Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Frost, Carol Ann Duffy and many others are examples of using the tool of rhyme effectively to delight the reader and build confidence in the music of the poem.
Angela Topping

15. Simile

Abstract
Simile has been described as the sensible older sibling of metaphor. The suggestion here is that simile takes less risk in the act of describing something, is more judicious or well reasoned than metaphor and emerging writers can often feel more secure in using a simile in a poem in order to show, suggest or denote an object or feeling; where metaphor insists, a simile suggest. Poets have long understood that the purpose of simile is to describe something as it stands in comparison to another thing or object, thus Robert Burns famous simile O my Luves like a red, red rose,/ Thats newly sprung in June. It is a simple comparison yet it has endured over centuries because, in part, the simplicity is intrinsic to its appeal. Simile can help an abstract idea (in this case, love) appear concrete, tangible, even sensual. The simile conjures the roses colour (red) but also enables readers to bring other senses to visualize the rose; we can smell its deep rich odour, we can feel the fabric of petal and the pierce of the thorn. It has a synesthetic quality.
Andrea Holland

16. Metaphor

Abstract
This relies on perceptions the readers perceptions of abstract painting might be different to the writers. If the writer is describing a fireworks display in which streaks and bursts of different colours litter a black background for instance, that will say something about how the writer perceives abstract painting. If on the other hand the writer uses the metaphor to describe fields of colour melding into one another in a spectacular sunset, then clearly the metaphor relates to a different type of abstract painting. The reader will be required to work out the exact way the metaphor applies using the surrounding context. The metaphor might fail to transfer across to the reader in certain cases say where the reader has no experience of abstract painting. I. A. Richards described a metaphor as being made up of two basic parts: the tenor and the vehicle. The tenor is the thing that is being described, the sky in the above example. The sky (the tenor) is the thing onto which attributes are being projected. The vehicle is the thing from which the attributes are taken, the abstract painting in our case. The image constructed in the readers mind of the abstract painting (the vehicle) is being used to describe certain visual qualities of the sky. In what is called Conceptual Metaphor Theory, Lakoff has a similar idea but uses different terminology. He refers to target and source instead of tenor and vehicle and the formula is target IS source.2, 3 In this system metaphor is thought to arise through our human experience of the world. We map across direct basic experiences to abstract concepts, for example, affection is warmth or relationships are containers
Nigel McLoughlin

17. How to Make a Woman Disappear: Extended Metaphor in Waiting for Bluebeard

Abstract
Waiting for Bluebeard is an attempt to understand how a girl could grow up to be the woman living in Bluebeards house. The collection is semiautobiographical, and although the book is inhabited by events that are not all factually true, I was attempting to get at a more powerful truth a metaphorical truth to show what parts of my life have felt like, and to walk the reader through those experiences. Making sense of experience, writes Seamus Heaney, is a good reason for writing poems, but not good enough reason for sharing them. We want to end up with poems that rose beyond their immediate occasion that transmuted experience into art. One of the ways of doing this is to use metaphor to carry experiences on their backs. To extend your metaphor over a poem and then further, over a whole sequence of poems, enables you as a writer to imagine a whole world analogous to the real one. You do not let the reader go at the end of one poem; you invite them to stay with you. Think of Ted Hughes epic Crow, or any of Vasko Popas sequences.
Helen Ivory

18. Irony is for Losers

Abstract
My poetry heroes John Dryden, Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift all died a while ago. The last of them to depart this often unpleasant, but always amusing planet of ours, the venerable Mr Swift, expired on 19 October 1745. It was, funnily enough, a Tuesday. A friend of mine says that my poetry has three recurring motifs: Tuesday afternoons, bare backsides and mildew. On occasion all three have been known to feature in combination. Ask a nearby psychotherapist to make of that what she will. During the final decade or so of Swifts life, as one biographer puts it, insanity overcame him. The bulk of his fortune, which according to Wikipedia amounted to 12,000, was left to found a hospital for the mentally ill, originally known as St. Patricks Hospital for Imbeciles. A couple of hundred years later, when its title had in a fit of political correctness one mad been softened to simply St. Patricks Hospital, my late grandmother was a regular and always enthusiastic guest there.
Kevin Higgins

19. Dramatic Monologue

Abstract
A dramatic monologue is a poem or narrative piece in which the poet has put on a mask, or persona, to give us, the listener or audience, a fuller flavour of that masked person. An audience may also be implied in a poem: for instance in Robert Brownings much anthologized My Last Duchess, the persona is a duke addressing an envoy who has come to negotiate a new marriage with him; the duke shows the envoy a portrait of the last woman to occupy that role, as well as revealing his own skewed personality. The outer audience, that is us, can also listen (and in a way watch) with a degree of rising horror as the monologue unfolds. In M. H. Abrams A Glossary of Literary Terms, the dramatic monologue is described as having three key features: A single person, who is patently not the poet, utters the entire poem in a specific situation at a critical moment. This person addresses and interacts with one or more other people; but we know of the auditors presence and what they say and do only from clues in the discourse of the single speaker.
Barbara Smith

20. Humour in Poetry

Abstract
Poetry has always had a lighter side. There is, in fact, an Oxford Book of Comic Verse (and many other anthologies that cover similar territory). Though epic poetry has tended to cover the so called big subjects war, the founding of nations, the relationship of men to the gods or God and love and death there has been satirical poetic writing since at least the time of the Greeks and Romans. Of the ancient Roman satirists, perhaps the best known is Catullus, whose raunchy poems took the piss out of any number of persons and issues of his day. English poets have employed humour from early on, as well one thinks of the ribaldry at the heart of Chaucer. Shakespeare allowed bawdy puns to creep into his poetic plays, to please the groundlings. Later, humour becomes wit and arguably more refined during the age of Pope and Swift. Swifts verse was often filled with the sort of bodily, lewd, gross out humour we associate now with Adam Sandler or Melissa McCarthy; references to bodily functions, especially those of women, were meant to shock and amuse and to ultimately remind the aristocracy of the horrific fact that everyone shits, as Swift famously implied more than once. Pope, whose sense of wit was less scatological than Swifts, has a famous poem actually called Visiting Dr. Swift.
Todd Swift

21. Imagery

Abstract
You see a little muddy pond Of water, never dry, Ive measured it from side to side: Tis three feet long, and two feet wide. These words, from the conclusion of the third stanza of Wordsworths The Thorn published in 1798, were later rewritten: You see a little muddy pond Of water never dry, Though but of compass small, and bare To thirsty suns and parching air. Obviously we have no way of knowing what it was about the original that Wordsworth found unsatisfactory. But its fair to say that the final couplet of the original lacks poetic imagery and this might have been one of his reasons for the alteration. The language in the original is as poetic as one would expect to find from an order submitted to a builders supply yard. It simply states size and measurement in a flat, two dimensional description. It tells us nothing about the pond that would help the reader better understand its aesthetic. It says nothing that would help the reader experience any aspect of the ponds physicality.
Ashley Lister

22. Persona

Abstract
The word persona derives from the Latin for mask the persona was the mask worn by an actor in Greek drama. Apersona poemis often used to mean dramatic monologue, where a poet takes on the voice of a particular character and speaks as them, using the first person. Dramatic monologue is explored in more detail in Chapter 19. Persona is also used to describe the narrator in narrative poems and theIin lyric poems; the persona is the speaker of the poem, in any type of poem. A great deal of contemporary poetry is voiced in the apparently autobiographical first person but even in aconfessionalpoem the reader cannot assume the speaker is the same as the poet the Iis a persona constructed by the poet, sometimes unconsciously, to reveal to the reader only those aspects of self the poet chooses to reveal. The psychologist Carl Jung said of persona: The persona is the individuals system of adaptation to, or the manner he assumed in dealing with, the world. 1 Persona is not always straight forward; John Berryman, in his Dream Songs, uses an alter ego called Henry who sometimes speaks of himself in third person. Berryman denied any autobiographical connection with Henry but also said, in an interview, Henry does resemble me, and I resemble Henryand Henry appears to work through some of the traumas that Berryman suffers such as his fathers suicide and deaths of poet friends.2
Angela France

23. Voice

Abstract
When we talk of the voice in a poem, we understand that it has extended metaphorically far beyond its original sense of the vocal qualities of a particular speaker. Often learners studying poetry conflate the voice in the poem and the writer of the poem; indeed, historically, the dominantpoetic mode has been one in which the speaker in a poem is seen as the poet for example, Wordsworths Tintern Abbey or Walt Whitmans I Sing the Body Electric. The other approach is to see the poet constructing a persona via a dramatic monologue, perhaps most famously in Robert Brownings My Last Duchess, in which the Duke is speaking to an unnamed and silent valet. The Duke narrates and manipulates through his single voice. Of course, unless a poem is polyphonic, most poems will offer a single voice speaking to us, the readers. But the occasion of a dramatic monologue suggests that the speaker in the poem is talking to an unnamed other, present within the dramatic moment or occasion: How such a glance came there; so, not the first are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, was not her husbands presence only, called that spot of joy into the Duchess cheek
Andrea Holland

24. The Singing Within

Abstract
And we are beginning to see what is meant by meter. When we learn to read for ourselves and find a voice of our own we look for verse to speak aloud. One of my own favourites was G. K. Chestertons Lepanto,4 with lines such as: Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard, Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred, Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall, The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall, The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung, That once went singing southward when all the world was young. In the bailiwick of free verse the music is even more essential because thats all there is. With no end rhyme and no meter to hold the frame together the integrity of it depends on the endings of the lines and the singing within them. For example: After the Sea Ship6 After the sea ship, after the whistling winds, After the white-gray sails taut to their spars and ropes, Below, a myriad myriad waves hastening, lifting up their necks, Tending in ceaseless flow toward the track of the ship, Waves of the ocean bubbling and gurgling, blithely prying.
Ann Drysdale

Poetics & Practice

25. Gerard Manley Hopkins: Sprung Rhythm, Inscape and Instress

Abstract
In his preface to his poems Hopkins gives the following detailed definition of sprung rhythm: Sprung Rhythm, as used in this book, is measured by feet of from one to four syllables, regularly, and for particular effects any number of weak or slack syllables may be used. It has one stress, which falls on the only syllable, if there is only one, or, if there are more, then scanning as above, on the first and so gives rise to four sorts of feet, a monosyllable and the so called accentual Trochee, Dactyl, and the First Paeon.1 This quote shows that sprung rhythm, as Hopkins envisaged it, was made up of a mixture of four metric feet. These can occur in any order and for the purposes of defining the rhythm it is unimportant how many slack or unstressed syllables occur within the line; what matters is the number of stressed syllables. In this it bears a striking resemblance to the base meter of music where what is important is the number of beats to the bar rather than the number of grace notes included.
Nigel McLoughlin

26. Towards a Reading of ‘The Mountain’ by Robert Frost

Abstract
Blank verse, familiar to most of us from reading Shakespeare, is close to human speech in its rhythms and thus can appear at first to be less stylized than it actually is. Because it is unrhymed, the blank verse line lends itself to enjambment (where the sense of one line carries over into the next) and we will see that this can allow for a line to be read in more than one way which suits Frosts purpose perfectly. How do we begin making a reading of a poem like The Mountain? It may be helpful to break down the approach to the poem into a series of questions. Useful questions in addressing any poem include: how manyBlank verse, familiar to most of us from reading Shakespeare, is close to human speech in its rhythms and thus can appear at first to be less stylized than it actually is. Because it is unrhymed, the blank verse line lends itself to enjambment (where the sense of one line carries over into the next) and we will see that this can allow for a line to be read in more than one way which suits Frosts purpose perfectly. How do we begin making a reading of a poem like The Mountain? It may be helpful to break down the approach to the poem into a series of questions. Useful questions in addressing any poem include: how many
Siobhan Campbell

27. Amy Lowell: Common-Sense Readings

Abstract
In her essay, Poetry as a Spoken Art, Lowell discusses the advantages she perceives of the spoken word over the written word and the differences between the good traditions and bad traditions of reading poetry, and suggests a common sense approach to reading for performance. Below we shall look at how these opinions might be interpreted today and some of the ways they can influence our approaches to the contemporary production and performance of poetry. Heard, not seen Few would argue with Lowells assertion that poetry has a musical quality that requires some degree of performance.3 She points out that, like sheet music, the marks on the page are representations of what is intended to be heard rather than what is meant to be read. Unlike sheet music, the marks on the page of a piece of poetry dont require the reader to possess the specialist knowledge or training of a musical education for interpretation or comprehension. The alphanumeric characters within a piece of poetry require little knowledge beyond basic literacy and a comprehension of the vocabulary used by the poet. Lowell insists, Poetry and oratorical prose have this in common, that they are both primarily intended to be heard, not seen.4
Ashley Lister

28. Eliot and Pound: The Better Makers

Abstract
Though Pound, another American poet who had moved to London, edited The Waste Land ruthlessly, in the process inventing the modern poem as we know it today, his reputation has become troubling. This is because during the Second World War he made radio broadcasts from fascist Italy, sent to Americans, expressing anti Jewish sentiments and attacking the banking system as he then saw it. For Pound, usury (usura) was a terrible evil and Jews were at the heart of this problem, which was essentially the taking of interest for lending money, something Christians were for centuries forbidden to do (see The Merchant of Venice for an intriguing and also controversial take on this aspect of Western culture). Pounds major work, a very long poem, or series of poetic fragments, The Cantos, seems obsessed with usury. Eliot, too, expressed anti Semitic views, but these were less dramatically shared with the world, and so, unlike his friend, he was not tried for treason, nor did he have his sentence commuted on the grounds of insanity (Pound spent years in Washington, D.C. in a mental asylum).
Todd Swift

29. William Empson: The Meaning of Meaning

Abstract
When William Empson wrote Seven Types of Ambiguity in 1927, it was generally assumed that a poem was given one meaning by the poet and that meaning should be obvious. But in 1920 Hope Mirrlees had published the modernist masterpiece, Paris; the equally riddling The Waste Land followed three years later both in a way reflecting that physics was currently coming to terms with there being no absolute cause of the universe. Of course, poets, like philosophers and linguists, were not strangers to ambiguity. Critic Philip Hobsbaum describes the line they flee from me who sometime did me seek from the well known sixteenth century poem by Thomas Wyatt: The details that flesh out this inclusive concept, they, suggest nothing central to the experience. Rather they have a tentative, hesitating quality, like movements seen out of the corner of ones eye. But at no point do they commit the poem or the reader to an explicit statement of fact.
Claire Crowther

30. Gertrude Stein: Poetry and Grammar

Abstract
Its exciting to see the art and artists of the early twentieth century as pioneers of a new era. The period we still refer to as modernism, beginning more or less with the century itself and declining gradually between the wars, is often depicted as a radical break with the past, in which artists and writers led the way in casting off Victorian shackles, embracing new technologies and new social orders, and heeding Ezra Pounds call to make it new as they changed art and the world forever. But its a funny thing: the further we get from modernism, the more likely we are to sentimentalize its revolution. How long can we hold up Eliots The Waste Land or Joyces Ulysses, both of which have just turned 90, as pinnacles of what we think of as modern literature? More to the point: what does modernism have to do with us, writing here and now? The problem isnt modernism, but the idea of a clean break with the past. Theres no such thing not for the writers of that period (no matter how much they insisted) and not for us, if we imagine our own breakthrough depends on escaping or exceeding our history. The real revolution of modernism, and what it offers us by example, is in the radical ways its writers came to terms with their own history, adapting some of humanitys most enduring ideas and questions to their strange new century, as we might do with ours.
J. T. Welsch

31. Charles Olson’s Projective Verse: The Breath and the Line

Abstract
Projective Verse is an essay written by Charles Olson, an American poet, in 1950.1 It was seen as an important reference point for American and British poets alike throughout the 1960s and 1970s. In Projective Verse Olson asserts a new direction for poetry, one that prioritizes the syllable and the line over the image or the symbol. Olson called the type of poetry that he proposes in the essay field composition,2 now more commonly referred to as free verse. Olson became rector at Black Mountain College in North Carolina in 1951. In his time there Black Mountain became a point of focus for many poets, often termed after Olsons essay as The Projectivists, such as Robert Creeley. Although Black Mountain College was only open for 23 years, its innovative liberal arts curriculum arguably helped give birth to a wave of avant-garde and postmodern artists and writers in 1960s America.
Kate North

32. Frank O’Hara: Personism

Abstract
On 3 September 1959, Frank OHara put the finishing touches to a short piece supposedly explaining his own style of poetry. First published in Yugen 7, a journal, in 1961, Personism: A Manifesto was very provocative, with OHaras trademark cheeky charm, compressed ideas and multiple references. He began with his own work, saying that Everything is in the poems, but that he was writing because one of his fellow poets thinks that a poem of mine cant be got at one reading. He added that he doesnt use elaborately sounded structures; that he hates Vachel Lindsey (died 1931, an American bard poet who sang his work); and doesnt like rhythm, assonance, all that stuff. In the first short paragraph of his manifesto, Hara has put to one side all the technical apparatus of poetry as most people might know it. But what O Hara doesnt really do is to explain what he really means by Personism. OHara moves on to the reception of his work, using amusing analogies. For him, it doesnt matter whether people get it or that it improves them. Improves them for what? Too many poets act like a middle aged mother trying to get her kids to eat too much cooked meat, and potatoes with drippings (tears). We are not so far removed from the 1950s/1960s to recognize OHaras analogy as representing the argument that poetry might have become stodgy and unhealthy. So what is Personism? In order to answer his, a quick look at the time OHara lives in is in order.
Barbara Smith

33. William Carlos Williams: Music and Machines

Abstract
William Carlos Williams was a doctor who lived, practised and died in New Jersey (1883, 1963). He worked in obstetrics, delivering more than three thousand babies into the world during his long career. One of the most significant, and productive, of twentieth century poets, he also delivered hundreds of poems into existence. (There are 248 poems in his Complete Collected Poems, 1906, 1938.) He is perhaps best known for his work of the 1930s, including his well known poem This is Just To Say a poem so accessible in terms of vocabulary and message that generations of schoolchildren have responded to it by raising their eyebrows suspiciously and asking, Is this really a poem? It is; in its brevity, wit, colloquial language and direct appeal to the readers senses, it was in its time a groundbreaking poem. In our time, its playful yet exacting style is a challenge and invitation to modern poets to write tight, well crafted verse relevant to their own everyday lives. Williams also wrote a great deal about the process of writing poetry. His essays, taken together, form a bridge between the work of the Imagists (first described by Ezra Pound in 1912) and the Beat Poets (specifically, the writings of Allen Ginsberg in the mid 1950s). Williams own best poetry exemplifies both the embrace of the vernacular, which was a tenet of the Beats, and the muscular, meticulous approach of the Imagists. Its these two ingredients of Williams work I focus on in this chapter.
Susan Millar DuMars

34. Maurice Scully and the Avant-Garde

Abstract
Maurice Scully has been working outside the Irish lyric tradition for nearly 30 years now. His latest full-length book of new work since Things That Happen (1981, 2006) is Humming,1 a body of poems which immerse themselves in the daring process of notating the mind at work, at play, and registering the idle moments of consciousness and of being in the world. He is a good example of a contemporary avant garde poet at work. The avant garde has variously been used as a catch all term for artistic work that is both innovative and experimental. In poetry it can be seen as poetic utterance which opposes mainstream poetic norms, for example, the saturation of the short first person lyric seen in todays poetry journals or for example a rhyming 14 line sonnet. Jorie Graham in her introduction to The Best American Poetry 1990 writes that the poetry she has selected breaks the fluid progress of the poem, that destabilize the readers relationship to the illusion of the poem as text spoken by a single speaker in deep thought, aroused contemplation or recollection.2 This is one of the things avantgarde poetry does. The avant garde poem, in William Carlos Williams words, is a field of action, then, a contested space, and Maurice Scully in Ireland explores this space with his own avant garde poetics.
Paul Perry

35. When is a Riddle Not a Riddle?

Abstract
The answer to the riddle is boat. The dead is a metaphor for the boat which when alive was a tree. The living in this relationship are people (maybe animals, too) and the field of unrest is a metaphor for choppy water, most likely the sea. Describing water as a field makes it reckonable and containable, yet it is affected by the word unrest which is the most mysterious word in this sentence. It leads one to make jumps into the dark in order to fathom out what it could be. It is difficult not to think of a battlefield, with the dead being at such close quarters to the living, but then the field of unrest might also be a more general description of what life is; liable to change, like water. Aristotle describes this wordplay in his Poetics: The essence of a riddle is to express facts by combining them in an impossible way; this cannot be done by the mere arrangement of words but requires the use of metaphor. In Popas The Golden Apple, he has made the answer to the riddle the title, so it is no longer a puzzle. By this he aims at reestablishing for the reader the natural movement of the creative process.2
Helen Ivory

36. Muriel Rukeyser: The Social Role of Poetry

Abstract
Never mind the contemporary dominance of the personal lyric written by a lone voice, poetry has always demanded a social role. Muriel Rukeysers The Life of Poetry (1949) is a classic contribution to the theory of a poets political task. She lived from 1913 to 1980 and from the beginning of her writing career she expected a public life for her poetry with the full personal commitment of both poet and reader. She engaged with politics as a practising poet: at 19, she went to help the Spanish Civil War in Barcelona; in 1975, she visited Vietnam with Denise Levertov. Her political work gave her the material of poems. Found material An extended poem, The Book of the Dead, written in 1938 when Rukeyser was 25, uses researched material (legal documents, journalism and interviews) arising from a scandal over the deaths of workers during the construction of Gauley Tunnel in West Virginia. Thus, the poems formal structure derives from community texts. Found or quoted text is blended subtly with abstract and lyrical reflection.
Claire Crowther
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