We begin this chapter on the cultures of poetry writing with John Milton speaking in 1667 about his choice not to rhyme in
The measure is English heroic verse without rhyme, as that of Homer in Greek and Virgil in Latin, rhyme being no necessary adjunct or true ornament of poem or good verse, in longer works especially, but the invention of a barbarous age, to set off wretched matter and lame meter …
Milton simultaneously applauds the ancients and lambastes his contemporaries. His comments register a push-pull dynamic, where one aesthetic camp receives praise, another scorn. We might be inclined to believe — if somewhat idealistically — that poets ought always to encourage one another and embrace all serious efforts in the craft; that writers of all stripes should form one big creative family. In fact, we have reinforced this perception of goodwill among poets with our discussions of the creative-writing workshop as a culture of collaboration and mutual encouragement. A workshop, we have argued, privileges community and becomes an environment where ‘serious play’ may proceed unencumbered by petty criticisms and mean-spirited judgements. These do none of us any good — especially early in our writing lives.