Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thoughts on Form

More conversation at Wom-Po on the definition, merits, differences of free verse versus (yes in opposition) formal verse. I keep thinking of Skelton's Poetic Pattern, an old book with such novel ideas (for me) about poetry. In building his argument, Skelton claims that formal verse is the modern day equivalent of magical chants, a pattern that satisfies by resolution, by its formulaic nature. He equates the closed form poem with stasis in society, a settled sense of affairs, satisfaction with status quo.
When society is in a state of flux the reader cannot be relied upon to produce one inevitable interpretation of the scene with which (s)he is presented. This is one of the ways in which society affects poetry. In an age when the conscious perception of the pattern of existence is unchanging, the subconscious urge to recreate the complete pattern of an aspect of life is likely to find fulfillment in formal patterns which vary little. It is at such periods that the nature of poetry as pattern is most clearly observable, and that criticism of poetry can afford to be at its most dogmatic.
Here, Skelton makes two points: stasis in society allows for stasis in poetry and, "dogmatic" interpretation/criticism appropriately matches fixed verse (formal poetry, closed verse). In other words, rigid criticism aimed at informal poetic forms (free or open verse) is like trying to place a circular object in a square hole. One does not match the other. Attempts at dogmatism fail simply because the open form is by nature iconoclastic. He further writes that "it is the writer's vision of his age, whether or not he sees it as full of stress and energy, that determines the patterns that will come to him."


nolapoet said...

There is an interesting rigidity in the rabid free-verse critiques of form. I think it's sad when poets confuse style with ideology. Use all of it. It's such a tired old canard, the false divide between form and free verse. We should be able to work in one, the other, and both without having to explain ourselves by now...

Nice new template, BTW!

Ann said...
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