The Pain of Poetry

My correspondent in life of the mind states my state of mind neatly and plainly in the matter of phosphorescent gargoyle exhalations swaddled in effulgent gossamer — I mean to say prosody.

Now I remember why I, and doubtless others give up on poetry. I made the mistake of thinking, “I’ll Google free verse”. Then I follow countless links as words/concepts appear that I’m not sure of – metre, foot, stressed, unstressed. I get lost, I get befuddled, I get distressed, I lose the will to go further. Maybe it is wise for some of us to avoid prosody and experience poetry solely through poetry.

Why not crunch free verse with a montage of Wiki-pedantry?

Free verse… is not considered to be completely free… The only freedom cadenced verse obtains is a limited freedom… Free verse contains… the poetic line, which may vary freely… No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job… Free verse may be written as very beautiful prose… Verse cannot be free in the sense of having no limitations or guiding principles… The free verse that is really verse… is, in its peculiar fashion, the antithesis of free… Pattern and discipline is to be found in good free verse… Technically, free verse has been described as spaced prose…

Also technically, free verse came from “vers libre,” which is French for “free verse.”

The unit of vers libre is not the foot, the number of the syllables, the quantity, or the line. The unit is the strophe, which may be the whole poem, or only a part. Each strophe is a complete circle. Vers libre is… based upon cadence that allows the lines to flow as they will when read aloud by an intelligent reader.”

Unintelligent readers need not apply.

As for the strophe, the “unit” of vers libre, ancient Greece is more instructive. In dramas, the chorus walked first to the left, then to the right, then stood still. The leftward walk was the strophe.

(c) 2020 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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