Monday, 1 December 2008

The fascination of the difficult

A long study of Maxine Kumin's essay on A Shropshire Lad by A E Housman (in Always Beginning, Copper Canyon Press, 2000), learning for the first time (!) about masculine and feminine rhymes, about spondees and trochees. Not all the new information has stuck in my mind, so the chapter will be copied for future reference (the book belongs to the library). It opened up new views, new ways of appreciating a poem. Some of it may be known instinctively, when the lines feel 'right', that's besides the rhyme.

"Nobody knows where the notion of rhyming comes from..." she says (p. 129).

And further: "It is far easier to memorize a rhymed poem than, for instance, the free verse of Walt Whitman. [...] While many poets have abandoned the rhyming convention, they still rely on other traditional devices such as simile, metaphor, and other figurative language, and most of the time they employ stanza breaks the way we employ the paragraph in prose. [...] For many of us contemporary poets, formalism is a way of life, a sustenance, a stout tree for the vine of our poems. We are, for better or for worse, committed to make rhymes, be they exact rhymes or slant...

[...] I know that I write better poems in form - within the exigencies of a rhyme scheme and a metrical pattern - than I do in the looser line of free verse...

[...] But the harder - that is the more psychically difficult the poem is to write, the more likely I am to choose a difficult pattern to pound it into. This is true because, paradoxically, the difficulty frees me to be more honest and more direct. It is Yeats's "the fascination of what's difficult."

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Wrote a short story about a woman at the supermarket. Still bumpy. For the time being it's called New World .


A Khudori Soleh said...

salam from khudori. nice blog

Michalsuz said...

Thank you, Khudori!