I recently received an email from a visitor to my website who read my article,
The Rhyming Masters of the Early 21st Century, where I state "there are no masters of
rhyme in America today." I was referring to masters of rhyme who are actually being published
on a regular basis, not that they didn't exist altogether. Nevertheless, I was happy to be
informed by this individual that what I call The Rhymist Movement exists as The
Neoformalist Movement. (I prefer the name Rhymist Movement because it leaves no doubt
the movement is about rhyme, but Neoformalist Movement is what is being used by the powers
that be, as well as by established poets). The point is: rhyme is alive and doing well.
In researching the Neoformalist Movement, I found six poets who are well recognized by the
various poetry societies, organizations, and institutions as being neoformalist poets. They are
Dana Gioia (pronounced: JOY-A), Charles Martin, Marilyn Hacker, Mark Jarman, Molly
Peacock, and Wyatt Prunty.
As the name, Neoformalist Movement, implies, there was a Formalist Movement in poetry
which began in 1945. In an article written by Donald D. Cummings, Cummings states, "The
early post-World War II period was dominated by what was called (often disparagingly)
"academic poetry." If the early-twentieth century poets had been aggressive and experimental,
their post-1945 successors were cautious and conservative, writing in the manner of the English
Metaphysicals or the American Fugitives, publishing intellectual, well-wrought, impersonal,
technically sophisticated poems in closed or traditional forms. But if these midcentury formalists
were not daring, they nevertheless wrote impressively, and their ranks included such gifted
figures as Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Richard Wilbur, Theodore Roethke, Howard
Nemerov, and Randall Jarrell." These poets dominated this time period.
However, as early as 1950, Cummings states there was an anti-formalist movement as a strong
reaction to formalist poetry, and, as I see it, poetry slowly went back to informal, or free verse
poetry, and Imagism, or Imagistic poetry, is what we have today. But then, you have the
various movements that were influential in the 1980s and 1990s, of which the three most
prominent were women's poetry, Language poetry, and neoformalism.
The Neoformalist Movement seems to parallel what I see at the poetry conventions, festivals,
and readings I attend. I hear the general public asking for rhyming poetry. I believe that more
and more established poets will start listening to the people and at least attempt to pursue the
art of rhyme in conjunction with free verse poetry. At the last convention I attended, I was
thrilled to attend many lectures on the art of rhyme which were not offered a mere five years
ago. This all looks very promising for the future of rhyming poetry.
Whether I call it The Rhymist Movement, or they call it the Neoformalist Movement, I'm just
happy to see rhyming poetry finally making a resurgence in the world of poetry. And rightly so,
because for the past ten years I've been preparing myself for it.