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|My sequel to
Edgar Allan Poe's
|THIS IS MY NEW BOOK OF POETRY
AND IT'S NOT JUST FOR
|I HOPE YOU
HAVE AS MUCH FUN READING IT
AS I DID WRITING IT.
|Edgar Allan Poe
1809 - 1849
My favorite poet and author of
something new, something they hadn't seen before, something wonderful, which they
were told was something you just shouldn't do with poetry: rhyme.
Imagine my surprise when I saw an advertisement for a poetry slam which stated the next
contest was going to be different. That they were going to “up the ante” and all poems to
be presented “must be in rhyme.” What I liked best about the ad was the “up the ante”
part, because I interpreted it to mean that rhyme is a higher level of poetry than free verse,
and exactly what I have been saying for over fifteen years.
If you look at the evolution of communication, when a baby is born, it communicates by
crying. When the baby is quiet and relaxed, it usually means all is well, and when
something is wrong it starts to cry, to let us know there is a problem. As the baby grows,
it learns to communicate through words, followed by sentences, further enhanced by
paragraphs, and so on. Then the individual learns how to put those words, sentences,
etc., on paper. The individual learns how to write, and there begins a whole new form of
communication. This new form of communication, writing, is called prose. Now let’s
take the next step in the evolution of written communication, beginning with prose poetry.
Going from prose to prose poetry is a logical sequence.
Prose poetry is exactly what it says, meaning it is prose, or usual writing, that sounds
poetic. It is constructed in the same manner in which you write a paragraph. Now, take
that paragraph, split it up into a few stanzas, make each line shorter than in regular
writing, and if it sounds poetic, it is now a poem. You have now gone from prose, to
prose poetry, and finally, since this new form has no rigid structure, to free verse. Here,
free verse poetry is the next logical step in the evolution of written communication. Now,
we “up the ante,” if you will. Let’s take it one step further.
It’s not difficult to see, if you have been following along, what the next step in the
progression of written communication is going to be in regards to poetry. It requires that
we take a step towards a more rigid structure in the composition of our verses. I call this
the “poetic refining process,” where we take what we have written so far, shave off the
edges, smooth out the corners, make it more concise, more streamlined, and give it some
sort of pattern. Here we reach, logically, blank verse. Blank verse is the form that serves
as the bridge between free verse and rhyme. On this bridge we come to the most
commonly used foot, of two syllables, the “iamb,” which is a unstressed beat followed by
a stressed beat, as in “Come live / with me / and be / my love,” which is found, for
example, in iambic pentameter verse. We do this without involving rhyme; at least, not
yet. However, the “iamb” is not the only foot available to the poet. You also have the
following: trochee, spondee, amphibrach, anapest, dactylic, pyrrhic, and others more
elaborate depending on the number of syllables in the word. From here, the next logical
step is rhyme. This makes rhyme the highest form of written poetry.
Wait a minute! Didn't we have rhyme before? Why did we de-evolve poetry, and go from
rhyme to free verse? How can we call free verse a higher form of poetry when it’s not?
If you go logically from prose to prose poetry to free verse to blank verse and finally to
rhyme, then clearly free verse is two steps backward in the realm of poetry. I’m just glad
we’re finally getting back on course, and hopefully, in time, give poetry back the high
status it once enjoyed.
As for those poets who say it’s better to concentrate on the subject using metaphor,
simile, imagery, and other elements of poetry to get their message across without having
to worry about finding the rhymes to a particular restrictive form, like a sonnet, I ask: If a
poet uses all the elements of writing, equally available to the writer of prose, what will
separate the poet from the writer of prose? Free verse has gotten to the point where it has
become indistinguishable from prose. Why, because you have writers of prose who write
so poetically and poets who write so prosaically that they have become one. Nowadays,
the way I see it, rhyme is how you can distinguish between the two.
Note: If rhyming poetry is now New Formalism, as in neo-formalistic poetry, then free
verse should be called Non Formalism, or non-formalistic poetry. It's only logical.