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kborsden
06-28-2015, 05:19 PM
this post does not attempt to answer the crux of what makes a poem. It is simply a focus article on the basic structure of free verse

First things first--free verse offers flexibility in structure in comparison to formally composed or metered poetry. The driving force behind this is that conceptually this allows for a richer depth of emotive language and phrasing; that the poet is freer to use their box of tricks and poetic tools without the imposition of meeting any predetermined syntactical requirement. However, this flexibility means that structure is used invisibly, and not entirely ignored as many might believe.

What do I mean by that? Absolute lack of structure makes for lack of clarity, a semblance of the work being unpolished. The language can become inaccessible, obscured by vague constructs and over abstraction. For this reason, free verse has purposeful word choice, sensory description, cohesion of imagery and raw simplicity at its foundation.

To understand free verse, we need to recognise where poetry and prose diverge, and understand by reference the constructs found within each. The basic building block of prose is the sentence; in poetry, we refer to this as the line. The line encompasses the entirety of a single syntactical prosodic unit and can cross over multiple verses—the verse being (confusingly) the printed line, ending where the line is broken. Poets decide how long each line is going to be and where it will break off. In formal verse this gives the visual shape of a poem as each verse is expected to meet the acknowledged scansion set up by its surrounding verses. Free verse differs here and lines are broken with much more definition: emphasis, sonic quality, importance, etc. Therefore just as with formal poetry, decisions on breaks, how/where, are not arbitrary or random.

Line length and position of line breaks are choices that affect the entirety of the reading experience. They influence the overall sound of the poem, i.e. how it reads aloud or when read internally. Each line break will cause a minor pause for a reader if read internally, or result in a slight stall when read aloud. Longer lines cause readers to run short of breath, and can accelerate pace and rhythm as a result; spacing images across multiple verses gives the reader room to process them, while packing as many images as closely together as possible can give an impression of chaos. The poet also needs to consider that a word where a line/verse ends carries organically more weight and automatically applies itself emphasis.

In prose, sentences that follow a core progression, or common idea, group as paragraphs. Poetry does this too, but we call them stanzas—formal poetry may use all manner of commonly known stanza types, couplet, tercet, quatrain, quintain and so on, just as free verse may. The difference is that the free verse poet isn’t bound by them. A free verse stanza (as such) could be a single word, or group of words—the expectation is still that lines/verses grouped together as a stanza share that commonality, but the liberal nature of the obscured structure only demands that progression is clear and concise where stanza formulation differs.

Of course, none of this discusses the content of the poem; I've merely spoken about the poem as a vessel. However, devices such as phonology also factor into how the general layout ends up. Peppering assonance, or echoing words or phrases around the context of the poem's core theme. This all works toward the final structure. As with imagery mentioned earlier, the where, how, why, and frequency will ultimately determine.

One could argue that most of what is true for free verse is also true for formal verse, and so the concept of structure in either remains concrete. This is also my summation, the immediate, recognisable structure of formal poetry, or the illusion of none, both require craftsmanship, consideration and effort to achieve—and there is always meter in language, always a fluidity of words when put together.

Steppe
06-28-2015, 07:36 PM
Wow! Good stuff Kie!

Ambrosia
06-28-2015, 07:46 PM
:Clap: :Thumbs:

Kie, I love when you teach. :D

William Haskins
06-28-2015, 08:27 PM
good stuff, kie.

it was generous of you to take the time to share your thoughts on this and it's a great add to the forum.

Kylabelle
06-28-2015, 09:16 PM
I think we need a mod with a sticky button.

Thank you, Kie.

Kylabelle
06-28-2015, 09:32 PM
So I found Brandt's post in the other thread (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?307623-What-happened-to-poetic-form&p=9470945&viewfull=1#post9470945) pretty thought-provoking (inspiring), in particular the suggestion that structure consists in what recurs. I've been pondering since I read that whether I can think of another quality that generates structure, and I haven't thought of one.

What recurs could refer to anything at all, of course, and isn't exclusive to rhyme or meter, but it does seem to be the key essential feature.

Is there another?

kborsden
06-28-2015, 09:50 PM
So I found Brandt's post in the other thread (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?307623-What-happened-to-poetic-form&p=9470945&viewfull=1#post9470945) pretty thought-provoking (inspiring), in particular the suggestion that structure consists in what recurs. I've been pondering since I read that whether I can think of another quality that generates structure, and I haven't thought of one.

What recurs could refer to anything at all, of course, and isn't exclusive to rhyme or meter, but it does seem to be the key essential feature.

Is there another?

You don't need recurrence for structure. Just consistency of forethought. Nowhere in the post do I mention recurrence.

Structure is not explicitly regulation, but more the introduction of order. Granting such creates that structure in the illusion of none.

Kylabelle
06-28-2015, 10:03 PM
Yes I noticed you didn't mention it. :)

I don't mean to be annoying, but I would love to see (or be able to think of and I am failing to) an example of consistency of forethought providing structure that does in no way involve recurrence of something.

It's a quibble I suppose.

kborsden
06-28-2015, 10:18 PM
Consistency of forethought:

* Deliberate word choice and placement.
* intentional, purposeful line breaks
* clarity of register and narrative
* grounded metaphor and strength of conceit

I'm sure there's more. However, there is the adherence to the theme/message involved here--that's a recurrence I suppose.

I did some experimentation with surrealism in the cddm thread. Looking for a way to remove perceivable/tangible reality from a poem by generating it by pure randomisation... even then there was structure to the resulting works, but no intentional recurrence, just applying order to chaos ;)

I'd dig a link out, but searches don't pull back all threads currently.

Kylabelle
06-28-2015, 10:26 PM
Yes. What I hope to discover is an example of those, any or all, in a poem, that does not in some way ride on an underlying recurrence of image, sound, or thought. Meaning, I can read those concepts and understand the words but still don't grasp how it works until I see it in action as it were. Which I'm sure is my own failing.

So I am not meaning to disagree so much as inquiring how it is possible. And again, maybe it's just a quibble and not worth our time.

kborsden
06-29-2015, 12:45 AM
I didnt see any disagreement in your post to begin with. I think you make a fair point. There will be a very low level recurrence, in the grain of the poem, otherwise the piece cant hold... the content must be driven by something but I feel recurrence is the wrong word. It gives an impression of forced repetition, rather than the organic flow of delivery. I feel consistency is a better word choice even if that is just semantics.

This is just to say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

William carlos Williams

Kylabelle
06-29-2015, 01:58 AM
Ah, okay, that begins to reach me then. I can see that the term "recurrence" could be too coarse for the sense of it.

I run into this more and more often, this challenge of precision.

In this poem I feel the beat (a repetition, though far far from forced) and at the coda (to use the term most loosely) the repetition, or recurrence if I may, of the little word "so" brings things clearly to a close.

So I do think we are pointing at the same moon with different fingers.

Brandt
06-29-2015, 02:16 AM
I was wondering if it was semantics. For the sake of the discussion, think of words/content as water. Poured onto any surface, it will conform to recurring boundaries at different points. Poured into a glass container, it will take the shape of the glass. One is predetermined and obvious, the other is unknown until the shape takes place, but both eventually find shape in what holds them, or gives them structure. As poets we can move the boundaries, insert new ones, remove existing ones to give our words the freedom to dictate their own, creating a structure to our liking (or the poem's liking), but we must have them, or the water we have confined is no different than water anywhere else. The boundaries that hold the water must recur, or the water would find no eventual shape.

Perhaps the word 'recur' connotes forced repetition, but it was not meant to. It was meant to suggest that, in the end, whatever structure emerges (intended or not) owes its existence to the concept of recurrence.


That said, I greatly appreciate the chance to discuss what I've privately pondered, and will admit I have no firm conviction on the matter. I know there have been great discussion threads that overlap some of ours here, but you have preserved for us a wonderful articulation of thought on FV structure. Kie, for that alone, the thread is worth it!!

Kyla, I think we are pretty much in tune... that should scare you to death.:)

Kylabelle
06-29-2015, 02:26 AM
My heart has already stopped.

Steppe
06-29-2015, 02:36 AM
Very interesting discussion.

Kylabelle
06-29-2015, 02:46 AM
I think my heart is beating again.

:)

Brandt
06-29-2015, 03:30 AM
I'll call off the ambulance.

kborsden
06-29-2015, 10:57 AM
In this poem I feel the beat (a repetition, though far far from forced)
... ... ...


The rhythm you note is not forced in the slightest, this is true. But it's not entirely incidental either. Starting out with naturally occurring rhythm of speech, it is the result of the hyper-reduction of the language, the lines sanitized of all fluff. This gives us that little taste of intimacy and honesty in the work, but in breaking where it does, the poem lives somewhere between a note on the fridge/kitchen table and the inner wind of the poet's immediate position. At the same time presenting through that 'won' rhythm as opposed to a predisposed meter.

Beyond that, the real structure is the consistency of the composition the narrative is wrapped in.


I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

From the middle section it's clear to us that WCW knew the plums weren't intended for his belly; he knows this, shows us this by indicating what they were being saved for. But he couldn't resists them...


and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

He doesn't say it that way though, oh no, there's something far more interesting happening. The poet is defiant, the next verses tell us such.


Forgive me
they were delicious

This forms a back-handed apology. He says sorry, but then makes sure the other party is aware they were delicious, and that WCW enjoyed his defiance. Like saying:

"Sorry I ate your plums, but really glad I did; you missed a real treat"


so sweet
and so cold



... ... ...
at the coda (to use the term most loosely) the repetition, or recurrence if I may, of the little word "so" brings things clearly to a close.

Saying the usage of 'so' in these 2 lines is a recurrence that holds the 'structure' together is a bit reaching, and weak. There is far more intensity and purpose and not just to tie-off neatly. Could the poet have said the same with just

"sweet
and cold"

Yes (in a sense), but 'so sweet' is sweeter than just 'sweet', 'so cold' is colder than just 'cold'. WCW is not just enjoying these plums--the entire act is one that is personal to him, that only he can enjoy. He had to have those plums regardless of what their original purpose was, and he is letting us know. Their flavour in that surreptitious moment was his, and his alone, almost hedonistically so. The plums were that much sweeter, that much colder, because they weren't his...

In addition, I want to throw this in. What I take from the poem as a reader instead of a poet: in any marriage or relationship there is a secret point scoring system, we all do it, even though we pretend we don't. All points considered, this poem is just that

"I know what you wanted, I wilfully disobeyed
--score 1 to me" :)

Back to the poem. The structure is visible in how this piece progresses, the careful consideration for how each section leads into the next; the breaks and how they pace; the impression of mindfulness and simplicity; the way the poem in its content bends something mundane into something much more meaningful. These aren't just words thrown at a page.

Kylabelle
06-29-2015, 12:59 PM
And so the content itself guides the structure.

I totally agree that the r______ (pattern might be a more welcome term) I notice is quite subtle and completely in service to the sense and meaning the poety is generating a craft to carry and that every instance of this component that Brandt and then I termed "recurrence" is itself utterly in service to one or perhaps all of the elements you earlier noted as essential to free verse structure.

That's the art of it, in my view, doing that so that it almost doesn't show -- UNLESS showing it is itself crucial to the sense being well conveyed.

It is perhaps only how I view things that causes me, when I want to discover the structure in a poem that is free verse, to observe that which repeats as key.

kborsden
06-29-2015, 01:40 PM
Agree wholeheartedly.

When I discussed an invisible structure, or illusion of none, that's exactly what I meant.

kborsden
06-29-2015, 05:57 PM
Shall we look at another poem like in post #18? (Was actually quite fun)

Feel free to suggest one :)

Kylabelle
06-29-2015, 06:10 PM
I don't have one in mind that would suit, but I am thinking! so if anyone else would suggest one, that would be super. Or, Kie, you go ahead if you have one in mind.

ETA: Actually, the one I have linked in my signature would be a great subject for this. The link is one of my favorite aphorisms which is a line from the poem. Clearly this poem is built upon the concept, you might call it the Anti-Icarus concept, haha, except that it is very Pro Icarus in meaning.

What do you think? I shall look into it for instances of this thing called recurrence I'm hung on. *I think it is not public domain so we have to work from the link I guess?

Brandt
06-29-2015, 10:45 PM
Kie, love you man, and you know I rarely, if ever, disagree with you... mostly because you know so much more than I ever hope to about poetry, and we both know that. But I've got to question the WCW poem with regards to this:


At the same time presenting through that 'won' rhythm as opposed to a predisposed meter.


I scan this poem as almost perfect anapestic meter:

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

so much so that the unnecessary wording, i.e., "so" seems to be there to fulfill the meter, as well as the intent which you so eloquently state above. It seems to be a perfect marriage of intent, word economy, rhythm and meter, but the meter is there (as a recurrence) 'though well disguised. Is it an accidental result of natural speech patterns, or intentional design? Or am I scanning it wrong?

I agree with everything else... but just think the meter could be just as crucial, and intended, to the structure of this poem?

Debbie V
06-29-2015, 10:56 PM
I do see recurrence here, though pattern may indeed be a better word. The whole poem to me hangs on the word were. "I have eaten the plums in the icebox" has a completely different sense. It doesn't throw that gloat at his significant other. Without were, the action becomes more mundane.

kborsden
06-29-2015, 11:57 PM
Jeff,

I scan it thus:

.x.../.../..x....|..x..../
I have eaten.| the plums
.x....../....x...| .x.../..x
that were in..| the icebox
.x.....x......| ../....x...../..x..% <-- promotional/elevational accent
and which | you were probably
./..x... | .x..../.....x
saving | for breakfast
.x.../.....x...| ./......x......x../..x
Forgive me | they were delicious
.x..../.....| .x.....x..../
so sweet | and so cold

If the poem seems to fall to a solid meter to your ear, that's also good--it means you found a rhythm in there to follow. :)

Brandt
06-30-2015, 12:12 AM
I see now, from how you read it, the intent you describe is enhanced by your emphasis in several places... especially on 'were' and 'so'. Gives it real attitude.:)

kborsden
06-30-2015, 12:15 AM
I've reformatted the post as the form didn't like my whitespace formatting.

Brandt
06-30-2015, 12:27 AM
it was a bit compacted, easier on the eyes now. Thanks. The 'were' I referred to was the first one, where you placed stress... the 'so' was the last one, just to clarify, since there are more than one of each. I wouldn't have scanned it that way without hearing it the way you do, which I really enjoyed. Thanks again.

kborsden
06-30-2015, 12:34 AM
No worries. I found it hard to scan in the layout presented. I found I could only scan it properly when laid out with the lines complete enough to do so. Maybe that influenced my result...

Brandt
06-30-2015, 12:52 AM
I did the same thing, so...:) Maybe Welsh vs Texan? More likely experience vs well...

The first scan, I thought the 'fast' at the end of breakfast was a dropped foot/syl (think that's what it's called), but then it tied into the next line to my ear so I reformatted the poem into extended lines. I dunno, my scansion is normally, at best, just trying to find a rhythm and doesn't allow for emotional emphasis unless it falls into the/a metrical pattern, which I've always thought was part of crafting. This is giving me a whole new look. FV has always been hard to define in my head, i.e., what's a poem and what's not, and my head needs definition/structure. My attempt to find it widened to the thought of something/anything that recurred. It was exploration according to how my mind wants to have things, I suppose. In more formal verse, recurring structure is much more obvious. Your a good sport, and much appreciated, for indulging me. It's your fault anyway for being a good teacher!:)

kborsden
06-30-2015, 12:55 AM
I think essentially each verse needs to be handled as its own foot. Which is the approach I took sfter re-assembling.

Brandt
06-30-2015, 01:17 AM
Just pulling this onto the current page for accessibility. Does punctuation, or the lack of it as is here, have any impact regarding taking each line as its own foot? Initially, I would think the lack of it would make your comment even more relevant?

This is just to say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

William carlos Williams

Debbie V
07-06-2015, 11:05 PM
I scan it this way, also almost as perfect anapestic meter. Mine differs from Brandt at the end in that I see two possibilities and emphasize were over they. I read it aloud a few times to get the beat and double checked the delicious in the dictionary. So interesting that we have different interpretations. But, that is the stuff of art.

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold - This could be read with the beat on so both times. Doing so makes the emotional intent sound nastier. Both worked out loud.

William carlos Williams

I wish we had a recording of Williams himself to hear where he stressed the syllables. Of course, we do. http://jacket2.org/commentary/five-recordings-william-carlos-williams-performing-just-say

I'll have to listen later.

kuwisdelu
07-06-2015, 11:28 PM
I wish we had a recording of Williams himself to hear where he stressed the syllables. Of course, we do. http://jacket2.org/commentary/five-recordings-william-carlos-williams-performing-just-say

I'll have to listen later.

I've always heard the stress on "so".

Mostly because that's how Mr. Simmons read it in Hey Arnold!

My ear has Mr. Williams placing the stress on "so" ever so slightly, too.

True2Self
07-07-2015, 11:42 AM
Really nice and helpful. I would like to know more about the dividing lines between prose and poetry. Can someone point me to similar writings in understanding that.
Thanks

Magdalen
07-07-2015, 03:48 PM
Really nice and helpful. I would like to know more about the dividing lines between prose and poetry. Can someone point me to similar writings in understanding that.
Thanks

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?307623-What-happened-to-poetic-form

kborsden
07-09-2015, 12:29 AM
Don't know where the anapaests are coming from... even without forced emphasis or emotive accent, I scan as below:


- + + -
i have eaten
- +
the plums
- - - or + - -
that were in
- + +
the icebox

- - or - +
and which
- - + - -
you were probably
+ -
saving
- + -
for breakfast

- + - or + + -
forgive me
- - - + -
they were delicious
+ +
so sweet
- + +
and so cold


I tried to force anapaests by pulling the verses into complete lines, thus removing the pacing by linebreaks... more or less the same result :)



-++--+----++
i have eaten the plums that were in the icebox

----+--+--+-
and which you were probably saving for breakfast

-+----+-++-++
forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold

Debbie V
07-13-2015, 10:37 PM
I wonder how much of scansion comes down to the origins of the reader. Could it be our own natural speech rhythms come into play?

I do see where "so sweet" and "so cold" could have emphasis on both words. The thing is, I can read the whole poem a few different ways and have it work. The tone changes impact how I perceive the meaning and how I perceive the character saying this, but they sound natural to my ear. It's as if I'm missing the context to tell me which way makes the most sense.

kborsden
07-14-2015, 04:20 PM
Regardless, I feel that scansion takes us away from where we started and onto a route I don't feel quite fits here. The fact remains this is a free verse poem that has a natural rhthym -- and a clear structure. Achieved by the intent of the poet to craft a work that is solid, concise and consistent.

There is a structure to this piece, not just words clustered onto a page... that was where we started, and where I feel the discussion should delve into, scansion aside.