Mike Snider's Formal Blog and Sonnetarium :
Poems, mostly metrical, and rants and raves on poetry and the po-biz.
Updated: 1/24/06; 10:02:28 PM.



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Sunday, October 5, 2003

Before I get back to the sonnet (hey, Friday or Sunday, what's the dif?), a brief IP demo. From sheer perversity on my part, all of the following examples are the first two lines of poems in Rebel Angels.

Yellow freesia arc like twining arms;
I'm buying shower curtains, smoke alarms,

Elizabeth Alexander, "Letter: Blues"

Who says a woman's work isn't high art?
She'd challenge as she scrubbed the bathroom tiles.

Julia Alvarez, "Woman's Work"

This is a sight that Wordsworth never knew,
whether looking down from mountain, bridge, or hill:

Bruce Bawer, "The View from an Airplane at Night, over California"

A motorcycle roaring in the distance—
I sigh myself. I loved her. More than Christmas,

Rafael Campo, "Aunt Toni's Heart"

She spent her money with such perfect style
The clerk's would gasp at each new thing she'd choose.

Tom Disch, "The Rapist's Villanelle"

"Get up!" "Marlene?" I smell the April rain
And squint half-dreaming at the windowpane

Frederick Feirstein, "Mark Stern Wakes Up"

"This must have been her bedroom, Mr. Choi.
It's hard to tell. The only other time

Dana Gioia, "Counting the Children"

No ornaments but the double bed and open
solitude found in older motels off-season

Emily Grosholz, "The Outer Banks"

Slow for the sake of flowers as they turn
     Toward sunlight, graceful as a line of sail

R. S. Gwynn, "Release"

I bet you don't wear shoulder pads in bed.
I bet when we get over, we'll be bad!

Marilyn Hacker, "Wagers"

When my eyes rove in search of recognition,
what fills them, as if they were ears, not eyes,

Rachel Hadas, "Sentimental Education"

Some people as they die grow fierce, afraid.
The see a bright light, offer frantic prayers,

Andrew Hudgins, "The Hereafter"

That's enough: 12 pairs of opening lines from the first 12 poets in single anthology of contemporary formal verse. Considering substitutions, placement or lack of caesura, enjambment, and varying levels of stress, no pair consists of metrically identical lines, and no pair is identical to any other. Very few stray far from ordinary speech. Each pair quickly establishes a different mode and feel.

And every one is instantly recognizable as iambic pentameter.

An endless stream of ones carries no information, and neither does an endless random stream of numbers. What matters are variations within a recognizable pattern, and for poetry in English meant to read as if spoken by a human voice, no other line is as capacious as the pentameter.

Do I need to say that the above doesn't mean all poems should be IP? I didn't think so.

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2006 Michael Snider.

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