Statement of Philosophy

A site for exploration and discussion about verse, poetics, the aesthetic, and creative writing in general.

Because there is a profound difference between writing something to be read and writing something worth reading; and in that difference might beauty be found.

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Review: Poetry Magazine (Oct. 2015) – Part VI: Randall Mann, Reginald Gibbons

The October 2015 issue of Poetry Magazine can be found here.

links to individual texts:
Randall Mann, "Florida"
Randall Mann, "Almost"
Reginald Gibbons, from "Dark Honey"
— headers to the sections are also links to the texts


the other posts in this series

— some editing, Jan 29, 2016; particularly in exchanging the term "same-word rhyme" for "exact rhyme" in the section on "Almost." I have heard a handful of terms used for using the same word twice in making a rhyme, "exact rhyme" being one of them. But, since readers were thrown by the term, I switched to the new one.

— some editing and an added footnote, Apr. 4 2016

— footnote extended, Feb. 21, 2016


fragments and amalgams, similes and metaphors, and a bit on confidence


As I left off on the last post, my plan was to look at Catherine Staples's "Vert" as a second example of list verse. I have now decided to return "Vert" to its original place in the Poetry volume's ordering and to pick up with that which comes next in the table of contents: Randall Mann's "Florida" and "Almost" and Reginald Gibbon's excerpt from "Dark Honey." (Cynthia Cruz's "Midnight Office" was already given time in Part 4.) As it happens, "Florida" is a list, so there is yet continuity from the previous post.





With the second work by Mann, "Almost," we come upon our first example of formal verse. Or, at least, what would normally be considered the first example of formal verse. Yet what of "Florida"? There are no rhyming lines in "Florida"; nor are the lines measured. To all appearances the text is free verse in the sense of a-formal verse. Except: it is written in stanzas. After every three lines there is a stanza break: the text, therefore, has form, and a measured form at that.

The habit of writing free verse in equal-length stanzas is common within contemporary pop poetry. In this volume of Poetry there are by my count thirteen such works by eight different authors (fourteen by nine if you include the opening of "Arcadia"). Recently, when I am confronted by such texts (in this series and elsewhere) I am finding myself more and more questioning of my current stance on the event. I am now continually asking myself: Is there indeed a problem with free verse that is broken up into measured stanzas? Can it be considered as little more than a typographical choice, no different than font size? Is it possible that breaking up a free verse text in such a way does create benefits? Or, am I correct in holding that it is an imposed form, and when the text of the verse fails to recognize and to engage that form it is a weakness in the work?

The issue, I believe, lies in the implied word in the third question: Is it possible that breaking up a free verse text arbitrarily in such a way does create benefits? If the stanzas are not written, then the text is not written to stanzas: as such, the stanzas are arbitrary. Once a prof of mine (an established writer) told of a verse of his that he could not get to work, until he broke the text up into evenly measured stanzas. The added space changed the pace of reading of the text. Perhaps example to the positive. Only, the text of the verse is essentially prose with line breaks.[FN] So, while it very well could be that the stanza breaks did improve the reading of the text, the cause is that it was alleviating the difficulty created by reading prose set in a narrow column. It could also be the line breaks made the text not look like prose in a narrow column, so the reader has a more positive ("I recognize that as verse") immediate reaction. Either way or both, maybe not a positive after all.