poems, mostly metrical, and rants and raves on poets, poetry, and the po-biz (with 8-string stuff)
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Posts from — January 2012

Breaking Lines

The January 30th issue of The New Yorker prints a poem (not available online to non-subscribers) called “Booty,” by Matthew Sweeney, which I rather liked on first reading. But when I listened to the recording of the author’s reading of the poem included in The New Yorker‘s iPad app’s presentation, things began to fall apart.

It’s a short poem, 20 lines averaging a little more than 4 words/line, and 10 of the lines are end-punctuated with either a comma or a period; the other 10 have only internal punctuation. When Sweeney reads, he pauses at each of the 10 line breaks with final punctuation. Of those line breaks without final punctuation, there are 6 which he doesn’t mark vocally at all, and 4 which he does mark with pauses every bit as long as those accompanying punctuated line breaks.

As it happens, those 4 all precede a prepositional phrase at the beginning of the next line. But so does one of the 6 unpunctuated line breaks without a pause, and there is one prepositional phrase internal to a line which does not receive a pause, so that’s not what’s happening.

On the page of The New Yorker, only 2 lines extend as much as 6 characters past any adjacent line, and those long lines have lots of the letter ‘i’. The right edge of the poem is genteelly ragged, with only line 2 having a whole word (“T-shirt”) beyond the lengths of its neighbors. Late in the poem, Sweeney breaks a line after “the”

so I slunk on, to the
market, where I half-lived,

and avoids a visually very short line, either “so I slunk on,” or “where I half-lived,” but he doesn’t read his line-breaks anyway, and, by the way, what’s with that comma after “on”? He’s also not concerned with syllables per line, which range from 4 to 7; he’s not counting words, which range from 2 to 6 per line; he certainly isn’t counting stresses, which range from 1 to 3 per line in his reading — just what is he doing?

It seems to me Sweeney wants his poem to sound a particular way, and so it does when he reads it; he wants it to look a particular way, and so it does when printed in an appropriate font. But either he doesn’t care how readers who haven’t heard him read the poem will read it to themselves, or he believes that his own sensibility is sufficiently representative of some more-or-less universal poetic sensibility that worthy readers will get it right by … well, somehow.

I guess I’m NOT a worthy reader.

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January 30, 2012   1 Comment

Nothing Left to Lose

With nothing left to lose, I’d be lost,
And so might you. When all you’ve loved is gone,
Nothing remains which might defray that cost.
With nothing left to lose, I’d be lost
Just like a losing lotto ticket tossed
Away when I have nothing left to pawn.
With nothing left to lose, I’d be lost –
And so might you, when all you’ve loved is gone.

———

I’m just recovering from a week of alternating nausea and dizziness. My brain is just starting to work again, or at least I hope so. Not at all sure the above is positive evidence.

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January 29, 2012   6 Comments

New twiplet, for Lew’s new book

I tweeted a slightly different version of this earlier today:

Confused by my bedazzled look?
Lew Turco’s done just what it took
And put two twiplets in his book!

Buy The Book of Forms

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January 11, 2012   1 Comment

Silly Me!

In my last post I told you about Lewis Turco‘s new edition of The Book of Forms with my twiplets in it, but I didn’t let you know where to buy it. Why not straight from the publisher, the University Press of New England?

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January 11, 2012   3 Comments

Lewis Turco’s The Book of Forms, 4th Ed.

The book’s been indispensable for me since the 1968 1st edition (which Lew was kind enough to sign for me a few years ago) and I am very proud to say the new edition is out and includes a form I devised for Twitter and originally called a twinnet. I now call it a twiplet, and that’s the name Lew used.

In related news, I posted about the publication in the UseNet group alt.arts.poetry.comments, where George Dance noticed it and was kind enough to add the form to his Penny’s Poetry Pages Wiki. He also wrote a twiplet and posted it on the page including my definition and examples. I’ve added a link under “Poetry, Mostly Blogs” to George’s site.

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January 9, 2012   2 Comments