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Old 11-24-2012, 12:34 PM   #1
champagne1982
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Words On Breaking A Poem

I came across a short essay I was working on a few years back and will post it on this thread. Maybe after you read it, you'll feel that you can tell us what your thoughts on line breaks are.
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Old 11-24-2012, 12:35 PM   #2
champagne1982
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Line Breaks

There are many ways to determine where you should break a line of verse in a poem. In fact, with the adoption of a current trend toward prose poetry, line breaks have become mired in even thicker muck.

With formula poems where rhythm, end rhyme or both are set devices, line breaks are easy, since the choice isn't really up to the poet. How the poet ends the line is still his to determine, but it will always fall after whatever metrical foot required by the form.

Free verse has a multitude of choices all jumbled in amidst the poet's own perception of what they mean or want to say and how they'd like it to sound when they do present their poetry. Line breaking is personal and like poems for the panty drawer, can be as exclusive to their composition as the writer wants them to be.

Sometimes, there's a lack of punctuation in a poem and the line breaks become a form of punctuation in themselves. In effect, signalling the reader to pause here, before your eye moves back and down to the next word. Most often when reading, I like to linger on the end word and then on the verse it's in as a whole. Clever enjambment can trick me into reading on past the break though, so the poet needs to be clear in their thinking about what their devices are doing to their reader.

If there's a significant thought being expressed then should the thought be allowed to continue, unbroken, until the reader goes cross-eyed and becomes breathless? I believe it's up to the poet to find a better way to express the idea, so that no matter if they let the verse run away or if they break after each word, the reader can nod and say, "Yeah, I get that."

When there's a line that hovers over the body of the poem, like a springboard over a pool, the writer needs to examine that verse. He should test it for concise expression of the thought, and if so, then write it to include a logical break earlier in the verse. Don't write it and then look for an important word, it should be composed so that no matter where the break comes, the important word is where you want it to be. Of course, a springboard may be exactly what you want the word to stand on, too. As long as the poet decides and not the verse.

Own your poetry. Don't let the words drive the poet, instead take the wheel and steer the words. Let feelings map your route, but never let them step on the gas once you're out of their neighbourhood. Turn off the GPS sometimes, too. You don't always need to follow that route, or even obey the laws governing a particular county, or formula, as the case may be.

Always do what best serves the poem and you should never need to question why your line break falls where it does in your piece. If you approach breaks with confidence you can always answer critique or questions with, "This poem is exactly how I wanted it to be."

Cut unneccessary adjectives and adverbs from the verse, don't say "tropical sky blue", learn that the shade is called "cerulean". Don't say "cerulean blue" that's redundant since cerulean is already telling the reader "blue". Hopefully, that sort of editing would shrink the line length enough to fit it into the shape of the poem and not leave the reader dangling over the deep end. Get into the pool and confidently swim with the big fish.
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Old 11-25-2012, 04:56 PM   #3
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As you may remember, I have strong views on line breaks. I recall we once had a challenge that included egregious enjambment.

If I were less sensitive to criticism from those seeped in proper punctuation and well reasoned line breaks, I personally would forgo punctuation (and the use of caps) but never give up a well constructed line break.

Line breaks and word choice should be all that is needed to speak to an audience.

The argument is made that punctuation replaces the lack of intonation and breaks in speech we use in spoken word conversation. Perhaps for the question mark. Most commas, colons and whatever are only useful in reading from a badly written text.

A lack of punctuation forces the poet to be careful about word usage and allows for a delightful ambiguity from time to time.

Don't speak to me of emoticons ... typographical broken wind


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Old 02-21-2013, 12:27 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by champagne1982 View Post
Line Breaks

There are many ways to determine where you should break a line of verse in a poem. In fact, with the adoption of a current trend toward prose poetry, line breaks have become mired in even thicker muck.

With formula poems where rhythm, end rhyme or both are set devices, line breaks are easy, since the choice isn't really up to the poet. How the poet ends the line is still his to determine, but it will always fall after whatever metrical foot required by the form.

Free verse has a multitude of choices all jumbled in amidst the poet's own perception of what they mean or want to say and how they'd like it to sound when they do present their poetry. Line breaking is personal and like poems for the panty drawer, can be as exclusive to their composition as the writer wants them to be.

Sometimes, there's a lack of punctuation in a poem and the line breaks become a form of punctuation in themselves. In effect, signalling the reader to pause here, before your eye moves back and down to the next word. Most often when reading, I like to linger on the end word and then on the verse it's in as a whole. Clever enjambment can trick me into reading on past the break though, so the poet needs to be clear in their thinking about what their devices are doing to their reader.

If there's a significant thought being expressed then should the thought be allowed to continue, unbroken, until the reader goes cross-eyed and becomes breathless? I believe it's up to the poet to find a better way to express the idea, so that no matter if they let the verse run away or if they break after each word, the reader can nod and say, "Yeah, I get that."

When there's a line that hovers over the body of the poem, like a springboard over a pool, the writer needs to examine that verse. He should test it for concise expression of the thought, and if so, then write it to include a logical break earlier in the verse. Don't write it and then look for an important word, it should be composed so that no matter where the break comes, the important word is where you want it to be. Of course, a springboard may be exactly what you want the word to stand on, too. As long as the poet decides and not the verse.

Own your poetry. Don't let the words drive the poet, instead take the wheel and steer the words. Let feelings map your route, but never let them step on the gas once you're out of their neighbourhood. Turn off the GPS sometimes, too. You don't always need to follow that route, or even obey the laws governing a particular county, or formula, as the case may be.

Always do what best serves the poem and you should never need to question why your line break falls where it does in your piece. If you approach breaks with confidence you can always answer critique or questions with, "This poem is exactly how I wanted it to be."

Cut unneccessary adjectives and adverbs from the verse, don't say "tropical sky blue", learn that the shade is called "cerulean". Don't say "cerulean blue" that's redundant since cerulean is already telling the reader "blue". Hopefully, that sort of editing would shrink the line length enough to fit it into the shape of the poem and not leave the reader dangling over the deep end. Get into the pool and confidently swim with the big fish.
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Old 02-21-2013, 12:38 PM   #5
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cerulean blue is a specific paint, says so on the tube

So, paint us a picture
a sky of cerulean blue

lines from a poem I never got around to finishing. but the use of cerulean was sarcastic as most of my stuff is

I laughed, when I saw this, and since it came up again...

otherwise you're right champ
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Old 02-22-2013, 04:15 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twelveoone View Post
cerulean blue is a specific paint, says so on the tube
Ah ... so the literary genii who label tubes of paint are the new arbiters of poetic usage? I am reassured.
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:47 PM   #7
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Ah ... so the literary genii who label tubes of paint are the new arbiters of poetic usage? I am reassured.
usage in context, anything that does a double duty adds

Champ is talking about "creative writers disease" which is a good thing to avoid. The writer has to make that decision with thought. My use was as in painting.
Compare
So, paint us a picture
a sky of cerulean blue

with

So, paint us a picture
a sky of blue

or

So, paint us a picture
a sky of cerulean


the non use of the word "cerulean" , shifts the meaning of blue, doesn't it. keep in mind I said my use was in a sarcastic context. I didn't want any other connotations of "Blue" creeping in.

suppose it was writ

So, paint us a picture
a sky of Prussian blue

again a different shift in meaning, where do you think I would go with that?

I am very careful in this regard. One word can change the whole tone of a poem.

"says so on the tube" was a joke as in "So, paint us a picture"

Now go read Neo's new poem, Neo is also lining up meaning with specific word choice.
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Old 02-23-2013, 08:26 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twelveoone View Post
usage in context, anything that does a double duty adds

Champ is talking about "creative writers disease" which is a good thing to avoid. The writer has to make that decision with thought. My use was as in painting.
Compare
So, paint us a picture
a sky of cerulean blue

with

So, paint us a picture
a sky of blue

or

So, paint us a picture
a sky of cerulean


the non use of the word "cerulean" , shifts the meaning of blue, doesn't it. keep in mind I said my use was in a sarcastic context. I didn't want any other connotations of "Blue" creeping in.

suppose it was writ

So, paint us a picture
a sky of Prussian blue

again a different shift in meaning, where do you think I would go with that?

I am very careful in this regard. One word can change the whole tone of a poem.

"says so on the tube" was a joke as in "So, paint us a picture"

Now go read Neo's new poem, Neo is also lining up meaning with specific word choice.
Bravo. Clap. Well done.

If I may channel my inner Senna, you missed the obvious ...

So paint us
a cerulean sky


... but of course sarcasm allows certain liberties.

The Prussian blue comment seems to me to support Champ's point. Cerulean is a colour, Prussian is not.

So, paint us a picture
a sky of Prussian


is awkward even sarcastically.

::

And thank you, I did read Neo's latest.

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Old 02-28-2013, 04:16 PM   #9
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Bravo. Clap. Well done.

If I may channel my inner Senna, you missed the obvious ...

So paint us
a cerulean sky


... but of course sarcasm allows certain liberties.

The Prussian blue comment seems to me to support Champ's point. Cerulean is a colour, Prussian is not.

So, paint us a picture
a sky of Prussian


is awkward even sarcastically.

::

And thank you, I did read Neo's latest.

::
if it is about painting, it's on the TUBE

Bone White is a lame ass cliche, but if it is on the TUBE, I'm using it if it is about painting, or if it somehow supports something else in the poem.

Champ's main point and my main point are exactly the same, think about what you doing.

On the other end of the spectrum, would be why use cerulean, why not just blue? Cerulean tends to sound like a poetic-ism. Your inner Senna should have pointed in that direction, and may have wound up looking more like

Blue sky

I paint
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Old 02-28-2013, 06:04 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twelveoone View Post
if it is about painting, it's on the TUBE

Bone White is a lame ass cliche, but if it is on the TUBE, I'm using it if it is about painting, or if it somehow supports something else in the poem.

Champ's main point and my main point are exactly the same, think about what you doing.

On the other end of the spectrum, would be why use cerulean, why not just blue? Cerulean tends to sound like a poetic-ism. Your inner Senna should have pointed in that direction, and may have wound up looking more like

Blue sky

I paint
My inner Senna is a twisted misshapen parody of the real thing.

I have to agree with your comment about poetic-ism. However I have used the word in conversation (art history minor) so it's not quite archaic.

Touché

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Old 03-01-2013, 09:39 PM   #11
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My inner Senna is a twisted misshapen parody of the real thing.

I have to agree with your comment about poetic-ism. However I have used the word in conversation (art history minor) so it's not quite archaic.

Touché

::
great, what can you tell me about Whistler's theory?
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Old 03-01-2013, 10:16 PM   #12
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great, what can you tell me about Whistler's theory?
You mean "Art for Art's sake"? Basically he didn't want his paintings read for "deeper meaning". (A reaction to the Symbolists whose every brush stroke carried deep and hidden meaning. Symbolism had devolved into stylized in-jokes.)

It's actually hard to do (embrace Whistler's theory). Try writing a poem without any meaning beyond the literal meaning in the words. No metaphor. No analogy. No shared cultural baggage. A bit like Fortran.

Might make an interesting challenge but why bother. Even "Paint me a blue sky" carries baggage.

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Old 03-01-2013, 10:29 PM   #13
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You mean "Art for Art's sake"? Basically he didn't want his paintings read for "deeper meaning". (A reaction to the Symbolists whose every brush stroke carried deep and hidden meaning. Symbolism had devolved into stylized in-jokes.)

It's actually hard to do (embrace Whistler's theory). Try writing a poem without any meaning beyond the literal meaning in the words. No metaphor. No analogy. No shared cultural baggage. A bit like Fortran.

Might make an interesting challenge but why bother. Even "Paint me a blue sky" carries baggage.

::
I was looking for his use of blocks of colour, he was quoted in a obscure book, saying something like needs a block? of colour? and it was there the next day

The shame is I don't remember the title, nor the authour, nor the name of the poet the book was about. I sort of know where the book is, but that entails some travel.
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Old 03-01-2013, 10:44 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by twelveoone View Post
I was looking for his use of blocks of colour, he was quoted in a obscure book, saying something like needs a block? of colour? and it was there the next day

The shame is I don't remember the title, nor the authour, nor the name of the poet the book was about. I sort of know where the book is, but that entails some travel.
Can't help you. If blocks of colour strike your fancy, try Mondrian, who stripped Art of even image. Both men ought to be respected for their strong views, but imho, they take us nowhere.

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Old 03-01-2013, 11:26 PM   #15
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Can't help you. If blocks of colour strike your fancy, try Mondrian, who stripped Art of even image. Both men ought to be respected for their strong views, but imho, they take us nowhere.

::
funny, when I saw the quote, he was exactly who I thought of, though the intermediary of Duchamp, Picasso, et al.

My interest was initially why is Whistler considered the father of Modern Art,
why is Baudelaire, modern poetry? If you discount Baudelaire's prose poetry, he was a much stricter formalist than Frost. Frost looks like a radical compared to Baudelaire when is came to things like sonnets. Which is funny to me, since I love Baudelaire and basically hate sonnets, remarkably low success rate with me. Of about 1,000 I've read, I like maybe 5, respect maybe another 20.
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Old 03-02-2013, 07:31 AM   #16
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... Frost looks like a radical compared to Baudelaire when is came to things like sonnets. Which is funny to me, since I love Baudelaire and basically hate sonnets, remarkably low success rate with me. Of about 1,000 I've read, I like maybe 5, respect maybe another 20.
You haven't been following Wolfie Larsen.

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Old 03-02-2013, 07:58 AM   #17
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You haven't been following Wolfie Larsen.

::
not closely
but in another thread I took a Shakespeare sonnet and mutated half of it, before I got bored. I can't even get excited if I'm doing it-sorry
ee cummins
Milton
Wilfred Owen
Yeats

you just can't get past those guys
Frost is the guy I respect, I just don't like the material.

I have seen some vers libre "sonnets" I liked, and Sweet Oblivion uses the penti for good effect, but I have no idea why he sticks it that type of box. (no pun intended)
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Old 03-02-2013, 08:38 AM   #18
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1201 said:
Quote:
Which is funny to me, since I love Baudelaire and basically hate sonnets, remarkably low success rate with me. Of about 1,000 I've read, I like maybe 5, respect maybe another 20.

Hate seems a strong word. I'm curious why a box of text fourteen lines long inspires such emotion.

The mechanics of writing a Sonnet is a learned skill. You practice and you get better. It's like counterpoint or chord progression in music - not what the music is about but integral to the work. You can't write a symphony without a good grounding. Listening to a symphony does not require specialized knowledge, but the experience is enhanced if one has a basic knowledge of musical structure.

Similarly reading a sonnet is improved by having taken the time to understand the form. If you "hate" sonnets, best ask yourself why. Is it the readers problem or the form's problem? (Maybe the kind of poet who writes sonnets is so cartesian as to be dislikeable.)

Having said that (and potentially alienated a great swath of poets), I enjoy a sonnet if the content is interesting. I haven't found the time nor had the inclination to invest the effort in really appreciating the form (or any form for that matter). Its merely a matter of personal preference.

Still hoping the Truncated Hexaquintalet makes it into the Pantheon of Form


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Old 03-02-2013, 09:00 AM   #19
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If you "hate" sonnets, best ask yourself why. Is it the readers problem or the form's problem? (Maybe the kind of poet who writes sonnets is so cartesian as to be dislikeable.)



Still hoping the Truncated Hexaquintalet makes it into the Pantheon of Form


::
you are outing me all over the place, but generally speaking, they do suffer from either a lack of humour, or pissedoffeness; purporting to be the VOICE of reason without thought i.e. they are generally high in the quality of shamabilty

in Wolf's case, he is exploiting this quality of shamabilty to good effect, but cummins did it better and simpler

Truncated Hexaquintalet, now that has possibilies
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Old 03-02-2013, 11:54 AM   #20
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you are outing me all over the place, but generally speaking, they do suffer from either a lack of humour, or pissedoffeness; purporting to be the VOICE of reason without thought i.e. they are generally high in the quality of shamabilty

in Wolf's case, he is exploiting this quality of shamabilty to good effect, but cummins did it better and simpler

Truncated Hexaquintalet, now that has possibilies
Sigh. I was kinda hoping you might focus on the rest of my post. <passing 1201 the soap>

::

I am surprised. I've never had the experience of discussing literary issues with an anti-sonnettist. I suppose there are worse prejudices. I should have seen that my tongue-in-cheek, cartesian comment might be inflammatory, so I must take some of the blame. My apologies.

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Old 03-02-2013, 09:11 PM   #21
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Sigh. I was kinda hoping you might focus on the rest of my post. <passing 1201 the soap>

::

I am surprised. I've never had the experience of discussing literary issues with an anti-sonnettist. I suppose there are worse prejudices. I should have seen that my tongue-in-cheek, cartesian comment might be inflammatory, so I must take some of the blame. My apologies.

::
I have put thought to it. They don't work for me, not often ones in English. I have discussed these things in the past.

A simple line
linear.......Sonnet..............................me............non linear
It is not often a zone of enjoyment for me 2%, maybe. It is a 2 room house, with 14 steps that have to be walked a certain way

they are cartesian
they are iambic pentameter
they are formalistic
they are way too often written to the form, too often by people who don't realize that is was a form developed for a specific reason. They read like legal arguments to me.
they don't often surprise me, Eliot has one buried in the Waste Land, and a near mirror, (right below?) those parts drag

and they are often written by people with worse prejudices

here is the pro's

They do lend themselves very well to a certain language (you see the five i listed)
They do have certain boundaries that you can bounce against (Frost)
They fit so perfectly on a standard page
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Old 03-02-2013, 09:21 PM   #22
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ee cummings

"next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims' and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn's early my
country 'tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?"

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

one of the five
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Old 03-02-2013, 09:45 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by twelveoone View Post
I have put thought to it. They don't work for me, not often ones in English. I have discussed these things in the past.

A simple line
linear.......Sonnet..............................me............non linear
It is not often a zone of enjoyment for me 2%, maybe. It is a 2 room house, with 14 steps that have to be walked a certain way

they are cartesian
they are iambic pentameter
they are formalistic
they are way too often written to the form, too often by people who don't realize that is was a form developed for a specific reason. They read like legal arguments to me.
they don't often surprise me, Eliot has one buried in the Waste Land, and a near mirror, (right below?) those parts drag

and they are often written by people with worse prejudices

here is the pro's

They do lend themselves very well to a certain language (you see the five i listed)
They do have certain boundaries that you can bounce against (Frost)
They fit so perfectly on a standard page
::

The only sensible thing you said was the last line.

I have a soft spot for typography and page layout. Poetry is a bitch because the lines are too short and the poms are too long. Nothing nicer than a 14 line block of iambic pentameter.

::

I might agree with your feelings about the sonnet, but your extension of your argument to generalize about the character and capability of sonnetteers is just a little ... over the top. A bit like Paris Hilton criticizing Mozart for his taste in capri pants.

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Old 03-02-2013, 10:27 PM   #24
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and they are often written by people with worse prejudices

neoformalism, if it is not in an acceptable form it is not poetry
if it is not more than 20% variation from the metre it is not poetry, most of the cannon has about 30%
most of the cannon is who? is what?

they are way too often written to the form, too often by people who don't realize that is was a form developed for a specific reason.
that could be construed as a generalization, let me clarify, I have read about 1,000 sonnets (that maybe both of use would call a sonnet), I have read about 200-300 more, and I'm sure that there are millions of them out there that are "sonnets" that neither you or I would not call poetry.

Now of that 1,000, you may like 500, I like 5. So what? That is a matter of individual taste, isn't it? You baited, I stated. Now you tell me, tell me what you see in it. Show me what I am missing.
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Old 03-02-2013, 10:46 PM   #25
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and they are often written by people with worse prejudices

neoformalism, if it is not in an acceptable form it is not poetry
if it is not more than 20% variation from the metre it is not poetry, most of the cannon has about 30%
most of the cannon is who? is what?

they are way too often written to the form, too often by people who don't realize that is was a form developed for a specific reason.
that could be construed as a generalization, let me clarify, I have read about 1,000 sonnets (that maybe both of use would call a sonnet), I have read about 200-300 more, and I'm sure that there are millions of them out there that are "sonnets" that neither you or I would not call poetry.

Now of that 1,000, you may like 500, I like 5. So what? That is a matter of individual taste, isn't it? You baited, I stated. Now you tell me, tell me what you see in it. Show me what I am missing.
::

You are only missing the point. No biggie.

I probably like fewer sonnets that you, but that's immaterial. I certainly have a lower tolerance for bad poetry ... I reviewed the New Poems for what must be a half century. Also immaterial.

::

You stated:
Quote:
but generally speaking, they (poets who write sonnets) do suffer from either a lack of humour, or pissedoffeness; purporting to be the VOICE of reason without thought i.e. they are generally high in the quality of shamabilty
I strongly disagree with that statement.

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