Choose Wisely

Calling for the next U.S. Poet Laureate to be a traditional rhyming poet

A double refrained chant royal in iambic pentameter

O harken to my plea, as I implore,
from need, true classic poetry to save.
Sweet words in rhyming rhythms we adore,
and metered lines, like those the masters gave;
___Some arguments I’ll logically devise
___and pray you’ll hear the passion in my cries,
___as love for them, in certain circles, dies.
______The lack of this concern, gives my heart dread
______and brings to light the need for action bold.
______Where’s poetry’s pure lifeblood? Slowly bled
______from hallowed rhymes, once penned by bards of old.

In art, the classic masters form the core;
their messages still reach beyond the grave.
Historically, the classic author’s lore
we study; tales of knights and soldiers brave
___are handed down to students. No surprise,
___that written tales, with passion in their cries,
___withstand the ageless tests of time and tides.
______Young painters, in their quest to get ahead,
______will study classic masters, as they’re told,
______and suffer not the slings and arrows red,
______like those who study hallowed rhymes of old.

In music we still find the softened roar
of classic opera songs still oft are craved;
piano runs, from Mozart, climb and soar
while modern song fanatics rock and rave.
___Old movie classics (showings on the rise),
___in black and white bring forth passionate cries
___from students, though from critics mostly sighs
______and customers, blockbusters now are fed,
______for classic movies, tickets still are sold;
______yet those who study poetry are led
______away from hallowed classic rhymes of old.

Those poets who desire a little more
than sound bites, clipped emotional displays
of imagery, and hazy metaphors,
are shunned by academia’s enclaves
___for writing metric verse in rhyming lines.
___These poems may evoke dismissive cries,
___and warnings that such studies are unwise;
______while those who champion them, it is said,
______should stop, get into line, and join the fold.
______The party line is that our craft is dead,
______just like the hallowed rhymes from bards of old.

I’m working hard to even up the score,
and strengthen classic poetry’s unsung wave.
Tradition and heritage are in store,
for those, who metered poetry, still crave.
___Classic poem forms, in feet with rhymes,
___aren’t limiting, despite the modern cries.
___They do require language skills, and time
______spent mastering our languages instead
______of splashing words in print. Poetic souls
______can craft immortal phrases, like those said
______by those who gave us hallowed rhymes of old.

O hear this wordsmith’s passionate sad cries!
______The Poet Laureate (our artform’s head),
______if classicist, when chosen breaks the mold.
______This could revive the craft, when widely read,
______and bring back hallowed rhymes, like days of old.


Dusty Grein is an author, poet and graphics designer from Federal Way, Washington. He currently lives in the Pacific Northwest, where his 15 year old daughter is hard at work securing her college degree while still in high school, and raising him right. When he is not busy writing, he donates a great deal of his time and graphics talent. In honor of his grandson Eddy, lost to SIDS at 13 weeks old, he creates free memorial images for bereaved families, with a special focus on infant and pregnancy loss. His blog, From Grandpa’s Heart… is followed by fans around the world.

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39 Responses

  1. E. V.

    Well said! Today the SCP published a possible mission statement. There’s a circular reciprocity at work: as traditional poets support the SCP, the SCP also supports its poets by promoting this endangered genre. Great work!

    • James A. Tweedie

      E.V. Where might we find this proposed SCP Mission Statement? You say that it was “published?”

      • E.V.

        No, James, I think you misunderstood me. When I wrote, “Today the SCP published …”, I was referring to Dusty’s poem, which (I believe) echoes SCP’s mission.

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    I echo your sentiments, Mr. Grein, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for it to happen.

  3. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    A far-left radical community organizer with Chicago connections, Carla Hayden was appointed by her long-time personal friend Barack Obama, according to journalist Amanda Prestigiacomo because “she has a uturus and is black.”

    Prestigiacomo’s piece in the Daily Wire continues:

    “Unsurprisingly, the librarian happens to be a total radical; she advocates porn accessibility in public libraries for children; even The Nation recently deemed her a ‘radical librarian.’”

    Carla Hayden’s lack of literary culture was on full display last March when she appointed ignorant alt-left activist and pseudo-poet Tracie K. Smith to a second term as Poet Laureate of the United States because she’s black and radicalized.

  4. Joe Tessitore

    It may sound trite
    but we who write
    need those who read

    and so I raise the issue of length. I counted Mr. Grein’s poem to be some 60 lines long. Mine is a limited attention span and I did not get past his fifth line.
    I wonder if the general public or the Librarian of Congress will do any better?
    It may sound trite, but if it is for us to revive and reintroduce rhythmic poetry to the reading public, then is length not something we should be considering?

    • Evan Mantyk

      Dear Mr. Tessitore,
      You have a good point. Please do write a shorter poem on the same topic and submit it. We are looking for many letters on this topic to Ms. Hayden and/or President Trump.

      • Joe Tessitore

        A start?

        Ms. Hayden, on your selection of our next poet laureate:

        For poetry
        to rise again
        from verse which few
        can understand
        seek one who has
        applied her pen
        to verse which is
        sublime and grand.

        If anyone wants to take this further, feel free to do so.

        Your selections, Evan, are excellent.
        Would Leo Yankevich, as an ex-pat, not be eligible?

      • Joseph Tessitore

        How’s this:

        for poetry to rise again
        seek one who has applied the pen
        to that which all can understand
        to verse which is sublime and grand

        choose one who writes for all to read
        who is from all pretension freed
        who can be subtle and be bold
        whose message speaks to young and old

        whose words which like the bell that chimes
        transport the soul through charming rhymes
        whose elegance is pure and plain
        and can be heard in each refrain

        be not afraid of poetry
        that can uplift and set us free

        Again, anyone who wants to work with this is free to do so.

        Best to all,


      • Joe Tessitore

        I would change the next to last line to:
        turn not away from poetry

    • Dusty Grein

      Mr. Tessitore raises a valid point. Length has become an issue in the classic poetry world.

      Many of the classic forms are between 6 and 16 lines long, but many–such as the chant royal–are designed with very specific stanzaic and metric requirements that take the poem into the 40-80 line range. This length, and the use of refrain lines, becomes part of the challenge of writing them, and I daresay adds to the enjoyment of reading them, for those who truly are invested in either the art form, or the message they carry. Narrative epic poetic tales (or epistolary letters) require time to craft, write, and read, but are no less important than haiku.

      In my opinion, part of the problem lies specifically with our society’s tendency to cater to a short attention span. The public seems to seek immediate gratification, and there is an impression that people don’t care to read longer works. The 6-second ad is on the rise, and the sound bite is all we ever hear broadcast. This isn’t exactly the case, however.

      As the managing editor for a small publishing house, I try and keep my finger on the pulse of reading trends, and the epic novel is still valid and marketable, while short story collections and anthologies are a very small part of the market.

      I understand that a casual browser may not care to read a lengthy narrative poem, but in my opinion true classicists still appreciate a formed work, especially one with a strong and direct message–as well as fictional genre specific poetic tales–crafted in the mid-length forms. Dante’s style of writing 200 page rhyming epics may be hard to sell to non-poets these days, but as evidenced by The Raven, mid length poems aren’t completely shunned.

      I won’t deny that shorter poems will be read by more people, but isn’t the appreciation of poetic forms (even those in the 60-100 line arena) part of what we are working to bring back?

      I hope to see many more letters and pleas with this message, in all forms, short and long, and I stand behind my choice of writing in a form that is a great example of what we seem to be losing appreciation for in today’s world.

      • Jack Durak

        I wish I knew of this before embarking on my collection of narrative poetry that exceeds 400 lines per canto. Still, I’m hoping that there are enough people still left who appreciate the classical forms that it will find a small but solid audience.

  5. James A. Tweedie

    Thank you, Rusty, for the provocative challenge.

    In response, does anyone have a suggestion/nomination for a poet laureate from the classical tradition who capable of representing, challenging, and in some way bringing some semblance of unity to a divided nation? Who would qualify to be on a “short list?”

    • Evan Mantyk

      Dear Mr. Tweedie,

      There are some prerequisites, which are being an American, of course, and also having been in the poetry world for some considerable amount of time.

      I see unity already inscribed in the modus operandi here: rhyming and metered poetry, traditional poetry, is something people can universally appreciate even if they disagree on the message. They may pen their own sonnet in response and communicate on the same wavelength at least; a wavelength historically recognizable and that the boy pointing at the naked emperor could now discern as clothing with a shred of dignity. Truly, we are talking about unity of perspective here and uniting people.

      I think there are many great poets contributing to the Society of Classical Poets and their active participation is a credit to them and demonstrates genuine “skin in the game.” My personal nominations for U.S. poet laureate would be

      Joseph Charles MacKenzie
      Joseph S. Salemi
      C.B. Anderson

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Dear Mr. Mantyk —

        For my part, thanks for the vote of confidence but I simply would not want the position, nor would I be good in it. I’m not the gregarious type. Nor am I the sort to run around the country to endless readings and local poetry society gatherings, giving rah-rah speeches about our wonderful diversity. The Poet Laureate today is basically a hype-meister.

        On the points raised by Messrs. Tessitore and Grein concerning length: it’s true that attention spans have drastically shortened over the past century. But a more pertinent point is this… the Poet Laureate was always expected to produce the easily accessible “occasional ” poem, dealing with momentary national concerns in a simple and even stereotyped style. He wasn’t supposed to write epics, or even the lengthier fixed forms like a chant royal. Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade” was the sort of popular thing the Poet Laureate was expected to write, or Alfred Austin’s odes on various royal visitations.

        What’s ironic about the triumph of modernism in the poetry world was its two-pronged effect on issues of length. On the one hand, the shorter lyric was all of a sudden considered the only viable mode. But on the other hand, some modernists produced really long things: Pound’s “Cantos,” William Carlos Williams’ “Paterson,” or John Berryman’s “Dream Songs.” The length that suffered neglect and derision was the mid-range one, from 50 to 300 lines. Readers were trained and brainwashed to be enthralled by ten-line epiphanies, and to respect very long effusions of vaguely linked fragments, but they would not read anything that fell in the middle.

      • Joseph Tessitore

        Dr. Salemi

        You would be a refreshing and much-needed change, as is our President.

  6. Amy Foreman

    Delightful, Dusty! Maybe poets at SCP should “flood” the desk of Ms. Hayden with similar poetic pleas. Do you happen to have her email address, in case we’d like to? Or maybe we should send our letters under the banner of the SCP. . . .

  7. Monty

    Before my good fortune at discovering SCP about a year ago – and subsequently gathering knowledge from some of the poems, and plenty more from the comments – I had not the slightest idea a/ That poetry in America was so deeply entangled in politics.. b/ That there was a seemingly full-on poetry-war currently being waged not only on those shores, but, alas.. in Britain also, where I spent the first 37 years of my life before departing 18 years ago (since when, I’ve remained intently and resolutely unaware of all things british: except friends and cricket).. c/ That Classical Poetry is seemingly being flagrantly discouraged and vindictively marginalised in (whatever stands for) today’s poetry world.

    As a result of trawling through numerous poetry-sites in the months leading up to finding SCP, I became aware that much of what passes for modern-day poetry has no right to call itself such; but I simply dismissed that as being indicative of the modern western world; with the ruinous effect that text-messaging has had on our language . . and as such, I assumed it was THAT type of non-poetry which would always remain ‘marginalised’ in the real poetry world.

    Hence, it’s come as quite a shock to me to learn that the opposite appears to be the case; and that non-poetry seems to be steering the western poetry ship . . and as such, I find myself (maybe selfishly) fairly resentful that something as precious and private as poetry is to me (poetry as an entity) . . has been hijacked by modern western society, to be used as a political tool/statement. Perhaps I’ll be able to console myself by supposing that poetry has simply become just another victim of the modern western world, along with the likes of sport and music; both of which once afforded unconditional pleasures . . but have, in the last two decades, been so diluted, ‘corrected’, sanitised and palatalised as to become parodies of what they once were. Has poetry gone the same way?

    Equally alarming (to me) is the suggestion made in a comment above that “we should (re)consider the length” of poetry. How utterly absurd! The very act of poets feeling forced to employ less lines than they felt was required for the sentiment they wished to convey . . is to bow to the ‘other side’ (whoever they are) . . is to degenerate into the realms of the above words: dilution, ‘correction’, palatalisation . . is to admit defeat! I note that the said comment was made by one who freely admitted to “not getting past the fifth line” of a thoroughly engaging, thoughtful and entirely readable poem. Can I then assume that the commenter is possessed of the same modern-day short-attention-span which disables the majority of modern society from reading Classical Poetry? Is he asking us to consider 4-lines max? Are we to lose the ‘poetry-war’?

    • Joe Tessitore

      The commenter writes that “(his) is a short attention span”. Perhaps you missed that because you suffer from the same thing?

      Ours is no longer the Golden Age of Poetry – it is the age of texting, rap and binge-watching.
      Don’t be alarmed; try writing a poem.

  8. Joe Tessitore

    …at least I acknowledge my limitations, and wars are not won by being alarmed – courage, strategy and a realistic appreciation of what one is up against go a lot farther.

    • Joe Tessitore

      I’m sorry things are the way they are with us.
      I wish that they were not.

      You are in my prayers and I wish you well.

    • Monty

      I have no war to win. I was rightfully alarmed to hear that such a war exists, but it’s not my war; hence I have no need of ‘strategy’, or ‘to know what I’m up against’. I’ve spent the last 20 years distancing myself mentally from the western world; and my recent knowledge that poetry is involved in such a war will only – can only – increase that distance.

      I don’t read any modern-day poetry (except Bloodaxe anthologies, and obviously SCP submissions). I have well over a hundred poetry books ranging from the years 1700 to 1990, all of which get better with a re-reading every few years . . and that’ll sustain me for the rest of my days. So it’s not like this ‘war’ is depriving me of poetry. The modern-day poetry world can do what it wants; I have no part in it . . and no need of it. I’ve long since grown used to everything being diluted by political-correctness, and I’ve now learnt the harsh reality that poetry hasn’t escaped this abhorrence.

      I didn’t wish to get involved in another spat with you; I just felt that your suggestion that “length should be reconsidered” was not in any way conducive to the defence of Classical Poetry . . but potentially the opposite. Imagine the gleeful reaction of those who’re opposed to Classical Poetry if they were to hear that ‘length’ is being reconsidered . . they’ll feel like they’re winning the ‘war’.

      True poetry can never have limitations . . .

      • Joe Tessitore

        Well said, Monty.

        We see the war differently; I believe it’s a war of ideologies and not one of political correctness. I believe it is well on its way to tearing this country apart and spreading to the entire world. I believe that the poetry war is, at best, a skirmish – that it is not really even a battle.

        I, too, would dearly prefer to have nothing at all to do with it, but I find that I simply cannot stand by and remain silent. I do believe that we are all brothers and sisters, and our brothers and sisters matter to me. I’m sure they matter to you as well.

        Things are at a fever pitch here in the States. Unless something changes dramatically, this will not end well.

        I believe that those of us who have been blessed with the ability to see things differently (i.e. not through an ideological lens) have a responsibility to do something about it. Like any gift, it is ours to share – it is not ours to hide under a bushel.

        Very best,


  9. Joe Tessitore

    As far as length is concerned, I have two favorite poems: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

    Go figure.

  10. Mark Stone

    Dusty, Hello.

    1. The poem is 60 lines long. I agree with you that there should be a place for poems of medium length, such as this one. However, if I am going to read 60 lines, I would prefer to see some action, such as a story involving different situations that the protagonist encounters. The poem is full of colorful and creative analogies, but it boils down to stating that we formalists are tired of being spat upon and it’s only fair we too have our day in the sun. So for me, the poem is great writing, but a bit repetitive. The stated purpose of the poem is to persuade a busy senior-level Federal employee to take a particular action, so I suggest the poem be shorter and more to the point.

    2. To me, the tone of the poem sounds a little whiney. There is a lot of crying and begging. The poem includes words such as “implore” and “plea” and “even up the score.” The word “cries” appears six times. When you go to a car dealership, the salesperson does not complain that all the customers are buying cars from other salespeople. Instead, the salesperson talks about how the particular car will benefit you if you buy it. Similarly, my view is that a poem to the Librarian of Congress for this stated purpose should focus not on how the selection of a formalist as U.S. Poet Laureate will benefit formalists, but rather on how it will benefit the American people.

    3. The meter and the rhymes in the poem are nearly flawless, and the imagery and analogies are strong. It is very good writing. However, if the length were cut by half and the tone were made more upbeat and positive, I think the poem would be stronger and better suited to its stated purpose.

    • Dusty Grein

      Hi Mark.

      Thank you for your insightful and well-stated input. I agree wholeheartedly with you that the ideal content for long form poetry (the ballade/ballade supreme, the chant royal, the sestina, et al) are narrative tales. As a novelist, most of my work is genre based (horror and epic fantasy) and this generally blends into my long form poems. I have several published online, and they are my first true love; [unabashed share of one of my favorites:

      SCP is not a genre fiction platform however, and as my longer writings don’t often run to beauty, nature and/or relevant societal commentary, most of my work here is in the shorter forms, and in educating others on the technical aspects of the craft.

      The letter to Ms. Hayden, was not intended to sway her politically, or even logically, but to plant a seed of emotional receptiveness. I could have used a shorter form to do so , and yes, it probably would have been a more effective tool of persuasion, but I wanted to show that long-form poetry–even if it is refrained (which implies repetitious)–is still a valid way of reaching people, as evidenced by the discussion and dialogue which it has thus far spawned.

      As to the tone, or essential “whiney-ness” of the piece . . . I concede. Impassioned pleas, by their very nature, contain an element of whining. The poem itself is an emotional call, to relieve what has become, in my opinion, a painful deficit (although a slightly esoteric one in the political world) regarding classical poetry’s place in both the mainstream poetic journal trade, and modern academia. The change that the Poet Laureate can actually make is a minor one, but the wave must start with some sort of pebble.

      I thank you for your kind words on the execution, and hopefully this type of poem, along with shorter and more direct calls-to-action will move the world, even the tiniest bit, toward reexamining the inherent beauty and worth in using our language to craft rhymed metered poetry, with and without defined forms.

  11. Joseph S. Salemi

    My two cents, for what it is worth:

    Poetry is not about “persuading” people about anything. If poetry has a persuasive element, it is purely secondary or even tertiary.

    Poetry is of no use in any “war.” Poetry is nothing but fictive mimesis on paper. In war you need artillery, grenades, and bayonets.

    A chant royal of about fifty or sixty lines is hardly over-lengthy. If a particular audience is too attention-deficit afflicted to read it, then we don’t need that audience. (No, Mr. Tessitore, this is not directed against you personally.)

    One can always write short things like epigrams, squibs, pasquinades, limericks, or sonnets. They can be delightful and pungent. But the notion that we have to limit our lengths in order to accommodate the damned Millennial generation of half-witted texters and short messagers is just a disguised surrender, as Monty says.

    And finally — Poetry DOES NOT HAVE A PURPOSE! It is an end in itself, an artistic expression of one’s devotion to perfect language, a self-contained act of linguistic mastery.

    The notion that Mr. Grein’s poem is designed to change some dull-witted leftist bureaucrat’s mind is laughable. How could anyone think that such a scenario is possible? No one in the enemy camp is going to pay the slightest attention to any “appeals” from us. There’s nobody over there to convert. Mr. Grein’s poem is addressed to Carla Hayden purely as a literary convention.

    Our task (if poetry has any “task” at all) is to produce the very best work we can, according to our interior criteria of what is excellent. We have no one to please or accommodate except our individual selves, and our individual adherence to traditional norms of composition.

    Remember what Don Paterson said: “A poem is just a little machine for remembering itself.”

    • Joe Tessitore

      Of course, you are right.
      Dr. Mantyk wrote that he was “looking for as many letters as possible” and I got caught up in that – who will these letters be going to, and what can we reasonably expect of them?

      • Joe Tessitore

        A thought on the word “classical”:
        my wife and I love both classical dance and classical music. We live within walking distance of Lincoln Center for that reason.
        Both disciplines have programs in place which attempt to bring in new and younger audiences.
        New York City Ballet has actually run several ‘under 30 beer nights’.

  12. Monty

    Regarding your 4th-to-last comment . .

    . . I’m sure your right in saying that ‘war’ is not the right word, and I suspect that your other two words – ‘battle’ and ‘skirmish’ – are probably more appropriate. Maybe the subject lies somewhere between those two words. As obvious as it is that my use of the word ‘war’ was purely metaphorical . . I say this: I explicitly don’t do ‘news’; nor telly/papers; nor any form of social media (except email, if that counts as such); thus all I’ve gathered on the subject has come from these pages in recent months (it could be said that SCP is my only ‘news’), and I must say that ‘war’ is the impression I’ve gained since reading such . . but only in the same sense as ‘election-wars’ and ‘trade-wars’. But, I’m willing to diplomatise by henceforth using the word ‘conflict’.

    So, given that this conflict undoubtedly exists, and you feel that you “can’t stand by and remain silent” . . please fight! I say this to not only you, but to anyone who believes that Classical Poetry’s potentially in a fight for its survival to be recognised as a Form in today’s world; if you feel that it’s a fight that could and should be won . . please, please fight! Fight for hundreds of reasons going back hundreds of years; fight for the yet unborn in future hundreds of years; and fight for Poetry itself: not just Classical, but Poetry as an entity, which I feel is being selfishly and recklessly manhandled in todays western-world. Further, why not fight for the advocation of a new word to be created for our language; a word which can serve to describe today’s formless, rhymeless glorified text-messages which pass for much of today’s poetry (imagine, for example, if the word ‘moetry’ existed, relating to mock-poetry; under which all non-poetic poetry should be classed . . leaving all genuine poetry to be classed as just poetry. Thus, poetry and moetry could co-exist concurrently, with a clear distinction as to which work should exist in which class).

    But, to all those who feel that Classical Poetry’s endangered but DON’T wish to fight, DON’T wish to enter the conflict (either because you don’t feel it to be a conflict that can be won; or feel it could be won, but don’t wish to personally participate) . . stop moaning! Be grateful that you have your own private relationship with your own preferred form(s) of poetry, which no one or no thing can ever take from you; can ever dilute or dumb-down.. and long may the relationship continue. Be content to just regard the ‘other side’ with disdain: and leave them to it. Leave all the politics behind; all the poetry-as-left-wing/right-wing nonsense . . and just aborb and enjoy your own poetry. This is easily achievable just by distancing one’s self mentally or geographically (or both, as I have) from what’s happening to poetry today.
    There’s an old british proverb to which I’ve always disagreed: ‘If ya can’t beat ’em, join ’em’. My take is: If ya can’t beat ’em, get outta there. Of course I’m aware that many people are not in a position to distance themselves geographically; but no one is prevented from distancing themselves mentally.

    Regarding your 3rd-to-last comment . .

    . . chance had it that one of the first poems I ever read back in the 90’s (indeed, one of the first to seriously captivate me in a way for which I was unprepared, and introduce me to the deep art and craft of a poem; and one which I still re-read every 3-4 years) was Wilde’s ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’. Around the same time, I started to familiarise myself with Philip Larkin’s work (the start of a lifelong relationship), and subsequently discovered his elegant definition of a library in ‘New Eyes Each Year’.
    I don’t know what a ‘go figure’ is, so I’m assuming that it’s an abbreviated form of ‘go and figure it out’ (the fact that you’ve read the lengthy ‘ . . . Ancient Mariner’.) Of the two poems I referred to above (both firm favourites of mine): one contains around 105 6-line stanzas . . and the other contains around 25 words. Hence, I’ve nothing to ‘figure out’. For me, it can be long, short, and everything in between. In fact, the only thing I ‘figured out’ (around 25 years ago) was that the length of a poem always has been, and always will be, totally irrelevant . . only the narrative matters; and the length chosen by the poet in which to place the narrative.

    Regarding your last comment . .

    . . I’m glad to hear that you and your wife have purposely chosen to place yourselves in the vicinity of something dear to you both; here’s to your continued enjoyment.

    Regarding your thought on the word ‘classical’: may I offer another? Depending on your sense of humour, my following sentence will either make you chuckle at my flagrant ignorance (as I myself sometimes do) . . or question my right to be in any way affiliated with SCP. Before joining SCP last year, I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW THAT THERE WAS SUCH A THING AS CLASSICAL POETRY (or at least not as a Form). There, I’ve said it. I assumed that the ‘classical’ in the name SCP was just a word which Mr Mantyk chose in naming his creation. I’d previously seen the term Classical Poetry occasionally, but had always assumed it referred to poetry from a certain period in history. Which is why my above appeal was/is in defence of poetry as a whole. I’d never before recognised ‘this’ or ‘that’ type of poetry . . only poetry: and only genuine poetry. The only distinction I’ve ever made is between that of ‘humorous’ poetry or ‘serious’ poetry.

    Only upon my recent enlightenment as to what Classical Poetry actually is, and what it entails, have I decided that it is indeed my preffered ‘type’ of poetry.

    Long live Classical . .

    • Joe Tessitore

      Thanks for your thoughtful response. I do these things on my phone (which makes it difficult if not impossible to respond in kind) , so please bear with me.

      I too try and stay away from the news as best I can. I believe (and have believed for a while now) that we here in the States are engaged in an ideological war. I believe that it has torn us apart and, as Jesus said, a country decided against itself cannot long stand. I believe that we are on the brink of collapse. I say this as even-handedly as one can say such a thing – this is simply what I see, and others are finally starting to see the same thing.

      This is a no-comprise, take-no-prisoners kind of war. I believe that it is wrong to participate in it; to be on either side of it. I believe that our country can only suffer from it.

      “Politics” no longer exists in the United States. There is no longer any give and take. There is no longer any compromise for the greater good. Each ideological side now speaks openly about annihilating the other.

      My way of fighting is to try and point this out to people as best I can. I’ve written more than a few poems about it.

      I hope I don’t sound like I’m moaning about anything. Forgive me if I do. I love life and I love my life. I don’t think that will change, regardless of our national circumstances – at least I hope it won’t.

      “Go figure” is a kind of throw-away phrase with just about no meaning at all. It was written in good will.

  13. Joseph S. Salemi

    It was indeed a mistake for the phrase “classical poetry” to become confused with “formal” or “formalist” poetry. Strictly speaking, the adjective “classical” should be reserved for Greek and Roman poetry, or other ancient bodies of written work from the Sanskrit or the Arabic.

    “Formal” should be reserved to describe any poetry that follows fixed forms, and that uses some sort of metrical pattern in composing lines. And these various forms and meters will vary widely from culture to culture.

    English formal poetry and ancient Greek or Roman poetry are very different, and using the term “classical” to describe both is an unfortunate confusion. But I suppose we’re stuck with it now.

    English formal poetry (of the sort that is championed here) is stress-based and accentual. Classical Greek and Latin poetry is quantitative-syllabic. They are two very different and incompatible types of poetry, arising from two widely separated traditions.

    • Monty

      Bear with me, Joe: ‘cos I ain’t the quickest at grasping things. I just seek clarification of your above comments.

      So, I now gather that the technically-correct term for the type of poetry SCP champions is ‘formal’.. yeah? If so, then I’ll use only that term henceforth (I somehow prefer the term ‘formal’, ‘cos it seems less ambiguous). But you also say that “we’re stuck with” the term ‘classical’; does that mean that it can be used as an accepted alternative . . or does it mean that people just use it, unaware that it’s technically wrong?

      Given that you deem the two types to be “incompatible” . . how did they originally become intertwined?

      Is the term ‘classical’ a/ widely or b/ hardly recognised in the western-world?

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        All I was trying to say can be put in a nutshell: “Classical” poetry is supposed to be used in reference to the poetry of the classical world, i.e. ancient Greece and Rome. “Formal” poetry is a more general phrase, referring to ANY poetry that follows metrical rules and certain fixed forms.

        “Classical” poetry from Greece and Rome is also formal, since it follows strict metrical patterns and certain generic forms. But those forms and patterns are not at all the same as the ones we expect in traditional English formal poetry. Besides, Greek and Latin poetry is not stress-based, as English is. It doesn’t matter where the stresses fall in a line of Greek or Latin — all that matters is the proper sequence of long and short syllables.

        Of course the word “classical” can be used in a general sense, like “classical French cuisine” or “classical music,” where all the word indicates is that the thing being described is traditional or well established, or just venerable. I’ve heard people speak of the “classic martini,” meaning that it is made with gin, vermouth, and an olive in certain exact proportions, as opposed to stupid modern versions made with flavored vodka, fruit juices, and slices of avocado or kiwi.

        And of course other cultures have their “classical” literature, such as ancient material written in classical Arabic (as opposed to modern Arabic), or ancient Indian texts written in classical Sanskrit as opposed to any modern Indian language.

        What the SCP champions is formal English poetry as written before Whitman and the modernist disaster of the post-World-War-I world. Could it also be called “classical”? Sure, I suppose so. There’s no reason for Mr. Mantyk to change the name of his website.

        People who come here to the SCP immediately see that we are promoting poetry in the style that was universally enjoyed in the Anglophone world by all classes of people, and that was published widely in magazines and newspapers, and that actually enjoyed a real readership. This is in complete opposition to the utterly impenetrable world of meaningless fake and garbage poetry pushed today by postmodernist poseurs, or by silly narcissistic emotion-mongers.

        Honestly, I don’t think it matters whether we call our work “classical” or “formal.” Only the political Left is obsessed with terminology.

  14. Joe Tessitore

    “decided” should have been “divided” and “go figure” is like a verbal shrug of the shoulders

  15. Monty

    Well, that’s settled it for me: cheers.
    I’ll never again use the word ‘classical’ for a style of poetry; I’ll only ever use ‘formal’
    In fact, given that ‘classical’ also refers to ancient poetry; I’ll never need to use that word again in any poetic sense . . ‘cos I only read work from the 1700’s onwards (poetry I can trust).

  16. Dusty Grein

    One last thought on poetry and poetic nomencalture.

    The term “formalism” is one that is used on several writing platforms which I belong to.

    I myself, am first and foremost a story-teller, and poetically speaking, I refer to myself as a “neo-classicist” since “formalist” feels too highbrow and snooty for my typical narratives and genre specific offerings in the horror, fantasy, and science fiction realms.

    Much of the charm of the SCP is the finely selected classic art that accompanies these new formal/formed poems, which helps to reinforce the ideals behind them, and promotes the art form as being worthy of the name.

    Besides, one day–much like the rock music of my youth–these entries will be the ‘classics’ that future generations recall. Hopefully we will be fondly remembered b y those yet-to-be-born poets.


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