“Progressive” mind accompanies the art
Of writing poetry at present time.
Great intellectuals from forms depart,
And love free verse that spurns meter and rhyme.

If poems be composed in such a way
That lines consecutive are relevant,
They may attract the readers’ snort today
Though they convey what they have truly meant.

“Why should not poetry resemble prose”–
Their argument they draw from godlike Marx.
All genres “equal”! Each strand of his beard flows
Like hanging rope to strangle classic arts.

“Art for art’s sake”? When politics is twined
With literature, its basic worth’s denied.



Sarban Bhattacharya is a 22-year-old poet and classicist currently pursuing a master’s degree in English literature.

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22 Responses

  1. D Robin

    Hi Sarban, thanks for the reminder.
    A tweak to the idea in the last couplet:

    To ‘politics’ and poems I incline
    Though often it’s an awkward, stretching climb
    For politics’ crude nature sticks to earth
    And brings up less enlightenment than mirth.

    But ‘verse’ can drop its overwhelming worth
    When beat obstetrics squeeze out splurgin’ birth—
    Though communism cannot be Sublime,
    Good metrics can throw politics a line.

    Thanks again for keeping us on the side of sense.

    • James A. Tweedie

      So . . . Hamlet, the Iliad, Tintern Abbey, the Psalms, and the Bhagavad-Gita are prose. Hmmm. Interesting.

    • C.B. Anderson


      I think you will allow that the situation is a bit more complicated than that. Not only does blank verse have a venerable history in the annals of poetry, but prose poetry, such as much of the King James Bible, is up there as well. I think, following Lewis Turco, that such misunderstandings arise due to the fact that the prose/poetry dichotomy is a false one because measured writing (verse) is a method of writing, whereas poetry is a genre of writing. The real question is whether most “free verse” (an obvious oxymoron) is good poetry or not. For the most part, in my opinion, it is not. But the same could be said for most formal poetry.

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    Ancient Latin and Greek poetry are also non-rhymed, nor are they accentual. Rhyme is a wonderful resource, but it arrived comparatively late in European poetics.

    • D Robin

      Hello, Prof-Joe. The metrics of Greek poetry and Latin poetry perplex me. (That I don’t know them in the original doesn’t help.) If they are not rhymed or accented, they are ‘syllabic poetry’. I think your submission criteria for Trinacia reject syllabic verse (though google keeps me away from finding it online right now). So I was wondering if you would consider any present day syllabic verse to be capable of merit.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Latin and Greek poetry is quantitative. This means that the proper structure of a line of verse is dependent on the proper arrangement of long and short vowel quantities of the syllables.

        It is NOT syllabic verse of the sort that people try to write these days, where all you do is count up a fixed number of syllables in each line and claim that you have composed poetry, regardless of the natural stresses of your words or the rhythm of your chosen meter.. That’s not what happens in Latin and Greek poetry, regardless of what some people here seem to think.

        I hate modern “syllabic” verse, and I don’t allow it in TRINACRIA. Counting syllables is strictly for amateurs. It’s primarily the practice of persons who don’t understand that traditional English meter is governed by STRESS (what you have called “accent”), and not by a fixed number of syllables in each line.

  3. D Robin

    Thanks, Joseph. When you say ‘the proper arrangement’ of ‘quantities’ of long and short vowels, is this as in verse with stressed and unstressed syllables where there is a set pattern of feet that can be bucked occasionally.
    Apologies for missing out the R in TRINACRIA.
    I was chastised for using ‘stressed’ about syllables in someone’s verse and told to use ‘accented’. It’s apparent now that ‘accent’ is the printed mark above or below letters in some languages or to show a stress in English on a usually unstressed syllable. And, of course, someone’s regional or natural way of speaking that can make verse stresses and pronunciation fall differently to the author’s voice.
    Joseph McKenzie says he writes poems to be read out loud. That makes for power. You must do too as strength comes through that I think is atop and beyond strength of character. And you do subtle poems too. I wonder how you read them.
    My background had little reading out loud. I was also seduced by the pervasive English language haiku and Japanese form translations where people are often literal about counting syllables. I later read that Japanese language does not have stresses or long and short syllables. In which case, no surprise the poets went for sound counting.

  4. Sathyanarayana

    Dear Prof. Salemi,
    Sometime ago I faced I said the same… English poetry is accentual, but not syllabic. But in a more perfect form,
    it may be accentual-syllabic. As you said rightly most of the so-called formalists keep counting syllables, and trying to find flaws in others poetry. This system is used in Germanic poetry, including Old English and Old Norse, as well as in some English verse. Almost all earlier Poets like Cummins, Milton, scrupulously followed the method. In the modern times, with the invasion of free verse, many poets are unable to understand the celebrated form of Formal English verse.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      To Sathyanarayana —

      Yes, English poetry can be called “accentual-syllabic,” but with a strong emphasis on “accentual” half, or what I prefer to call STRESS or ICTUS. This is why an iambic pentameter line can have nine syllables, ten syllables, or eleven syllables, as long as the five stresses are abundantly clear to the reader. Many of Shakespeare’s wonderful iambic pentameter lines have less or more than ten syllables.

      Old English poetry had a strong four-stress line, but the number of syllables in the line was not necessarily fixed.

      It’s true — poets who write exclusively in free verse usually don’t have a clue as to the rules of formal English verse, nor are they interested in learning those rules. For them, poetry is merely an exercise in self-expression, not an art form.

  5. Joseph S. Salemi

    In normal speech, Latin words did have stress on certain syllables, just as in every other language. But these stresses did not play a part in the composition of poetry. All that mattered in a poem was that you had the right combination of long and short vowels. And the number of syllables in a line could vary. The first three lines of Vergil’s epic poem The Aeneid have 15, 16, and 14 syllables respectively.

    And yes, it is a mistake to confuse “accent” with “stress.” An accent is just a small added mark on a letter (like the acute, grave, and circumflex accent marks in French, or the tilde in Spanish) that indicates something special about the letter’s pronunciation. Stress, on the other hand, is where the emphasis falls in a word of more than one syllable. It does not need to be marked by any written accent. The more traditional name for stress in poetry is “ictus.”

    The term “accent” should not be used in critiques of a poem, except when one is speaking of an accent mark over a letter. The term is better saved for peculiarities of regional speech, such as a “Southern” accent, or a “New England” accent.

    • James A. Tweedie

      This is all new to me. I am taking it all in. What I will do with it remains to be seen. First priority will be to find words that rhyme with “ictus.”

  6. James A. Tweedie

    I found a wonderful example of this as it relates to the opening line of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30

    Here is the line and then three different ways to read it.

    When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

    × / × / × / × / × /
    When to the sess | ions of sweet si | lent thought

    / × × / × / × / × /
    When to the sess | ions of sweet si | lent thought

    / × × / × × / / × /
    When to the sess | ions of sweet si | lent thought

    The final version allows the words to read as naturally as possible while the first two force the words into a preset metrical rhythm.

    If I understand Dr. Salemi correctly, the final version would be as per stress (ictus) and, with five stresses, conform (in context) to acceptable iambic pentameter (even if the first word is effectively a trochee).

    To a “formalist,” however, this verse is badly written and should be corrected.

    Am I correct in this?

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      No, I disagree. The last version is not only the best one; it is absolutely proper and natural. How is it “badly written”? The other possibilities that you give are really clunky.

      WHEN to the SESS – ions of SWEET SI – lent THOUGHT…

      Iambic pentameter lines frequently begin with a trochee (or what I tend to call a “choriambic substitution”). The above line has all of its required five stresses. and reads beautifully. Who are these officious “formalists” who would rewrite Shakespeare?

      • James A. Tweedie

        No, no. You misunderstood me. I am glad to affirm that we are in complete agreement and delighted that I now understand your point about word stress. By “formalists” I meant “vowel counters.” My whole point is that the third reading is illustrative proof of what you said earlier. I feel like shouting, “Eureka!”

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