.

Nothing’s had by show of fear,
When another way is clear:
Courage to pursue the best
When one’s met with Nature’s test.
Can one sell a good or skill
Fighting hard and oft uphill?
Does one have the kind of heart
To endure a rocky start?
Can one shine against the dim,
Fading clouds where legions brim?
Does one have a brighter spark
Than the flames that light the dark?
Life is filled with jagged turns;
Competition often burns.
Each is granted by his birth
Purpose here on rugged earth.
Can one flourish on the climb
By which each must make a dime?
Those who steer to books and Art
Play a very special part:
Taking heart and making song
For which aching people long,
Courage in the use of tune—
Turning winter into June.
May all poets brave the cold
By which hearts are bought and sold.
Life is more than gold and cash,
Markets luring souls to trash.
Artists, hear this rolling stave;
May thy path be deft and brave.

.

.

Amanda Hall is the author of many self-published volumes in poetry, fiction, theatre and scholarship—among them two epic poems, The Gift of Life: An Epic in Verse, and The Laughing Pen: An Epic Satire in Heroic Meter. She has been a critical journalist, in the past, for The New Individualist, tackling issues of aesthetics. She is a published member of the Society of Classical Poets, and her creative work has appeared in Think Journal and The Orchards Poetry Journal. She currently resides in Charleston, West Virginia.


NOTE: The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to mbryant@classicalpoets.org. Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed. The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments and reserves the right to remove any comments to maintain the decorum of this website and the integrity of the Society. Please see our Comments Policy here.

26 Responses

  1. Russel Winick

    Very enjoyable, Amanda. As an entrepreneur for 37 years and now two year neophyte poet, I see lots of truth in your poem. Thank you for sharing this work.

    Reply
    • Amanda Hall

      You are welcome, Russel! Thank you. Best wishes on a fulfilling career.

      Reply
  2. Gail

    Oh gosh! Thanks so much. Another keeper . . . that I need to read every day.

    Reply
    • Amanda Hall

      What a wonderful comment, Gail! Thank you so much. All the best for your poetic endeavors.

      Reply
  3. Margaret Coats

    Very brightly done couplets, Amanda, on one of your favorite themes. I like especially the warm line, “Turning winter into June,” and the cold line, “Markets luring souls to trash.” But best of all is “rolling stave” re-fashioning the common “rolling wave” to grab the attention of poets in their own terms.

    Reply
    • Amanda Hall

      Thank you so much, Margaret. Your comments mean a great deal to me. Best wishes for your rolling staves. And singing!

      Reply
    • Amanda Hall

      Thank you so much, Margaret. Your comments mean a great deal to me. Best wishes.

      Reply
  4. Will Dunn

    Ms. Hall —

    This work is far more appealing to me than the sampled Gift of Life pieces. You are clearly much more comfortable here. And this tends to make your “aural” point much more effectively. For many, hearing this recited first would make reading it much easier and more enjoyable .

    If reading first, one has to recognize the consistency of the rhythm and the implicit burden on the opening syllable of each line to intone it properly.

    It has always struck me as odd that we don’t have a plausible, universally accepted naming convention for the number and position of fractional feet created by consistently abbreviating, extending, and truncating our four basic metric patterns.

    I consider your challenging template here metric, even though it is not successive feet, but some might not.

    The early switch from declarative to interrogative will take some folks aback, but restarting, more aware of such changes, makes the read striking, though it must be carefully paced and stressed to be read with the strength you intend.

    Your skill is shown to far greater advantage here, and you make a much stronger case for the importance of meter to intoning.

    I certainly agree with your message too, but the visual artist and poet — especially those trying to revolutionize contemporary taste or sell tradition to it — require extraordinary sturdiness, resolve, and resources. Doing such creative work for a living — as a truly independent entrepreneur — pushes the envelope into almost unimaginable realms. When creators have to be marketers and accountants too, time diminished becomes a formiddable enemy. But you are right — the task is not impossible. And even self expression that isn’t a bona fide revenue stream has extraordinary benefits (so long as other means of survival are available).

    In any case, thank you for acknowledging my comment elsewhere. Though taking on your entire book is not feasible for me, I appreciate your offer.

    To be clear, it was the fact that your sonnets are “chained” that troubled me. I believe multiple sonnets sharing a common theme are consistent with the form, but multiple sonnets sharing a dependent linear relationship are not.

    Sonnets prosecute thought. Eliminating stanzaic separations does not terminate that expectation. If you’re using sets of 14 IP lines as episodic units, you are not, in my view, writing sonnets.

    You could still be authoring very good poetry, but the argument for dividing episodic literature into such unbroken IP sets is not clear and seems counter productive on its face

    On the other hand, the argument for writing in meter, especially in IP for epic, heroic, or romantic intent, has been well made by the example of many.

    The issue brought elsewhere about whether in Gift of Life you succeeded at writing flawless IP, or succeeded at writing in five stress accentual rhythm, or actually wrote in neither consistently seems to be a bit of a red herring dropped into a larger ongoing debate about meter at this site.

    Regardless of how your individual works are perceived here, however, the site is blessed by your advocacy of meter. Like Daniel Kemper, you are an island in the stream.

    I am the only one arguing your sonnet claim though others are questioning whether your meter is consistently acceptable rhythm.

    I still believe your pursuit of meter is noble, and I commend it. In Gift of Life, however, I feel you complicate it by what appears to be a conscious, well intended effort to simplify language starkly.

    To my ear, though, you took that pursuit to the point that many will say it defied ordinary expectations for interpretive stress, completeness, coherence, and cohesion. Yet it’s fair to say also that others may well find it welcome and digestible.

    Those who don’t favor it will find that it reduces your flawless IP claim in Gift of Life to little more than your consistent ten syllable line count, which is not easily defensible.

    To better illustrate my concern about your Gift of Life style, I have taken the liberty of creating three new versions of the poignant episode also shown first in original form below.

    The logic behind the changes is self-evident and I do not belabor these versions with explanatory notes.

    All three of the drafts below reflect the difficulty I found with preserving “scoff” as originally used. To me, the likelihood of the old man contemplating scoffing was far greater than the young boy doing so.

    My changes to the last six lines are therefore more extensive than they would otherwise be.

    My first effort is a draft revision aimed at preserving as much as possible and beginning to make the meter more discernible and cohesion more effective.

    The second draft revision continues the intents of the first but sacrifices preservation even more to smooth cohesion.

    The third begins an attempt to elevate the style by adaptation.

    I don’t purport any of the drafts to be well polished IP, nor do I believe that any constitutes a sonnet. And I am not seeking any feedback about them. They are simply ways to give you a sense of the perspective driving my comments. They are intended as nothing more than starting points to help you revisit the original should you be so inclined.

    Even in the adaptation draft, I have purposely retained some of your construction and most of your rhyme (though I would not necessarily use either) to make the comparison more helpful to you.

    I found your opening line strong but the verbs “object” and “reject” do not truly rhyme. I found the antecedents of your subsequent pronouns difficult to track, and to my ear your phrasing, syntax, and stress patterns were awkward in a number of lines. The repeated use of “man” and “boy” was also awkward to my ear.

    If you don’t find these useful, or if they become an unwanted distraction here, please have this entire comment removed.

    I have invested my time in them because I believe your philosophy and work are vital to the quality of this site and to the corporate charter under which it was founded. I hope you treasure the time others have invested in you too. Giving and gaining perspective is how skill grows.

    ———

    YOUR ORIGINAL

    The man did not pull back, did not object
    When the boy kneeled beside him, kissed his cheek;
    Tears met with lips not able to reject
    A man who thought his pain made him a freak.
    Not meek or timid with affection shown,
    Not caring whether other souls approved,
    The boy passed love he felt man should have known,
    As he had by the man’s grief been so moved.
    And wrapping his small set of arms around
    The man whom all but one had written off,
    The boy became aware of a new sound—
    At sob of gratitude he could not scoff.
    Deprived of human warmth for but one soul,
    The man felt the young boy had made him whole.

    ———

    DRAFT REVISION LARGELY PRESERVING ORIGINAL STRUCTURE AND STRENGTHENING METER

    The man did not pull back, did not object,
    when boy, who knelt beside him, kissed his cheek.
    Tears met the lips unable to reject
    a man who thought his pain made him a freak.
    Not meek or timid was affection shown,
    ignoring whether others had approved,
    but proud, as love so needing to be known
    to grief so felt by sense of conscience moved
    to wrap its younger, smaller arms around
    the man believing he’d been written off,
    and gently rouse the unfamiliar sound—
    of sob becoming thanks instead of scoff
    that would have come from old embittered soul,
    had daring not prevailed that made it whole.

    ———

    DRAFT REVISION SMOOTHING COHESION

    The man did not pull back, did not object.
    The boy, who knelt beside him, kissed his cheek.
    Tears met the lips unable to reject
    a man who thought his pain made him a freak.
    Not fearing giving such affection shown,
    nor caring whether anyone approved,
    the love was sent as if already known,
    to grief that stirred compassion being moved.
    He wrapped his smaller stronger arms around
    the man whom all but he had written off
    and winced at strangely unfamiliar sound—
    a sob replacing dissipated scoff
    at recognizing deep within the soul,
    the courage of the boy who made it whole.

    ——–

    DRAFT ADAPTATION BEGINNING TO ELEVATE STYLE

    The man did not pull back, did not deflect
    the gentle kiss that found his weathered cheek
    from youthfulness refusing to reject
    the self that he imagined as a freak
    who nevermore would see affection shown,
    that unafraid of being disapproved,
    would come as if expected to be known,
    from fearlessness that seemed so strongly moved,
    whose smaller arms would firmly both surround
    the age they wouldn’t let be written off,
    so humbled by the agonizing sound
    of sob becoming dissipated scoff
    from one who but for such a younger soul
    would not have known the hope of seeming whole.

    Reply
  5. Margaret Coats

    Three of Will Dunn’s terms need some comment. In all three cases, he would be helped by more reading of handbooks devoted to literary terms. Although critics who produce such works do not always agree on terminology, this is the best way to find out what terminology is actually in use.

    (1) The first term is “chained.” Amanda Hall’s sonnets in “The Gift of Life” are not chained; they form a sonnet sequence. “Sonnet sequence” is a well-known and often-used term for a group of sonnets the poet intends to be read as a larger work, although the sonnets can also be read as individual poems. The more general term is “lyric sequence,” needed because sequences may include not just sonnets, but a variety of lyric forms among the group.

    “Chained” has a precise meaning in describing verse form. It refers to lines of a poem in which the ending words of a line are the beginning words of the following line, as in these verses from a pair of sonnets that Alexander Montgomery wrote for an engaged couple.

    Sweet is that yoke so mutual and meet,
    And meet it were we met, if that we might:
    We might perhaps our purpose then complete,
    Complete it quickly: Reason thinks it right.

    (2) It strikes Dunn as odd that we don’t have a “universally accepted naming convention for the number and position of fractional feet . . .” Few literary terms are universally accepted. In order to converse with one another, we use terms that are generally accepted, because they are useful to most persons who want to speak or write of something. And there are terms for what Amanda Hall is doing in the above poem, including a term for the foot that Dunn wants to call “fractional.” I myself use Amanda’s seven-syllable meter to translate heptasyllabic French poems; here are a few lines translating Christine de Pisan:

    Scorn for you I don’t express;
    Be toward me no less polite
    When I fail to acquiesce;
    I resort to courteous flight
    From a love I can’t requite.

    This is a seven-syllable line with stresses on the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th syllables. I am counting syllables here because I need to distinguish the meter of this poem from other meters that Christine de Pisan uses. She writes in octosyllables (best translated into English as iambic tetrameter) and in six-syllable lines (best translated as iambic trimeter). English poetry has nothing between tetrameter and trimeter because English verse is not syllabic. My seven syllables per line liken my poem to Christine’s form, but an English poem needs accentual meter. Look at what my first line was, before I realized this: “No scorn for you I express.” Seven syllables–but bad rhythm that doesn’t flow in the same pattern as my other English lines.

    What meter am I using? I can call it iambic tetrameter that starts with a headless iamb. The first foot is not half a foot; it is a foot of a single stressed syllable, lacking the less important unstressed syllable that usually begins (or heads) an iamb. Four iambic feet = iambic tetrameter. I could also call this meter trochaic tetrameter with a tail-less trochee at the end. “Headless iamb” and “tailless trochee” are useful known terms for feet that Dunn wants to call “fractional.” “Fractional feet” is useful only because it reveals that the person employing it is a syllable counter who finds a syllable to be missing from his count.

    (3) “Meter” has three main uses in speaking about English poetry. Will Dunn wants another conversation to re-define meter and to deny that most English poetry has meter.

    The most common use of “meter” refers to more or less regular poetic rhythm. “Regular” is the key word. Meter can be regular, but it is recognizable and measurable even when there are variations in the observed regularity.

    Next comes “meter” as measurable rhythmic patterns actually found in verse. The focus here is the whole body of English poetry as it actually exists. Most readers find measurable rhythms in nearly all English poetry before the modern period. It is understood that many modern poets do not use meter because they do not want to, while earlier poets almost always intended to do so.

    The third accepted use of the term “meter” is to refer to an ideal rhythmic pattern. This is closest to Will Dunn’s thinking, except that Will seems to think an ideal rhythmic pattern is possible, making use of infinitely varied and variable language that resists any perfect equality of words, phrases, and sentences. In fact, for true idealistic theorists, RHYTHM BECOMES METER THE CLOSER IT APPROACHES THE IDEAL OF REGULARITY. The operative idea here is “approach.” Language rhythms never actually arrive at ideal meter. They approach, the way some mathematical graphs can approach, but never reach, the line representing a mathematical function’s limiting value.

    A very few poets who think like this are already using the term “extreme” for their meter and their poems. I was quite surprised to read some such poems and find how much variation there is in the work of poets striving for metrical “perfection.” It seems clear they cannot arrive; they just go to extreme lengths in trying, and the poetry does not seem any better than the poetry of others who don’t flail themselves over meter or some ideal of “perfect” form. But I do think they have found a good name for their work as “extreme” and for themselves as “extremists.”

    Please note that I am not referring to Amanda Hall or her poem “Give It a Try.” I have expressed my appreciation for it in an earlier comment. And as I showed above in this comment, I have used the same meter as Amanda did here.

    Reply
  6. Will Dunn

    Ms. Hall —

    Time is precious to me. I have invested a good deal of it in commenting on your works at length because you advocate meter (“flawless meter” in your parlance), and that is vital to the future of formal poetry and therefore to this site. And the better your work reflects that advocacy, the greater your impact will be.

    This work fully demonstrates that point, but as I have explained here and elsewhere, I personally don’t believe, based on the SCP samplings, that Gift of Life — albeit just as well intentioned — is as effective.

    I have not written believing you will go back and alter a published work. I have written because I hope to influence your future work. Concrete example is the most effective way I know to do that.

    For the benefit of others:

    I do not act from ignorance.

    (1) I did not introduce the term “chained”. I took it from you referring to your work as a “chain of sonnets”.

    Based on your use of said phrase and your sampled work, I found no reason to believe you meant you had interlocked your verses by repeating lines. I made it very clear that my concern was your use of the sonnet form as a linear, episodic story telling unit, and I made it very clear that I was the only person expressing that view.

    (2) I agree with your eloquent view of “meter” as quoted elsewhere. And I agreed fully that your work here was metric and that it argued your standard well in my view despite the pattern being consistently truncated (to which some might object because the lines are not successive feet). We simply don’t have a naming convention for such a pattern that specifies three and a half feet (or for the more complex metric patterns involving shortened feet on both ends of the line in three syllable foot meters).

    I have also made it clear I have no argument with well executed, consistently stressed accentual rhythm. Magnificent works have been done in it (proved here often) and will certainly continue to be done in it. But the same is true of bona fide meter.

    (3) All I want in the debate on meter here is to have the legitimacy of your “flawless” definition recognized as a very worthy and very achievable aim.

    This is the place such work should be prized, not demonized.

    I want you to write flawless meter, including IP, as well as you are capable of doing it (clearly demonstrated here in a very challenging metric pattern).

    And I don’t want you to stop writing sonnets or to stop using the sonnet form as an episodic unit. I would just prefer you not call such episodic units sonnets unless they fulfill the generally accepted arguments for the form. But that’s just my personal take. I am not attempting to mandate any behavior.

    Wanting people to do their best work is why I have invested precious time in you and in several other authors here. And I will continue to do so to the degree that it’s appreciated by each author in question.

    My effort is made solely for your benefit, but with the faint hope that others might learn from it too. It gains me nothing other than the satisfaction of knowing I have spoken up for you and tried earnestly to be of value to you. And it costs me time never available again for any purpose.

    I fully accept the risk that such effort might mean nothing to anyone.

    Reply
    • Gail

      I’m not a poet, but I appreciate integrity when I come across it. And so I have, reading your comments on this work. Very refreshing.

      Reply
      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Gail, what about Dr. Coats? Margaret has also taken time to afford a considered, educative, and honest opinion from a sagacious perspective. Having studied English Literature, I believe Dr. Coats has it right. I would also like to say, I thoroughly enjoyed Amanda’s poem and believe that Margaret is her best guide.

      • Gail

        Uh-oh! I haven’t followed all comments and critiques. I can’t speak to
        Ms. Coats’ contributions. I misspoke. It was not the content of the comments on the work that struck me as much as the dedication to his own personal conviction that Mr. Dunn displayed.

        Sorry! I’ve thrown a monkey wrench in things. On the whole, when I have read Ms. Coats’ remarks, she, too, seems principled and forthright. Though, in this instance, she differs from Mr. Dunn? I wasn’t talking about poetry; I was talking about being willing to speak up. (I’ll go back to spectating now!)

      • Will Dunn

        Gail —

        Your contribution to this site is enormous. Though you affectionately refer to your vantage here as the “peanut gallery,” your role is far more noble as the “every woman” that poets need to hear from. This is my thanks for what you do so well and so often. I allude to your language with utmost respect. This site needs more people of your interest and inclination.

        To Gail

        You are the silence or applause
        that gives a poet hope or pause
        reminding us to ply our craft
        as if, to each beholder, draft

        uniquely meeting ear and eye
        deriving what our words imply
        as sound and meaning found inferred,
        not as intended but as heard,

        for ill-advised is path we tread
        who trust so well what in our head
        convinces us it’s heaven sent
        to be perceived just as it’s meant

        and find too late to our dismay
        in “peanut” seats it doesn’t play.

      • Gail

        You’re welcome. And thank you for the poem. Apparently, some of you have sussed out the question I’ve never asked, which is, “Who are you all writing for?” Additionally, “Does art serve humanity, or vice versa?” I know what I think. Sometimes artists marginalize themselves.

  7. Joseph S. Salemi

    This is really getting insane.

    Mr. Dunn looks at Amanda Hall’s poem and intones: “I consider your challenging [sic] template here a metric, even though it is not successive feet, but some might not.” Huh? What the hell does THAT mean? Hall has written a very simple piece in trochaic tetrameter with the final unstressed syllable omitted. There’s nothing about its structure that would not be immediately understandable to a freshman prosody student. It’s a good, clear poem. But Dunn thinks that its is “a challenging template,” and that it lacks “successive feet.”

    Mr. Dunn is here on some kind of manic mission, as evidenced by his steady use of words such as “must,” “ought,” and “should,” and his insistent tone of moral urgency. He actually takes one of Amanda Hall’s sonnets, and puts it through no less that three new drafts to make it even tighter and more restricted than the original was. Ye gods! Talk about presumption!

    Just listen to this statement of his to Ms. Hall: “I want you to write flawless meter, including IP, as well as you are capable of doing it.” I can’t help envisioning Uncle Sam on the recruiting poster, with his long finger pointed fixedly at a potential soldier, saying “I want YOU for the U.S. Army!”

    He also says “All I want in the debate on meter here is to have the legitimacy of your ‘flawless’ definition recognized as a very worthy and achievable aim.” The translation of that sentence is this: “Everybody at the SCP has to recognize that there is something called ‘flawless meter,’ and they had better show it due respect!” That’s called begging the question in logic.

    Then Dunn says: “[Flawless meter] is vital to the future of formal poetry, and therefore to this site.” Really? Has that also been handed down from Mount Sinai? When you come to a website telling those there that they have to dedicate themselves to what YOU happen to like, that (to say the least) is a sign of arrogance or fanaticism. If you have an abstract agenda, take it elsewhere.

    Finally, to cover his tracks, Dunn says “I am not attempting to mandate any behavior.” Oh yeah, sure. Every syllable of Dunn’s comments, both here and in other discussion threads, screams “My WILL be DUNN.”

    Reply
  8. Daniel Kemper

    It is really not fair for Dr. Salemi, who has commanded students (dependent on him for success), “Don’t be a syllable counter,” to tilt at Will the way he does. He accuses Will of implicitly doing what he himself has explicitly done. All I see of Will’s point is that perfect meter is not a proper object of scorn. And that five iambs should mean five iambs. Both Dr. Salemi and Dr. Coats gleefully go ad hominem when their logic is challenged. To me, this calls into question the value and meaning of their PhD’s.

    Dr. Coats has unwound bizarre accusations and basically called me Mao Tse Tung elsewhere. Dr. Salemi has gone on at greater lengths. Both have ignored logic. Funny to me that on another site I was called, “Trump.” I wonder how I can be both Trump and Mao at the same time. Both are afraid, not without reason, that their accomplishments will evaporate if they admit to the basic truth. It takes time and patience to deal with such amygdala-driven thoughts. The rest of the poetry world will likely deal with them as they have dealt with others (like me) should they change their position. It takes courage and a thick hide to advance tradition.

    Reply
    • Margaret Coats

      Daniel, I find this to be an ad hominem attack on me, and I am not impressed with it. When I referred to Mao Zedong, I said exactly what I meant. The tyrant wrote poetry in traditional forms, but in his Cultural Revolution directed revolutionary violence against others who did so, and thus forcibly told younger poets not to use traditional forms. You owe me an apology for saying that I equated you with him.

      Please be more logical when you think you are challenging my logic.

      Reply
      • Daniel Kemper

        You did equate me with Mao. That’s why he came up as a subject at all. I don’t accept the academic word-game baloney that allows someone to insult and step free. You said it; own it. I lost a great deal of respect for you and for “PhD” as a result. Be clear, I am not a knee-jerk, across the board kind of guy. Despite divots that we might dicker over, I am still stunned by you as a poet. Just not as a logician or a literary critic. I am well acquainted with the tactic that allows someone to drop raging insults and then step away in the manner Eliot noted, “That is not what I meant at all.” Nor do I accept the facile turn of tables. You are not owed an apology. It’s not ad hominem to hold you responsible for your words. I’ll not hijack the thread further.

  9. The Society

    Dear Readers,

    To reiterate past comments I’ve made, perfect meter is fine on its own, but in actual practice, if you are using perfect meter constantly, you are probably sacrificing the naturalness of your expression and creating poetry that is difficult to enjoy by a wide range of readers. The classic example of good English meter in action is perhaps the most famous line of English poetry and of English literature, which is Shakespeare’s “To be or not to be, that is the question.” This most definitive line of iambic pentameter contains an extra unaccented syllable at the end. It is 11 syllables, not 10. Counting syllables is instructive for students in elementary or high school beginning to write poetry, but that is all. Perhaps perfect meter may serve some function for those affected by writing or reading free verse. In actual practice, in writing many lines of poetry, perfect meter is not viable or recommended. Over the long term, the poetry will suffer.

    Regards,
    Evan Mantyk, SCP editor

    Reply
    • Gail

      With the intention of being funny, and not to put too fine a point on it . . . But, Evan, did you just cast your vote for art in service to humanity?

      Reply
      • Daniel Kemper

        Apologies for hijacking your thread.

        Perfect meter IS viable. No logical argument has withstood the scrutiny otherwise.

        I remember my brother (an industrial engineer) bringing an article to my attention in the 1980’s. In it, the Japanese returned a shipment of ball-bearings for low standard of quality. The US had shipped what was the standard at the time – and what was seen as the inevitable standard. (Like airbags that couldn’t be done, like cars that simply couldn’t endure beyond 3-5 years.) There were a set percentage of defective products. The Japanese politely indicated that they paid for X number of perfect ball-bearings and that’s what they expected to receive. Ultimately, there was a revolution in US manufacturing. In contrast to decades that preached otherwise. The Japanese called us on the carpet and unfortunately for them, we stepped up and delivered. This is the nature of the discussion here as I perceive it. Step up or wimp out; stand boldly or hide behind the skirts of those who didn’t have the advantages we do. Where are the tongues who called Milton perfect IP in the face of Bridges?

        Crickets.

        Where are the voices that say once a foundation is firmly set we can build towers that even Shakespeare never dreamed of?

        …?

        …?

  10. The Society

    Dear Daniel Kemper,

    I did read you saying that Milton’s Paradise Lost was not iambic pentameter. That struck me as so ridiculous as to be not worth mentioning. It is in iambic pentameter. Perhaps we’ll have to agree to disagree here.

    Well, I guess what this comes down to is that poets wishing to submit to the Society of Classical Poets should read my above words as the official recommendation. I am the editor. Perfect meter is fine, but don’t make your English sound unnecessarily contorted in order to achieve it. The great poets of ages past do not use perfect meter.

    Regards,
    Evan

    Reply
    • Daniel Kemper

      Evan, please take the time to read Robert Bridges’ (Poet Laureate) analysis of Paradise Lost before you diss me. He’s flawless. Also, please try an empirical approach and read it in front of someone who doesn’t know that it’s supposed to be iambic pentameter — they won’t even know it wasn’t prose.

      PS – I really cannot overstate the value I find in being able to engage these issues openly. Thank you for your site. The fact that we have disagreements — even passionate disagreements — is of little consequence compared to the value you provide in being able to air those disagreements.

      Reply
  11. Joseph S. Salemi

    No one is afraid of you, Daniel, and no one has thrown any ad hominem attacks at you. We have simply expressed our views in trenchant and explicit language. Here are some of the plain FACTS we have stated:

    FACT # 1 – Iambic pentameter has never been understood in tradition or in practice as an absolutely unvaried five-iamb line. It is not “ad hominem” for us to point out this fact, or to note that it deeply troubles and upsets you for some reason.

    FACT #2 – Mao did tell younger poets not to use traditional forms, and you have been here urging the exact same thing on contemporary formal poets. That doesn’t make you a mass murderer; it simply points out a pertinent parallel.

    FACT #3 – No one here has said that so-called “perfect meter” isn’t possible or viable. We have simply mentioned that it is frequently boring, that it isn’t the practice of or most famous poets, and that it is hardly necessary or required. It is not “ad hominem” for us to mention that you seem deeply chagrined by this fact.

    FACT #4 – You have admitted that the triple motivation for your campaign is personal pique (you hate “contradictions”); worry about the opinion of free-verse types (the editor of Bukowski); and concern for poetry’s “market-share” (it’s not as big as that of prose). It’s hardly “ad hominem” for us to repeat what you yourself have written, and to note that these motivations are strictly non-aesthetic.

    FACT #5 – You have openly said that poems with “random variations” are like a wrecked car (i.e. they can be called “poems,” but they hardly qualify as such). You labeled Henley’s excellent sonnet “flawed” and “bad poetry.” When you’re called on this, you scream “ad hominem!”

    FACT #6 – Your view (and perhaps that of Bridges) that Milton’s Paradise Lost isn’t written in iambic fives is more than wrong — it is as absurd as the phlogiston theory. All Bridges did was to show that Milton had certain idiosyncratic habits about elisions and pronunciation that he stuck to, and which later loosened up a bit in Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes. But Paradise Lost is as blatantly IP as anything in Pope! As Mr. Mantyk points out, saying otherwise is willfully off-the-wall. That’s why you heard crickets chirping.

    FACT #7 – Using an industrial anecdote about problems with defective ball-bearings (!) in an aesthetic debate is an absolutely perfect “objective correlative” for what is wrong with your habit of thinking. You really want to mechanize meter and put it on the assembly line. And you’re angry that some poets resist.

    FACT #8 – You refuse to admit or deny the contention that you are here on a mission, and with a specific agenda, which is two-fold: to provide a theoretical basis for your “symphonic” long poems, and to proselytize other poets here to follow your proposed pattern of composition.

    Nobody here at the SCP would have given you any trouble at all if you simply stuck to writing and posting your own work. But you have some game-plan in mind for “repairing the world” of formal poetry to suit your own purposes. That’s why you have gotten all this pushback.

    You want to “advance the tradition” and “build towers” on Shakespeare’s work? Go right ahead. But leave the rest of us alone. We’re here to preserve the traditions we have inherited.

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