By Mary Oliver
With ardour, wit, and stable good judgment, the distinguished poet Mary Oliver tells of the elemental methods a poem is built-meter and rhyme, shape and diction, sound and feel. Drawing on poems from Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, and others, Oliver imparts a unprecedented quantity of data in a remarkably brief house. “Stunning” (Los Angeles Times). Index.
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The syntax found in prose poems is often particularly exquisite, combining power and *So said Aristotle. D I C T I O N , T O N E , VOICE 8/ grace. In fact, the prose of prose poems is often a real advertisement for the simple power and endless nuance of the English language. Writers interested in this form should turn first to the prose poems of Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud. James Wright and Robert Bly both published prose poems during the seventies, and even earlier. The number of poets who now at least occasionally write and publish prose poems is large, and growing larger.
They shifted a little, but not to return my stare. —It was more like the tipping of an object toward the light. I admired his sullen face, the mechanism of his jaw, and then I saw that from his lower lip —if you could call it a lip— grim, wet, and weaponlike, hung five old pieces of fish-line, or four and a wire leader with the swivel still attached, with all their five big hooks grown firmly in his mouth. A green line, frayed at the end where he broke it, two heavier lines, and a fine black thread still crimped from the strain and snapped when it broke and he got away.
One final note. Marianne Moore's poem The Steeplejack, also in syllabic verse, has, at its center, one wonderfully effective variant stanza. Invention hovers always a little above the rules. Free Verse The free verse poem is by no means exempted from the necessity of having a design, though one must go about it in rather different ways, since there is no external pattern to be followed. This subject will take up a fair amount of time in the following chapter, and will involve such matters as repetition of line, repetition of syntax, patterns of stress, a sense of inevitability, setting up a felt pattern of expectation and meeting that expectation, a repetition of enjambment, and so on.
A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver