Frequently asked questions about poetry.

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April 17 2008 12:39 PM

Why Don't Modern Poems Rhyme, Etc.

Frequently asked questions about the business of verse.

1. Sometimes I see a poem in Slate or another magazine, and it doesn't do a thing for me. Half of the time I can't figure out what it means—what is that all about?

Generalizing won't do. We'd have to discuss a particular poem. At times prominent magazines publish things that aren't very good.

Magazines sometimes make me think of four lines the 18th-century actor David Garrick wrote as part of his poem praising poet Thomas Gray. About a certain kind of reader, Garrick wrote:

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The gentle reader loves the gentle Muse.
That little dares, and little means;
Who humbly sips her learning from Reviews,
Or flutters in the Magazines.

2. Isn't so-called "free verse" just prose chopped into lines?

Read the following aloud, listening to the vowels and consonants, the sentence movements:

William Carlos Williams, "Fine Work With Pitch and Copper"

Wallace Stevens, "The Snow Man"

3. How come modern poets don't write in rhyme?

Read the following aloud, listening to the vowels and consonants, the sentence movements: