Always a game

May 18, 2019

You treat free verse as a free-for-all. But poetry (whatever we may say) is, was, and will always be a game. And as every child knows, all games have rules. So why do the grown-ups forget?

Wislawa Szymborska
Letter to Mr. K.K. from Bytom
Literary Life
Trans. Clare Cavanagh

strongly narrative

May 12, 2018

A poet

Bukowski’s poems are best appreciated not as individual verbal artefacts but as ongoing instalments in the tale of his true adventures, like a comic book or a movie serial. They are strongly narrative, drawing from an endless supply of anecdotes that typically involve a bar, a skid-row hotel, a horse race, a girlfriend, or any permutation thereof. Bukowski’s free verse is really a series of declarative sentences broken up into a long, narrow column, the short lines giving an impression of speed and terseness even when the language is sentimental or clichéd.

Adam Kirsch
Smashed: the pulp poetry of Charles Bukowski
New Yorker 14th March 2005

contemporary women poets…

September 19, 2016


The historical problem is that contemporary women poets do not have a long and powerful female formal tradition to rebel against. The only women’s poetic tradition that has been influential during out century is the free-verse tradition that followed on Modernism. Dickinson is an anomaly, influential only because of her perceived affinities with nonformal Modernist and postmodernist poetics. Women poets who are drawn to palpable structures and who identify with female traditions must look away from the handful of canonically accepted female poets in the search for our foremothers. Writing in form is for us not a matter of going back to the past, reasserting an archaic power structure, meekly treading on territory already claimed by Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, and Wordsworth.

Annie Finch
Female Tradition as Feminist Innovation