Free Verse: Prose, with Style

in response to dVerse~Poets Pub 2018/11/12 Pubtalk – Form or free or both

Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird” is not free verse at all. It is iambic tetrameter, more or less. Three verses of it, each ending with a line of trimeter; with arbitrary line breaks thrown in. When I read “Caged Bird”, I hear this poem:

A free bird leaps on the back of the wind
and floats downstream till the current ends
and dips his wing in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage
can seldom see through his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.

The rhyme emphasizes the rhythm inherent in the lines, which have a natural stop with each tetrameter. Free verse, however, requires no such pattern. In the same way that Buzz Lightyear can fly (falling, with style), Free Verse can be considered poetry (prose, with style). It has a direct kinship with the Authorized King James Bible:

In the beginning was the Word, 
and the Word was with God, 
and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; 
and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life; 
and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; 
and the darkness comprehended it not.

This is prose, not poetry. The difference between the opening of the book of John and Angelou is clear, but for the sake of our own egos, when we write verse that imitates Biblical style and spirit, we bestow upon it the title of Verse. Verse, however means rhythm, as in Angelou, above. Free Verse was invented just as the Bible had become universally available and the most read piece of literature in the world. It made sense that its readers would take on its style in their own writings. For good or ill, these newly literate generations aspired to be poets (who wouldn’t?) and labeled their works accordingly. Whitman is the prime example:

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it
should be, blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank
or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work,
or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his
boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat
deck, ...

What I hear is a man who grew up reading the Bible. What I hear is Prose with Style.

Paul Guernsey Player, © 2018/11/13

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[blank renku] in search of darkness

a pretty sunset
clouds obstruct the newest moon
colors fade to dusk

A sliver of the backlit spinning orb,
that is not seen but known to hide tonight
behind a mask of dusty crimson hue,
a crescent just above the edge of night
whose curving blade demarks the lunar day.

warm and moonless night
city wakes ten thousand moons
searching for darkness

Paul Guernsey Player, © 2018/11/08


blank renku – a form of linked verse, written by one or multiple authors in alternating collaboration. Blank renku differs from renku in that stanzas alternate between haiku form, and blank verse. The shortest blank verse stanza would be a couplet. The longest would fill a Post It note, the original (fictional) medium of blank renku, as invented for The Blank Verse Mystery. Variations are expected.

Blank renku can be played as a game, in the original spirit of renku. It merges poetry from East and West. Writers can choose to write in their stronger form or in their weaker one, and in this way it is similar to the game of THUD.

We Dowsers, All

We dowse of water, dowse of flame.
We dowse of wonder, dowse of fame.
We dowse of pleasure, dowse of pain.
We dowse the crazy, dowse the sane.

We dowse of power, and dowse of lust.
We dowse of virtue, and dowse the just.
We dowse sincere, and dowse of trust.

But, one true dowse, dowse We most,
Yet, one true dowse, to dowse the host,
We dowse the truth, averted eyes.
We dowse with sticks to cover lies.

Paul Guernsey Player, © 2018/11/04


In response to Our Newest Emperor’s New Clothes, by Judy Dykstra-Brown

My comment on her post:

“…much as many Americans are fleeing south…” I considered fleeing when my Fellow Americans elected Obama twice. I felt exactly as you do now, that my country was being destroyed by Enemies Within. I strived then, as I still do, to see my political foes as intelligent beings and to avoid “hurling hateful invectives”, such as this. When you attack the leader, you attack the millions who, with open eyes, selected this option over one far worse.
 Yes, our eyes are open, and I assume that yours are, too. It is time for us all to lift our gaze above the rim of our small worlds and see what others see.

 

[blank renku] Ambiguity

in response to Sonnet, by Helen Valentina

Emoji notwithstanding, come my words
and take the sin that you have spoke in long
and winding verse, so much more naught than thing.

word in picture framed
simple thought inelegant
ambiguity

Come and take my hand and walk this narrow way
that frames ideas in solid beating phrase,
and speak you not a single word to me 
until this path for miles we have trod,
until this thirst, these aching thighs have etched 
their own path through the mind, so flows there not
a single thought save for the well deserved 
rest.

speeding ball in flight
stinging slap of leather caught
spinning back to you

a blank renku [1] by Paul Guernsey Player, © 2018/10/25


[1] blank renku – a form of linked verse, written by one or multiple authors in alternating collaboration. Blank renku differs from renku in that stanzas alternate between haiku form, and blank verse. The shortest blank verse stanza would be a couplet. The longest would fill a Post It note, the original (fictional) medium of blank renku, as invented for The Blank Verse Mystery. Variations are expected.

Blank renku can be played as a game, in the original spirit of renku. It merges poetry from East and West. Writers can choose to write in their stronger form or in their weaker one, and in this way it is similar to the game of THUD.

[blank renku] Pentameter Iambic

Pentameter Iambic is the beating 
heart of English verse. The history 
of our poetic mind has flowed to us 
between its banks, and through our very veins 
does course its warm and tannic blood.

rhythmic numbers flow 
no prose could work this magic
lost in paradise

No verse so fair and true before nor since
has echoed through the ages gone, nor ours,
nor those as yet unborn, of thee we sing.

music on night's breeze
fingers strike the beating strings
voice caressing soul

Paul Guernsey Player, © 2018/10/21


blank renku – a form of linked verse, written by one or multiple authors in alternating collaboration. Blank renku differs from renku in that stanzas alternate between haiku form, and blank verse. The shortest blank verse stanza would be a couplet. The longest would fill a Post It note, the original (fictional) medium of blank renku, as invented for The Blank Verse Mystery. Variations are expected.

Blank renku can be played as a game, in the original spirit of renku. It merges poetry from East and West. Writers can choose to write in their stronger form or in their weaker one, and in this way it is similar to the game of THUD.

Process Guys

The guys who track the progress of our work
forgotten or extraneous are not.
Confusion reigns without their careful notes
in color coded spreadsheets daily new.
The endless meetings they endure, discussing
details, sorting wheat from dusty chaff,
requirements from merely wishful thought.

The Process Guy. The guy we once were taught
to do without, but now with certainty 
would rather not. Especially the one
who does his job so well that we forget
how tedious our tasks had been before,
or just how troublesome our lives become
under the guy who does his Process Stuff
with far less skill, for trust me,
troublesome is far too sweet a word.

Paul Guernsey Player © 2018/10/17

Wedding Card

Our son to wed his bride-to-be this day.
As he and his best man now iron shirts
inside our hotel room, I write their card.
As Father of the Groom, it is within 
my role to shed a tear or two, but now
I don't believe that I will have that need,
for looking back upon the days that led
up to this day, and those to come, I see
a calm and steady confidence to cure
my fears and quench the cresting waves of grief
whose troughs of sadness stand no chance against
the bulwark of esteem in which I hold 
the man I know my son to be, and for 
his lovely wife, my daughter number two, 
who brings me joy not only in the joy 
she brings to him, but also for the joy
she is to have around. So, thanks, you two,
for being who you are and shining oh, 
so brightly. Shine until the darkness knows
thy name.

 

Paul Guernsey Player, copyright © 2018/10/06