Poetry Form: book by Robert Pinsky:
The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide (1998)
comments by J. Zimmerman

Poetic Rhythm: An Introduction (1998)
by Robert Pinsky


This book of theory opens with its claim to "lite":

There are no rules.

However, principles may be discerned in actual practice: for example, in the way people actually speak, or in the lines poets have written.
[p. 3]

Five Chapters of Theory:

  1. Accent and duration.

  2. Syntax and line.

    This chapter opens with an interesting question:

    What is a line of poetry?

    ... what vocal reality underlies the typographical convention of stopping at the right margin and and returning to the left margin?
    [p. 25]

    The syntax is trying to speed up the line, and the line is trying to slow down the syntax.
    [p. 29]

    And to emphasize the book's experiential rather than theory-oriented preferences:

    Being aware of how a thing is done, and appreciating more by noticing more—is the goal of this book.
    [p. 49]

  3. Technical terms and vocal realities.

    Introduces terms while centering on the view that:

    No aspect of a poem is more singular, more unique, than its rhythm.
    [p. 51]

    [R]hythm is the sounds of an actual line, while meter is the abstract pattern behind the rhythm. . . . Rhythm is the reality . . . and meter . . . is the ruler-like symmetry.
    [p. 53]

  4. Like and unlike sounds.

    In addition to praising slant rhyme, extols creating:

    phrases in which I hear a kind of delicious contrast between the Latin and the Germanic roots [of their words], a little like that between crunch and soft.
    [p. 88]

  5. Blank verse and free verse.

    Points out that:

    many poets of the generation of Americans born in the late nineteen-twenties began their careers writing pentameters and abandoned them. . . . those who wrote the best, most striking pentameters went on to write the most attractive free verse.
    [p. 101]

    Makes a novel definition of free verse:

    The art of the poem [C.K. Williams' "Tar"] is that it achieves an intense cadence than is neither prose nor iambic: that is one way of defining "free verse".
    [p. 109]

    Asserts that when in free verse:

    we hear such cadences, and the presence of the older rhythms moving though such passages and out of them. This kind of hearing is what makes free verse have the intensity of verse.
    [p. 113]

While the Pinsky is an easy read, I can better advise the reader to read Attridge:

[Thanks for visiting.]