Modern Poetry

“Whitman, with his stylistic eccentricities and his expansive rhetoric, is not yet of this century [the 20th], though certainly he is its greatest poetic forerunner. Emily Dickinson is far more naturally a spokesman for the existential moment – that is, for the sense that the true matter of a poem is the feel and body of the awareness it presents. That sense, even more than a free approach to meter, stanza, and theme, is the heart of what we call ‘modern’.”1

And more succinctly, British poet Veronica Forrest-Thomson said “A poem should not mean, but be.”

Although I was inspired to start writing poems by reading the amazing poetry of Robinson Jeffers, his high classical style was not helpful in shaping my own poems. William Carlos Williams is my model, with his free-form, graceful use of plain English similar to our everyday speech. My poetic lines are usually iambic pentameter or iambic tetrameter, with the usual irregularities. I’m definitely modern in the way people applied that term during the first half of the 20th century, now considered old-fashioned by contemporary poets. I am not a great poet nor do I aspire to be, so I write free-form because it’s easy.

1From Chief Modern Poets of England and America, Fourth Edition, 1962, edited by G.D. Sanders, J.H. Nelson, and M.L. Rosenthal, in the Introduction to Modern American Poetry.

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