Essays and Criticism

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Poetic Theory

It is odd how many people who write about the theory of poetry agree that the four-stress Anglo-Saxon line is still fundamental to English prosody. Some who favor metrical verse claim that the best iambic pentameter has a four-stress feel with the extra beat subordinated. Some who favor free verse claim (in effect) that the best free verse reproduces the rhythmic flexibility of the alliterative line - without the alliteration to hold it all together.
     These essays show what I mean. Notice how they all admit the ghost of alliterative meter -- but they keep the corpse safely buried. Weinberger's assault on a book of Formalist poetry rather illustrates my point: if those who write formal poetry really want strict form, he suggests acidly, they ought to write in the Norse stanza forms.