On Form: In Response to Szirtes

Without form, there would be no frame for the image. Form is the perspective in which a poem can be viewed and interpreted. For example, as George Szirtes mentions in his article “Formal Wear: notes on Rhyme, Meter, Stanza & Pattern,” rhyme can be used to provide a lighthearted air. Length of a line can contribute to the pace of the poem, the diction can affect the tone, and density of a stanza can weigh down or lighten its effect.

To be honest, I have never intentionally focused on the form while I write. Rather, my attentions are usually given primarily to the content and diction of a poem. I have always considered my work as adhering to the standards of free-verse poetry, out of insecurity of any other kind of form. But Szirtes makes a good point that free-verse poetry is “never ‘free’ to those who use it well.” Considering all of these pillars of form (rhyme, meter, pattern, etc.) tend to infuse themselves into the work anyway. Because, as Szirtes states, it is “community.” As we are versed in poets and writing styles of previous eras, we are influenced and, subsequently, so is our work. He argues, though, that poems do not “wear uniforms but they are aware of each other’s presence.” There should be a relationship between works through form, but the important thing is to bring “fresh life” to the form with the content of one’s own poem. This allows poets to have discussions through their poetry with poets of the past, Szirtes refers to as “ghosts.” I would be honored to have Dickinson or Frost haunt my house for a little while.

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