A to B and back again

A little paragraph that stuck out to me in this week’s reading in A Little Book on Form (specifically the “How Free Verse Works” chapter) was when Hass recollects a conversation with Stanley Kunitz on formalized ways a “poem moves.”

I’ll just rip the band-aid off quickly—I like logic. I like things to have a natural progression to things. I may be out of bounds here, but I think poetry is probably the most liberal when it comes to how much “logic” is required. I don’t begrudge poetry for being as open ended as it is (in fact, I welcome the discomfort), but formal organization structures are a particularly tantalizing idea to me. So, I think it’ll be fun to try and come up with a few more examples than Kunitz or Hass give. 

To refresh your memory, Kunitz introduces three movements: a straight line (A to B…), a circle (A to B to C… to A), and a braid (A to B to C… to A to B to C… to ABC) that twists around itself each thread lines up. Hass gives a few more suggestions: pointillism (A B C…) with its unstated connections, and a list (In Hass’ words, “A A A A A”). That brings the total to five, but I don’t think anyone but, maybe, Kunitz would care if we pushed passed that.

My turn. Here are a few more suggestions:

  • A poem without movement or as I like to call it “the Loner” (A), a single idea, image, or thought that stands on its own. Maybe all the movement’s in the words of a single line.
  • A poem that starts somewhere other than the beginning that I call “the Wildcard,” messing with our sense of chronology and logic (Maybe it goes backwards, D to C to B to A, or some other order, C to A to B to D).
  • A poem that doesn’t go anywhere, “the Joker” (A to A to A to A). It’s pretty similar to a list, but there may be movement in on itself unlike a list ,or it could just be repeating itself (that’s movement, I guess).
  • A poem that intentionally skips steps in the movement, “the Executioner” perhaps (because it’s chopped up, A to C to E).
  • A poem that… and I’m all out. I’m sure there’s an indefinite number of movements out there, but my brain is already in knots from coming up with these other four.  Anyone want to try for some more?

That’s nine.  Between the great minds of Hass, Kunitz, and myself, I’m pretty satisfied with that.

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