My Writers Circle

Poets Corner => Review My Poetry => Topic started by: Amie on October 20, 2010, 09:19:24 AM

Title: Definitions
Post by: Amie on October 20, 2010, 09:19:24 AM
To avoid further hijacking Bar's thread, I thought I'd pose the question here.

Brownlee and I started to get into a debate about 'What makes a sonnet?' (http://www.mywriterscircle.com/index.php?topic=29950.msg497975) or whether or not you can have a form poem which is also free verse. To me, free verse is exactly what it says - it doesn't conform to any pre-conceived form. Therefore, to refer to a free-verse sonnet or villanelle or haiku or what have you seems a nonsense to me, like referring to peas as pork sausages.

It's not as if my life depends on this, and I was rather tickled to see myself described as a 'traditionalist' (whatever will the people who accused me of breaking too many rules say?) - but I don't really see the point in having definitions if they don't mean anything. If I can call anything a mushroom for example, what does the term mushroom really mean?

And, if you don't think that a sonnet is defined by having 14 lines of iambic pentameter with a defined rhyme scheme (which may be the absense of a rhyme scheme) and a volta, what is a sonnet? What features make something a sonnet as opposed to not-a-sonnet? And if you are free to make up the rules and call absolutely anything a sonnet, what does the word 'sonnet' actually mean, if anything?
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Bar on October 20, 2010, 09:56:22 AM
It's alright Amie, thanks, the discussion is interesting wherever it happens.

I think Brownlee was mainly stressing the inevitable evolution/transformation of the sonnet's form through space/language and time and said free verse is an author's chosen form... Paul Muldoon often played with 14 line irregular sonnet meter and as mentioned, there were many more in our times.
And I've just read myself about 21 line fusion sonnet!

I'm in no way an expert, so I'm eager to understand more... Would you relate to sonnet's evolutive capacity, as you see it?
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Amie on October 20, 2010, 10:10:30 AM
Well, I suppose there's a grey area for me.

Taking the food analogy a bit further - I get a bit impatient with foodies who insist that a certain dish isn't really that dish, if it isn't exactly following the traditional recipe. But there comes a point when you have to admit that the latest evolution bears absolutely no relation, or insufficient relation, to the original dish to warrant the label.

It has to do with knowing what you're getting - otherwise, what is the point of having a label at all? So, for me, a porcini risotto has to have porcini and risotto rice (say arborio), as a minimum. If you make the same dish but use basmati, I'll be confused - basmati rice is nothing like risotto rice, so why call it a risotto? it's just confusing. Similarly, if you use field mushrooms rather than porcini, the label is confusing.

I'm not saying that people shouldn't make meals using field mushrooms and basmati rice - such a dish may even turn out better than porcini risotto, depending on other factors - I just don't see the point in calling it a porcini risotto if it isn't. It's misleading at best.

And some of these examples are so far from the traditional definition of sonnet as to be like calling something porcini risotto, when it has no rice or mushrooms, say it's made from butternut squash and pappardalle. And that's where I really start scratching my head. What is the point to calling a thing something it isn't? What benefit is to be had by calling something a mushroom-free rice-free porcini risotto?
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: sweetgirl09 on October 20, 2010, 11:15:33 AM
Amie, the particular example you chose of the porcini risotto is an interesting one - you see, although I know a risotto should have arborio rice in it, it wouldn't be the end of the world to me if it had basmati rice; if it was made well I'd probably enjoy it just as much.

So I'd agree that a sonnet should stick to the formal structure, meter and rhyme scheme, although I would still enjoy a good poem describing itself as a sonnet even if it didn't exactly obey all the rules. I had a go at one on my blog, about wind turbines, which doesn't rhyme properly - mainly because it's just too darn difficult - but I don't hate what I ended up with.

On Bar's point about evolution, I admire modern sonnets that are extremely clever with rhyme and enjambement, so you hardly notice the form until you've re-read it a few times. I can't think of any examples I can quote straight off, but I'd describe that process as a very appropriate evolution of the sonnet form. 
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Amie on October 20, 2010, 11:40:03 AM
Yeah, I thought perhaps I chose an example that was a bit too particular. But in fact, if you try to make a risotto from basmati, it will fragment. If you cook it another way, the texture is such that to me, it isn't risotto.

What I was really getting at was the papardalle/butternut squash thing. Why call it a mushroom-free rice-free porcini risotto when you could just call it papardalle and butternet squash? I'll enjoy it either way, but at least with the latter description I won't be scratching my head wondering what about it is supposed to resemble a risotto.

Same with sonnets - you can call a poem anything you like, and if you want to take one of John Yamrus's poems and call it a sonnet - well, chances are I'll still enjoy it, but I will disagree entirely that it's appropriate to call it a sonnet. And I'll wonder why you want to call it a sonnet or a 'free-verse sonnet', when you can just call it free verse, save yourself two syllables, and not give any misleading descriptions.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Victor on October 20, 2010, 12:23:52 PM
if a poem incorporates certain elements of a sonnet but generally eschews most of its stricter rules, I don't see anything contradictory about calling it a free-verse sonnet. it can't be labeled a sonnet because, obviously, it doesnt meet the criteria for a traditional sonnet; also it can't be written off as just free-verse because it exhibits characteristics of a sonnet - too conspicuous to ignore- as presumably intended by the writer.  

but anyway, no oxymoron can beat Christian Atheism. ;D
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: eric on October 20, 2010, 02:43:19 PM
modern poetry is big enough to have all kinds of poetry in it, because the basic rule is that there are no rules.  so you can have a sixteen line poem with no volta and erratic rhyme and be just fine.  but if you call it a sonnet you might as well call it a reindeer.  a modern sonnet is free verse gussied up in a sonnet title.  to me that is more than inaccurate, it's pretentious.  but hey, that's just me.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Mark H on October 20, 2010, 03:10:28 PM
1) A sonnet has defined forms.

2) You could tweak it to some extent and people might still recognise it as being sonnet-like.

3) If you tweak it so much that it is no longer recognisable as sonnet-like, you may still call it a sonnet if it makes you happy, but those that can recognise the sonnet form(s) will know better.

4) You can also write a limerick and call it a sonnet. No one can stop you. No one but you will accept it as a sonnet.

You could potentially group 1 & 2 together by saying that sonnet is also short hand for sonnet-like. And in that case I think it possible to have a sonnet without meter and rhyme. If you choose not to accept sonnet-like to equal sonnet, then sonnet must conform to one of the defined forms and that means it needs meter and so can't be free verse.

Mark
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Brownlee on October 20, 2010, 06:02:45 PM
Amie - Free verse sonnets exist. On the previous thread I gave a list of some free verse sonnets to prove they exist. There's no point you trying to deny their existence no matter how many people on the forum you get to support you. This isn't like an argument about the existence of God.

I also notice you failed to answer my question: when Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey invented the English sonnet, this was noticeably different from the original Italian (Petrachan) sonnet both in metre and rhyme scheme. (Italians wrote predominantly in hendecasyllabic lines; in English that's not so easy so the more regular decasyllabic iambic pentameter was used.) Change. Innovation. Do you accept English sonnets as 'true' sonnets? If you can't then you obviously don't consider Shakespeare's 154 efforts to be true sonnets. Which is madness. The Italian ones were all about love as well. John Donne wrote some about religion. John Milton about politics. Do they count?

So why can't you accept the change and innovation that has brought about free verse sonnets? Some have rhyme schemes, some don't. Some have voltas in the original place and are split on the page into distinct octaves and sestets, and some aren't. What's the problem either way? It seems like this is a rather pointless personal crusade. Or do you know more than Elizabeth Bishop? And Paul Muldoon? Wallace Stevens, Louis MacNeice, Don Paterson, Robin Robertson, Michael Donaghy... etc, etc.

I also note your answer to being challenged about whether you truly understand how to write in free verse was rather insubstantial, and slightly childish (along the lines of 'I write free verse so I know what it is'). Hmm. Would you care to elaborate or do we take it that you don't really understand - which is why I believe you can't accept free verse sonnets, because you don't understand them?

Oh, and for your information, sonnet means 'little song' in Italian.

And you can have free verse villanelles as well. Try Robin Robertson's 'Fall from Grace' from 'The Wrecking Light' and Hugo Williams's 'No Chance of Sunday' from 'Dear Room' for starters.  ;D
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Mark H on October 20, 2010, 06:51:01 PM
B

So you are expecting the dictionary definition of the word to change quite soon then are you? I'll just cross out all references to meter in mine then I won't have to buy another.

M
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: eric on October 20, 2010, 07:00:58 PM
The way sonnets have been taught for hundreds of years is that there are two types of sonnets, the Petrarchan and the Shakespearean.  Given that, Brownlee's argument falls down.  

There is a ghazal, there is a this and there is a that.  But there are not thats called thises, or vice versa.  There is free verse, but it is not called a ghazal.  If someone tried, that would be interesting but wrong.  

I will let Amie answer whether she understands the proposition, although the answer seems fairly evident, even to me.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Brownlee on October 20, 2010, 07:12:20 PM
Eric -
Quote
The way sonnets have been taught for hundreds of years is that there are two types of sonnets, the Petrarchan and the Shakespearean.  Given that, Brownlee's argument falls down.

You neglect to say either how or why. Quite important points.

M - Here's the definition given on the Poetry Archive. No, I don't expect them to be changing it.

A sonnet, in English poetry, is a poem of fourteen lines, usually in iambic pentameter, that has one of two regular rhyme schemes - although there are a couple of exceptions, and years of experimentation that have loosened this definition.  

One of these schemes is known as the Petrarchan, after the Italian poet Petrarch; it consists of a group of eight lines, rhymed abbaabba, followed by a group of six lines with different rhymes. The distribution of these rhymes can vary, including cdcede, cdecde, cdedce, or even cdcdcd. Often, at the point where the eight-line section, known as the octave, turns into the six-line section, or sestet, there is a volta, from the Italian for 'turn' - this is a shift in the poem's tone, subject or logic that gains power from (or demands?) the matching shift in its structure.

The Shakespearean sonnet breaks into three quatrains, followed by a couplet, rhymed abab cdcd efef gg - as the name suggests, this is the form Shakespeare used for his sonnets, although he did not invent it. In Shakespeare's usage, the three quatrains tend to make an argument in three stages, which the couplet will sum up or comment on.

The main exceptions are the curtal sonnet, a form invented by Gerard Manley Hopkins that roughly maintains the 8:6 ratio over a ten-and-a-half line poem, and the Meredithian sonnet of 16 lines. The fact that these are still referred to as a curtal and a Meredithian sonnet, however, shows that they are not (yet?) considered sonnets per se. There are also innumerable individual exceptions to the form - a poet may refer to a poem as a sonnet because it meets some of the descriptions above, or even just because s/he says so. This means that calling a poem a sonnet is not necessarily to define it strictly, but to say that it stands in relation to the long tradition of sonnets.

Kit Wright's 'Sonnet for Dick' is in the Shakespearean scheme, but once the grief is admitted at the end of the first four lines, the following sentences overflow the shifts in the rhyme scheme, as grief does into life. Mimi Khalvati's 'Overblown Roses' begins with a Shakespearean scheme for its opening eight lines, then performs a volta by turning from the flower itself to what it says about mortality in a Petrarchan sestet. Brendan Kennelly's 'The Happy Grass' and J.D. McClatchy's 'My Mammogram' make similar blends of the two definitions, as does Peter Dale's 'Window', which further adapts the form by moving the second rhyme in each pair a syllable or two back into the line, muting the music of it gently.

Billy Collins' 'Sonnet' is a poem that insists it is a sonnet, while it tries to discard some - but not all - of the rules that have traditionally defined a sonnet.  
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: eric on October 20, 2010, 08:07:22 PM
You argument fails because discrete forms of sonnets, the Petrachan and the Shakespearean, were invented and gained currency as sonnets.  The forms were followed.  There were interesting variations of rhyme -- Shelley, Heaney, and such -- but the basic form remained unchanged.  There is no question of change and innovation as such -- merely invention.  Free verse sonnets, on the other hand, are free verse and essentially do away with form to a greater or lesser degree.  They would be known as free verse, not sonnets.  Calling something a free verse sonnet, granted that some do, is like calling a gun a long-knived pistol.  That was Amie's point, I think -- that it is not logical to call a carrot cake a creampuff, nor does it make sense to use the words free form sonnet as though they made sense.

By the way, your free-form definition from an internet source does not comport with my Oxford, a book in print which says a sonnet is "a poem of fourteen lines using any of a number of rhyme schemes, in English typically having ten syllables per line."  But both are so vague as to be almost worthless.  Let's look at the more severe definition of a greatly accomplished poet, Mary Oliver:  the Italian sonnet has lines of 8 and 6 in stanzas, with the rhymes; the Elizabethan has 4, 4, and 4 with 2, accompanied by rhymes.  (A Poetry Handbook, 59-60.)  No mention of free verse, which is treated separately.  Would the Poetry Archive disagree? Not sensibly.

The Poetry Dictionary (2006) is similar.  With an extended discussion of the form (including the Spenserian form) the PD says the poet is free to "devise any sort of arrangement that works for a particular sonnet," that is, within the bounds of the form.  (293)  Frost's "Acquainted with the Night" adopts terza rima form as well as sonnet.  But that is not dispensing with the form altogether.  

Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Mark H on October 21, 2010, 03:16:09 AM
B

In less than 30 minutes I could create a web site called the ultimate poets' reference and define the sonnet as a type of nursery rhyme about pigs. The internet is not a reliable source.

M
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Amie on October 21, 2010, 03:32:06 AM
I also note your answer to being challenged about whether you truly understand how to write in free verse was rather insubstantial, and slightly childish

The point being that you might be living in the 21st century, but your rather traditionalist opinions seem to be stuck in the past, something your most recent post confirmed. Free verse is a form as much as blank verse, it just works in different ways and is up to the individual poet to determine. So you're right, I won't be able to convince you, because you seem not to understand free verse poetry.

Why is it that every time you respond, you have to have a dig at me? I don't get it. I haven't once made any comment about you personally, and yet at every opportunity you make a comment about me, whether I'm childish, or ignorant, or stuck in a rut or what have you. The debate isn't about me, it's about what makes a sonnet or not. Could you try to stick to that please - comment on the subject matter, and leave your opinions about the individual out of it. It actually says that in the posting guidelines, if you bother to look at them.

And I'm not rallying people to support me, I'm simply posing a question and getting opinions. For me the issue stays the same - if you can define something any way you like, what is the point of having a definition? What about the examples you've given makes them sonnets, other than that the authors have said they are? What is essential to 'sonnet-ness'? I thought it was a legitimate question, I'm sorry that it seems to offend you.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Vienna on October 21, 2010, 03:46:14 AM
Why is it that every time you respond, you have to have a dig at me? I don't get it. I haven't once made any comment about you personally, and yet at every opportunity you make a comment about me, whether I'm childish, or ignorant, or stuck in a rut or what have you. The debate isn't about me, it's about what makes a sonnet or not. Could you try to stick to that please - comment on the subject matter, and leave your opinions about the individual out of it. It actually says that in the posting guidelines, if you bother to look at them.

And I'm not rallying people to support me, I'm simply posing a question and getting opinions. For me the issue stays the same - if you can define something any way you like, what is the point of having a definition? What about the examples you've given makes them sonnets, other than that the authors have said they are? What is essential to 'sonnet-ness'? I thought it was a legitimate question, I'm sorry that it seems to offend you.




children children, let's have a lively discussion but leave out the personal insults we don't want another thread locked now do we eh??
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Amie on October 21, 2010, 03:55:14 AM
That's right V, you keep us all in line ;D
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Amie on October 21, 2010, 05:49:10 AM
Calling something a free verse sonnet, granted that some do, is like calling a gun a long-knived pistol.  That was Amie's point, I think -- that it is not logical to call a carrot cake a creampuff, nor does it make sense to use the words free form sonnet as though they made sense.

Yeah, that was it pretty much - and also wanting to get at the essence of 'sonnet-ness'. One assumes the writers had a reason for calling their 21 line random syllable per line non-rhyming entities with no identifiable sonnet features such as a volta 'sonnets' for a reason besides perversity, and I wondered what it was. What is the essence of sonnet-ness? And if it's just the author calling it a sonnet, what's the point of having a label at all?

It's like when Labour brought in those 'tax cuts' that resulted in everyone paying higher taxes. Don't get me wrong - I love taxes, and am a typical tax-and-spend liberal. I just don't see why you'd call a tax increase a tax cut, as if calling it makes it so.

Victor, are there really people who describe themselves as Christian atheists? That's a new one for me. I can see how you'd make the rationale (I guess it would be something like, you agree with Christ's teachings, except for the bits where he talks about God), but ... (never mind, I'll just end up repeating 'I don't see the point' again and again)
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Mark H on October 21, 2010, 05:58:46 AM
<this is not a joke>A Christian Atheist is someone that does not believe in God or Christ but goes to church and joins in just for the crack.</>
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Amie on October 21, 2010, 06:17:45 AM
Wow. Church services must be a lot more fun than I remember them from the 70s. And my mother used to go to one of those hip-n-groovy churches, that had a winged globe rather than a cross as their symbol, and played Led Zeppelin sometimes at the beginning of a service (I liked Led Zep, but it didn't make the service any more interesting or sensible to me ;) )
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Mark H on October 21, 2010, 06:30:20 AM
Sorry, I did not mean to imply that they enjoyed it in the sense that it was fun. It's more like the way people do totally pointless things for traditional/cultural/social reasons.

Personally I think it is harmless and in some ways makes a kind of sense.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Victor on October 21, 2010, 06:50:13 AM
I guess a more apt name for such hybrids ( like the one that touched off this discussion) would be a Quasi-Sonnet. that way you can differentiate it from conventional sonnets - and still manage to appease the purists. ;D

Quote
Victor, are there really people who describe themselves as Christian atheists?

yep, there are.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_atheism

http://christianatheist.com/

to me its paradoxical. but then again I find any self-proclaimed athiest who adheres to anything ( humanitarianism, environmentalism, nationalism, animal welfare....blah blah blah ) ludicrous and self-contradictory. for me, its either God or nothing. if there is no God and no afterlife, the only logical consequence is nihilism and denial...rejection of everything that doesn't concern your own immediate self-preservation. honestly, I couldn't give a flying flip if my great-great-grand son is coughed out into a world without panda bears....or the ozone layer, for that matter.  
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Brownlee on October 21, 2010, 10:10:35 AM
In an attempt to drag this discussion back to poetry...

I'd just like to iterate that this isn't my personal opinion about free verse sonnets, I'm just stating a fact. They exist. Look - there's one written by Don Paterson called ''96' from 'Landing Light' (2003). It starts like this:

her sleek
thigh
on my
cheek

Oh look - it's a closed / Petrachan quatrain rhyming ABBA but written in free verse. The poem is followed by a CDDC quatrain then two tercets rhyming EFE GFG. 14 lines. A distinct rhyme scheme. A volta at line 9. A noticeably split between the octave and the sestet. It's just that he's dared to innovate with the form in the way the Earl of Surrey did when he invented the English sonnet. There's no difference. It's just this one's a free verse sonnet. And not the first, they've been around for a while now. As I said, welcome to the 20th century.

Amie - Apologies for any personal offence. All I'm saying is that I feel you don't understand free verse poetry (a point which you have now repeatedly avoided answering directly) and therefore is the reason why you can't accept free verse sonnets. I'm sure you could tell me what iambic pentameter is, so why not free verse? If you would like to prove me wrong by providing a detailed critique of say, Elizabeth Bishop's free verse sonnet called 'Sonnet' (1979) telling us why it's not a sonnet, I'd be more than interested in reading the result. In reply, I am more than happy to state why I think one of America's greatest poets knows exactly what she's doing in calling her free verse sonnet 'Sonnet'.

Eric and M - The Poetry Archive was set up by former British Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion and is a highly reputable and trustworthy source, as much as any print source. And Eric - the quotes you gave seemed only to undermine your own position and support mine. Stating that free verse 'does away with form' shows a lack of understanding of free verse. It's a form as much as any other. But then you add free verse sonnets do away with form 'to a greater or lesser degree'. So they DON'T do away with form. So where's your argument?
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Amie on October 21, 2010, 10:27:12 AM
All I'm saying is that I feel you don't understand free verse poetry (a point which you have now repeatedly avoided answering directly) and therefore is the reason why you can't accept free verse sonnets. I'm sure you could tell me what iambic pentameter is, so why not free verse?

Sorry, I wasn't deliberately avoiding the question. It seemed to me to be a statement of your opinion of me, rather than something that required a response.

So... if I follow your argument, you think I don't understand free verse poetry, because if I did, then I would agree that you can have a free-verse sonnet?

I'm not really sure how to answer your question... the answer seems so obvious to me that it makes me feel that I must be missing something. Free verse, as far as I am aware, is what I have said it is several times - it is unconstrained by form. The writer can choose to rhyme, or not, to use a standard meter or not, to use certain thematic elements or not. A sonnet, on the other hand, as far as I have always been aware, has very specific requirements for meter, number of lines, construction and so on. So, ... I don't think this will satisfy you, but I can't do any better than that. Free verse is unconstrained by form and a sonnet is a defined form. To say "free-verse sonnet" sounds like a contradiction in terms to me.

Quote
I am more than happy to state why I think one of America's greatest poets knows exactly what she's doing in calling her free verse sonnet 'Sonnet'.

well thanks, because this is what I've asked several times now. But I don't buy the argument that something is a fact because "one of America's greatest poets" says it is. I don't buy into argument by authority figure unless I see the actual argument and agree with it. Even if factual matters, authority figures disagree with one another, and this is a bit more subjective than that. I'm sure we could find another authority equal to Elizabeth Bishop who would disagree with that definition (but I'm willing to be proven wrong, if you can show me that every authority figure agrees with every other one)**

Oh - and a little niggle - you keep saying that you have proven the existence of free-verse sonnets, but in my opinion, all you have proven is that there are poems which appear at first glance to be free verse, but which the authors (as illustrious and respected as they may be) have decided to call sonnets (seemingly having argued in some cases that they meet the requirements of the sonnet form). This isn't the same thing to me at all.

Your most recent response (and discussion of Don Paterson's poem) is the best answer you have given yet with respect to the existence of free verse sonnets. But it still leaves my question of "What is essential sonnet-ness?" (and who decides this, and at what point does it become pointless having a definition because the definition is so malleable) unanswered. And, sorry - it still seems like an oxymoron - Don Paterson's poem clearly has a form, with defined requirements. And the suggestion is that the other 'free verse forms' meet requirements that qualify them as sonnets. so... they have requirements as to form, but they are free verse. Sorry, I gather you think this is impossibly thick of me, but it seems like looking into a hall of mirrors. If you are going to impose contraints of form, haven't you just created a new form or form subset, rather than writing a free verse poem? Even your Poetry Archive definition doesn't use the term 'free verse sonnet'  - it simply says that some people have deviated from the form. That doesn't seem like the same thing to me at all, and doesn't have the same oxymoronic implications.



**by way of analogy, you might be surprised to learn that I am fairly respected in my field. I have opinions and interpretations which I share with some  colleagues who enjoy a similar level of authority. We sometimes find that others disagree with us. I never say to someone who disagrees with me, "I'm on the board that makes the rules, therefore my interpretation is the correct one" - I always explain the rationale behind the interpretation. And I sometimes even admit that some things are open to differing interpretation (gasp!) but that I have chosen a particular one for the reasons previously given. I find enforced authority syndrome a bit distasteful; I try to respect people's need to understand the reasons for things rather than just saying "It's true because I and other important people say it's true"
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: eric on October 21, 2010, 11:37:02 AM
To say that free verse has a form is to say that a red cow is a black one.  Form is exactly what is missing in free form poetry.  Internal music, yes; sonics; even story line.  Not form as such.  To argue for formless form is a bit like coring the banana.  The Don Patterson poem, as Amie points out, has a form -- it also has short lines.  Neither aspect makes it free form.

As far as your accusation that I do not understand free verse, I am happy to be in the company of others you denigrate.  Regarding myself, I've written about 600 free verse poems as well as nine or ten sonnets and a few ghazals, villanelles, terza rimas and the like, so I think I know the difference.  I'm sorry you don't think so, but you can't please everyone, as Ricky Nelson said.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Mark H on October 21, 2010, 11:59:13 AM
I'd just like to iterate that this isn't my personal opinion about free verse sonnets, I'm just stating a fact. They exist. Look - there's one written by Don Paterson called ''96' from 'Landing Light' (2003). It starts like this:

her sleek
thigh
on my
cheek


By what definition of free verse is that free verse? It has form and rhyme. You seem to have confused "free verse" and "no meter".  ::)

Mark
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: eric on October 21, 2010, 12:20:39 PM
(1) Elizabeth Bishop wrote a fine poem called Sonnet that was close to sonnet form but varied in line length and rhyme.  Would observe that that was a sonnet or a short form poem like a sonnet?  She also wrote a fine poem called Sestina that did not look like a Sestina.  Is that authority enough for us to recall the canons of poetry on her say-so, even though she did not say so?  

(2) Now, we have Mary Oliver saying that a sonnet is thus-and-so.  We have Elizabeth Bishop not saying a sonnet as such is different.  Why should we take Elizabeth Bishop's supposed opinion over Mary Oliver's stated one? Because Bishop seems to agree with us more?  This shows the fallacy of authority-based argument.  
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Brownlee on October 21, 2010, 01:17:16 PM
(In reverse order...) Eric -
Quote
Why should we take Elizabeth Bishop's supposed opinion over Mary Oliver's stated one?  Because Bishop seems to agree with us more?  This shows the fallacy of authority-based argument. 

You're contradicting yourself. So you're saying we shouldn't take one person's opinion above another's by stating we should take one person's opinion (Oliver's) above another's (Bishop).  ??? This shows the fallacy of authority-based argument.

Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Brownlee on October 21, 2010, 01:23:07 PM
Mark - Free verse can incorporate rhyme and rhyme schemes, as well as all the other aspects of poetry available to the poet such as assonance, alliteration, internal rhyme, etc. Look at the Bishop sonnet. Look at 'Why Brownlee Left' by Paul Muldoon among many others, including the Paterson sonnet quoted.

That you don't understand this proves you don't understand free verse.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Brownlee on October 21, 2010, 01:34:34 PM
Eric - so why do free verse poems have line breaks? Because that's a constraint of form perhaps? Why do they stop at all? These are just decisions for the poet to make rather than being externally imposed.

And even your wishy-washy definition of free verse poems having 'internal music' (would you care to be more specific - assonance? consonance? internal rhyme? alliteration? accentual stress? isochrony? cadence? lineation? punctuation?) is proof that there are formal constraints at work. Again, this shows a lack of understanding of free verse, based on an anti-definition of what you think it is NOT (predominantly that it doesn't have metre).

Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Amie on October 21, 2010, 01:35:10 PM
That you don't understand this proves you don't understand free verse.

Why do you keep doing that? Who made you the authority? Why can't you simply state your opinion without putting other people down?

Mark, from what I've seen of his postings, is aware that free verse can have all the elements you mention - what he was saying was that the poem in question had a form, and one that conformed to requirements so that it could be called a 'sonnet' apparently. What he seemed to be asking was how can it be free verse, if it claims to meet externally imposed requirements? (as in, "This is a sonnet because sonnets have qualities X, Y and Z, which this poem has" - this differs from a free verse poem - which I'm sure you'll tell me I don't understand - in that the requirements are defined at least partly by an external standard, rather than solely by the poet)

Why can you not simply disagree with someone by reference to the facts, rather than attacking their person and making judgements about what they do or don't understand?
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Brownlee on October 21, 2010, 01:44:28 PM
Amie - What can I say? You all seem like an intelligent bunch but I've found this discussion incredibly exasperating because, as I've maintained throughout, this is NOT my opinion. Free verse sonnets are a definable form of poetry. That you are all unwilling to accept this shows me that you don't understand free verse poetry. The many examples I gave should be proof enough. Read the poems and they explain themselves. If you can't analyse them, then do you really think you should be involved in an argument about what something is or is not, when you have a fundamental lack of understanding about what is being discussed?

I've asked repeatedly for other people to give me an analysis of a free verse poem, stating why they believe them not to be free verse sonnets. I keep stating this, because no-one seems capable of answering this.

And as I recall, it was you who challenged me, so as far as I'm concerned, it should be up to you to prove what you're saying before I respond. So far - despite the fact I have given clear evidence and analysis of a free verse sonnet - you, and everyone else, have not responded with anything other than vague comparisons with fruit or religion. Show me you know what you're talking about and we can take it from there.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Amie on October 21, 2010, 01:45:40 PM
I haven't seen these defined as 'free verse sonnets' anywhere but from you. I've seen them defined as a deviation from the form. I've also seen others define them differently. Why does the definition you prefer prevail? Why do you have to insult others in your defense of it?
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Amie on October 21, 2010, 01:47:20 PM
And as I recall, it was you who challenged me, so as far as I'm concerned, it should be up to you to prove what you're saying before I respond. So far - despite the fact I have given clear evidence and analysis of a free verse sonnet - you, and everyone else, have not responded with anything other than vague comparisons with fruit or religion. Show me you know what you're talking about and we can take it from there.

I provided that on the previous page. I've explained why I don't think it's free verse. I've explained my definition of free verse. What more do you want?
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Mark H on October 21, 2010, 02:13:11 PM
Mark - Free verse can incorporate rhyme and rhyme schemes, as well as all the other aspects of poetry available to the poet such as assonance, alliteration, internal rhyme, etc. Look at the Bishop sonnet. Look at 'Why Brownlee Left' by Paul Muldoon among many others, including the Paterson sonnet quoted.

That you don't understand this proves you don't understand free verse.

B

You mentioned, and quoted from, the poetry archive earlier. You seem to believe what is written there. It has a definition of free verse, the opening sentence of which is unambiguous: What free verse claims to be free from is the constraints of regular metre and fixed forms.

Perhaps this will help you. It is very simple.  :)

a) All sonnets have a recognisable form.

b) Free verse has no recognisable form.

c) Therefore a poem cannot (logically) be both a sonnet and free verse.

Mark
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Mark H on October 21, 2010, 02:21:28 PM
B

And just in case you wanted to argue that a sonnet doesn't have a fixed form, here's another quote from your favoured source of poetry definitions.

Formal Verse: Poetry that overtly uses the effects of metre, rhyme and form, especially the fixed forms (sonnets, villanelles etc) is known as formal verse.

M
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Mark H on October 22, 2010, 05:20:51 AM
You would have thought that after all the effort I put in researching this matter, just to help clear up Brownlee's confusion, he would have least said thanks. Oh well, perhaps he's having trouble extracting himself from his own petard.  :-\

Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: twisted wheel on October 22, 2010, 05:39:05 AM
You would have thought that after all the effort I put in researching this matter, just to help clear up Brownlee's confusion, he would have least said thanks. Oh well, perhaps he's having trouble extracting himself from his own petard.  :-\



 ;D
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Brownlee on October 22, 2010, 07:51:02 AM
This is depressing. I thought this was a poetry forum. You can have free verse sonnets because free verse can incorporate aspects of form and the poet is free to choose the extent to which it does this. It's a very flexible form... but I'm wasting my time.

As no-one has taken me up on the offer to actually provide detailed analysis of a specific free verse sonnet, stating why they know better than Elizabeth Bishop, or Wallace Stevens, or Emily Dickinson, Paul Muldoon, Don Paterson, Simon Armitage, Glyn Maxwell, Louis MacNeice, Carol Ann Duffy, Robin Robertson etc, etc, I can only presume this is because you can't, therefore you don't know how to read free verse poetry properly, which is why you insist on keeping things in their nice little boxes. The whole development of poetry over the last 100 years or so has been to blur boundaries, to play with forms and to try to create something new. Part of the reason for this was to undermine the inherent conservative traditionalism of fixed form and metre. An attitude which is alive and well on this forum, sadly.

Amie - Thank you for your definition (albeit brief) of what you understand free verse to be. I was then asking if you would care to put that understanding to the test and give me an analysis of a free verse sonnet. In doing so, the point was that you should see how the forms combine to produce something new (relatively).

There have been several comments about 'authority'-based statements, from you and others, which is a curse of the postmodern age. There are and have been poets out there better than you, better than me, better than anyone on this forum... so isn't the best thing to do to learn from them if we want to improve? People seem more than willing to bow to the 'authority' of the Earl of Surrey, but not Elizabeth Bishop and others who dare to innovate with form in the way they want to, seemingly just because the former has been around longer, which is a nonsensical statement as far as poetry is concerned.

Mark -
Quote
b) Free verse has no recognisable form.

So what about the role accentual stress plays in replacing metrical stress? Isochrony? Cadence? Lineation? I notice no-one has mentioned these. You've clearly never heard of them, so I can only repeat what I have believed all along, that you don't understand free verse. It's up to the individual poet to choose and determine the form of their poems. You should be able to recognise this by simply using your eyes and looking at it. Clearly not.

Quote
Oh well, perhaps he's having trouble extracting himself from his own petard.

Hilarious. That you don't know what a 'petard' was, that is. But maybe that should come as no surprise.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Amie on October 22, 2010, 08:01:35 AM
As no-one has taken me up on the offer to actually provide detailed analysis of a specific free verse sonnet, stating why they know better than Elizabeth Bishop, or Wallace Stevens, or Emily Dickinson, Paul Muldoon, Don Paterson, Simon Armitage, Glyn Maxwell, Louis MacNeice, Carol Ann Duffy, Robin Robertson etc, etc,

Have any of these people actually called their creations 'free verse sonnets', or have they just called them sonnets? I got the impression it was the latter. Even your source of definitions, as Mark has pointed out, makes a clear distinction between free verse and fixed form poems, and never seems to use the term 'free verse sonnet' even once.

I get the impression that we are arguing semantics, which is rather tedious. I can accept modified sonnets, innovations in sonnet-writing, etc. I can accept someone writing something that follows some, but not all, of the rules for sonnet-making, and calling it a new kind of sonnet. What I found confusing was the reference to 'free-verse sonnets', which sounded, and still sounds, like a contradiction in terms.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Amie on October 22, 2010, 08:09:09 AM
ps - I have twice previously asked you to stop making personal comments about other posters. Your conclusions about their levels of understanding, erudition, narrow-mindedness etc all fall into this category. I notice that every other poster has been able to defend their position without resorting to personal slights. I am asking you now to do the same. This has been discussed with the other moderators, and you can take this as a formal warning.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Brownlee on October 22, 2010, 08:30:31 AM
Amie - Thank you. This is my last post on the subject. It is taken from the introduction to Don Paterson's book '101 Sonnets, from Shakespeare to Heaney' (Faber and Faber, 1999):

"Somehow it crawled out into the twentieth century intact; thereafter the sonnet becomes so popular and varied in its forms that its story becomes impossible and probably pointless to delineate other than through the pages of this book: almost every major twentieth-century poet has written sonnets - and sonnets strictly rhymed, free-rhymed and unrhymed, in long lines, short lines and free verse, with stanza breaks and turns in the strangest places imaginable." (p. xiii)

So in answer to your question, yes, poets do call their own free verse sonnets free verse sonnets.

Quote
This has been discussed with the other moderators, and you can take this as a formal warning.

In which case, I presume you'll be issuing the same warning to Mark for these comments, which I found offensive:

Quote
Oh well, perhaps he's having trouble extracting himself from his own petard.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Amie on October 22, 2010, 08:43:03 AM
In which case, I presume you'll be issuing the same warning to Mark for these comments, which I found offensive:

No, I don't see any need to issue a formal warning to Mark. He was commenting on your actions, not on you as a person. And, on the basis of PMs I got, most people agree that you were in fact hoist by your own petard. If he had said, "Brownlee is a buffoon who can't understand simple logic" I would have warned him - but in this case, he was simply commenting on the fact that you had based your arguments on a source of information which seems to directly contradict your conclusions.

There are lots other reasons why I won't be issuing a warning to Mark on this occasion, but that's the main one.

Call me unfair if you like - it won't be the first time we've disagreed, obviously :)
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: eric on October 22, 2010, 08:56:22 AM
Now that Brownlee says he shall speak no more, let me ask him a few questions.  

The numerous sonic and other devices you mention are well known to any experienced poet, whether by name or not, and do not bear mention here except to say these are devices, manners of writing, like punctuation and capitalization the province of the writer's will, not a matter of strict form (or not).  I notice two exceptions, isochrony and lineation, apparently inserted to confound and defeat the linguistic heathen.  Lineation means line-drawing, which brings to mind that obscure and ill-defined thing known as a "line," thus "an aural and visual stretch of words."  Isochrony refers to line-drawing to points in synchronous fashion, an interesting spelling bee word but of apparently little use in normal writing.  If you would be so kind to do so, please explain their poetic use.  

You also include, in your latest list of post-modern radicals, Emily Dickinson and Wallace Stevens.  I am something of a Wallace Stevens fan, less so of Ms. Dickinson, but it would be of great interest to know how either of them got on your list of free-verse sonnets.  So please provide citations.

Also, for the umpteenth time you say that no one on this site knows how to read or understand free verse, implying that we don't know how to write it either.  This brings up an interesting question, since all the people who frequent these boards are either well experienced poets or younger ones giving it a try.  The ones who have been writing for years or decades could be presumed to know how to read a poem.  Honestly, this is just a matter of common sense.  We often agree or disagree on these boards, but that is far from not knowing what we are talking about.  What makes you think that, as a group, the case is contrary?   I mean, rather than just using it as an attribution like the the rosy colored fingers of dawn, could you be more precise in why you think, seemingly solely because we disagree with you on points, this group is a crowd of ignoramuses?  Not in so many words, of course.  You don't want to hurt our feelings.

Last, to be hoisted on one's own petard is about as elegant a way to suffer self-inflicted indignity as exists in English.  Surely offense is not an appropriate feeling to have in that instance.  Chagrin might be more to it.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Mark H on October 22, 2010, 09:01:11 AM
B

Can you post here, the definition of free verse (and its source) as it applies to a free verse sonnet.

Thanks

M
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: cmb on October 22, 2010, 09:11:35 AM
I'm not going to enter into this discussion (I hope) but I just wanted to stop by and tell you I've thoroughly enjoyed reading this thread. The wisdom in B's words is - of course - beyond my understanding, but that must be because I'm just another ignoramus.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Bar on October 22, 2010, 10:20:37 AM
You can have free verse sonnets because free verse can incorporate aspects of form and the poet is free to choose the extent to which it does this. It's a very flexible form...

I'm not a poetry theoretician, but does not the above look fairly acceptable? What do I miss? Why the majority DOES NOT accept this?

The whole development of poetry over the last 100 years or so has been to blur boundaries, to play with forms and to try to create something new. Part of the reason for this was to undermine the inherent conservative traditionalism of fixed form and metre.

That seems to be happening in poetry (and not only in poetry...) indeed, blurring boundaries is our times' watchword...

As no-one has taken me up on the offer to actually provide detailed analysis of a specific free verse sonnet, ... etc,
+
Amie - Thank you for your definition (albeit brief) of what you understand free verse to be. I was then asking if you would care to put that understanding to the test and give me an analysis of a free verse sonnet. In doing so, the point was that you should see how the forms combine to produce something new (relatively).

 if not for B., would anyone volunteer to do it for me (and perhaps for another few?) to understand in what way they can't be sonnets?  I'm trying to learn and nothing teaches better than an example!

People seem more than willing to bow to the 'authority' of the Earl of Surrey, but not Elizabeth Bishop and others who dare to innovate with form in the way they want to, seemingly just because the former has been around longer.

I find it to be a good point. Anybody else? And if I err -
please could anyone answer this for me or tell me why E. of Surrey and why not E. Bishop?  Actually, I already asked about it in a previous stage of this discussion.

I first thought this discussion very instructive, but it seems to degenerate, which is a pity, I find...


Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Amie on October 22, 2010, 10:31:44 AM
It seemed to me that the argument became one largely of semantics, blurred by B's tendency to dismiss anyone who disagreed with him as ignorant, rather than providing logic-based rebuttals.

Free verse can incorporate aspects of form, but once you start saying that you are following a form, then logic suggests that you are ... well, following a form. Once you start making arguments for why something is a sonnet, then it seems that you are arguing that you are following a form, and making arguments for why your poem fits that form.

By similar logic you could say that a rigidly followed Petrarchan sonnet is free verse, because "free verse can incorporate aspects of form and the poet is free to choose the extent to which it does this" - so, if I choose to comply 100% to the requirements of a Petrachan sonnet, by the definition provided by Brownlee I can still call it free verse, because I am incorporating aspects of form, and have chosen the extent to which I do this (in this case 100%).

Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Mark H on October 22, 2010, 10:36:39 AM
You can have free verse sonnets because free verse can incorporate aspects of form and the poet is free to choose the extent to which it does this. It's a very flexible form...

I'm not a poetry theoretician, but does not the above look fairly acceptable? What do I miss? Why the majority DOES NOT accept this?

I don't know about the majority but I don't accept it because it is not the definition of free verse. I agree free verse is flexible, I agree it can contain aspects of form, and of course the poet is free to choose the extent to which he uses aspects of form, BUT, when he uses form to a point that the form is recognizable (as a sonnet) then it is no longer free verse.

Mark
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Bar on October 22, 2010, 11:02:45 AM
Thanks Amie and Mark, but as it seems, Brownlee did not invent the term! He was not giving his own opinion as far as I could follow... It seems to be an existing term and I've just found the following quotation at the Poets Garret, adorned with an example:

"With Free Verse, there is no meter nor any rhyme scheme. What else can be said except that it has 14 lines, and some great sonnets have been written in this form.

A dark red rose..

You came in the house smiling,
Clutching a dark red rose
You had found it comming home
You held out your treasure
And offered it to me to smell
I did and shared your pleasure
A lovely fragrance made more so
Simply by your gentle touching
Such simple things so easy, so grand
So long I have known you
You have taught me love
And the meaning of true friendship
Now you have taught me how to fly
Please show me where to land

Ryter Roethicle

what do you think?

Mark, maybe nowadays things are changing and with extended boundaries and acceptable anarchy (ideal, not disorder) it is indeed possible to use aspects of form even to the point of nearing a sonnet for ex, and still be able to call it free verse... just because the whole era is in the process of redefining, adjusting vocabulary to new phenomena... just a thought.

Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: cmb on October 22, 2010, 11:04:10 AM
I agree with Mark.

Free verse sonnet is - as has already been mentioned - a contradiction in terms. What is it? A sonnet or free verse? It's either one, but can't be both.
Sure, free verse can contain sonnet-like qualities. Or other form aspects. But that doesn't make it a sonnet, which is a strict form. After all, the essence of free verse is that it's not restricted by form - even if it incorporates elements of form, it's still not restricted by it. The moment that happens, the boundary between free verse and form poetry is crossed and the work in question becomes a (traditional) form verse.


To me, it's more or less like how a man cannot be a woman or a woman a man, even though they can be androgynous. For the sake of the argument, let's presume I look like a guy, walk like a guy, talk like one and fancy women over men. That still doesn't make me a man. Or a man-woman, or whatever. I'd (most likely) be a cross-dresser and (obviously) a dyke. But still a woman.

However, the moment I had surgery - yes, the kind that removed my female assets and gave me male parts, I could argue that I were a man. I wouldn't be recogniseable as a woman anymore, not even naked. (Still... there'd be some room left for argument, as my DNA would still be the DNA of a female - but that's nitpicking and not related to the discussion we're having here.)


Back to poetry:

Free verse can contain elements of form. It can contain many elements of form. However, the moment you doctor it to such a degree that it's recogniseable as a particular form, it's a form verse.


Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: cmb on October 22, 2010, 11:08:03 AM
Thanks Amie and Mark, but as it seems, Brownlee did not invent the term! He was not giving his own opinion as far as I could follow... It seems to be an existing term and I've just found the following quotation at the Poets Garret, adorned with an example:

"With Free Verse, there is no meter nor any rhyme scheme. What else can be said except that it has 14 lines, and some great sonnets have been written in this form.

I know, I'm not Amie or Mark, but... read what it says. It doesn't say it's a free verse sonnet (not in your quote, anyway). It just says that some great sonnets have been written in this form. The analogy is being made here, but no more than that as far as I can see.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Mark H on October 22, 2010, 11:17:00 AM
...With Free Verse, there is no meter nor any rhyme scheme. What else can be said except that it has 14 lines, and some great sonnets have been written in this form.

Bar,

If that is the definition he's using, why would he say this?

Blah blah blah

her sleek
thigh
on my
cheek

Oh look - it's a closed / Petrachan quatrain rhyming ABBA but written in free verse.

Blah blah blah

If he is not using the definition you gave then what?

Mark
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Bar on October 22, 2010, 11:18:09 AM
I know, I'm not Amie or Mark, but... read what it says. It doesn't say it's a free verse sonnet (not in your quote, anyway). It just says that some great sonnets have been written in this form. The analogy is being made here, but no more than that as far as I can see.

Hey Nel, nice to read you. I just provided the first reference I've found and which actually says some great sonnets were written in free verse. I'll look for more knowledge about free verse sonnet, but were it not an established term, I don't see the reason why Brownlee would insist it were! We all base ourselves on our feelings and opinions, deductions and preferences, while it's a question whether the term exists and has become a part of poetry lexicon or not.

And I get back to my last idea - perhaps we live a turning point at which we redefine the old and define the new world, also in the realm of poetry...
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: eric on October 22, 2010, 11:36:07 AM
Bar, this is a losing argument.  I have a better idea for you.  Send me a PM.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: cmb on October 22, 2010, 11:44:48 AM
I just googled on free verse sonnet and guess what came up on the first page?

Yup. This thread. And it's the only one of the results on the first page that actually includes the words free verse sonnet in that particular order.

I did have one mention of free form sonnet, though. I'm not sure that it's the same, or even accurate...
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Bar on October 22, 2010, 11:45:16 AM
Bar,

If that is the definition he's using, why would he say this?

If he is not using the definition you gave then what?

Mark

Innovation of form, like, as I would imagine lending free verse to a sonnet is one, doesn't mean following a scheme, since in free verse it's up to the author to choose as s/he wills. Rhyme and rhythm as well as their absence are at the author's disposal and up to her/him, while any shared characteristic justifies calling a poem Sonnet. This of course at my budding level of comprehension... For as I said, it's me thinking out loud. I'm not a specialist AT ALL. Just don't see why we could not at least consider Brownlee's references might have some value, or novelty.

"Hoist with his own petard" is elegant indeed, if Shakespeare is considered elegant  :), but the sarcasm added makes it unpleasant to read.

I understand everybody got heated up too much, and I feel responsible because it all started with my unfortunate Ascent...

Could we all just share ideas, thoughts, conjectures etc... friendly?

Friendly and gratefully yours

Bar

Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Bar on October 22, 2010, 11:49:37 AM
Bar, this is a losing argument.  I have a better idea for you.  Send me a PM.

Please don't be condescending to me...
I'm trying to get the max of the discussion, and it's a pity if you consider my questions irrelevant, because one gets wiser through questions, especially when answered.
Please pm me.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: daisydandelion on October 22, 2010, 06:42:51 PM
(which may be the absense of a rhyme scheme) and a volta,
I'm sorry, I read this as having a vodka !  ;D
Might have been the wine I was on at the time of reading  :-\
Can't even remember the start of the thread?
Free verse?To me that means free; just be free.  ;)
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Mark H on October 22, 2010, 06:56:35 PM
Bar

I'm in no way heated. B did attempt to insult me (and others) on a number of occasions and so I think a tiny bit of sarcasm is a fair trade.  :)

Can I have one more go at trying to convince you? Thanks  :)

From what I know of those that disagree with B, I don't think any of them object in any way whatsoever to tinkering with form. Or even pushing the sonnet form to its limits. We are NOT die hard purists fighting for the good old days. The issue we have is that if you take B's implied definition of free verse it makes the term meaningless. He's changed its meaning; rather he's removed its meaning altogether.

How I think this might have come about is that others have used the term free verse sonnet as a sort of short hand to say: I have written something sonnet-like (or a quasi sonnet as Victor called it) and it has similarities to free verse in that (for example) it has no meter. I don't think those poets would necessarily insist their sonnet was truly free verse (or at least I hope they wouldn't). But B has taken it literally and now thinks there is such a beast as an actual free verse sonnet.

If you strip out the personal abuse form B's posts you won't find much or indeed any facts in support of his argument. He is a typical sophist. Note how he lectures us on things that were never in dispute. At one point he states (as if correcting me on some point I don't understand) that free verse could include assonance, alliteration, internal rhyme. Why did he say that? Where did I say that free verse couldn't include those things? Take away the sophistry and abuse and you have nothing remaining.

I hope I've convinced you.  :)

Mark
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: eric on October 22, 2010, 11:49:42 PM
perhaps we live a turning point at which we redefine the old and define the new world, also in the realm of poetry

Bar, every instant of every day of every month and year is a moment like that, but we only recognize the particularly salient ones every 500 years or so.  So to argue from a chronological oddity in order to prove a prosodic proposition is to make a mathematical statement from scrambled duck eggs.  It can be done, but not in the abstract.  That's why I thought your argument of chronology could not win.  Rather than burden this thread with the foregoing, I proposed to PM you. 

Now that the PMs have started 12 hours late, I will take this moment to give a  public explanation.  And to apologize for patronizing, but your Ascent poem was a good one, I do not care what Yamrus thought!  And for some other reason, but for the life of me I forget.  Your turn with the PM.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Mark H on October 23, 2010, 03:55:28 AM
Bar

I've been racking my brains trying to come up with an everyday example of what B is saying. I think it's something like this. I have a pan of un-mashed mashed potatoes.

and I would say, that could never happen. They could be mashed, they could be un-mashed, or the pan could contain a mix of mashed and un-mashed, but never un-mashed mashed.

Mark

Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Amie on October 24, 2010, 03:52:13 AM
That's a good analogy Mark.

Bar, you said B didn't invent the term 'free verse sonnet', but it really seems that he has. As Nelodra pointed out, none of us have been able to find that exact term anywhere, not even B, when pressed. He was able to find the equivalent of 'mashed mixed with unmashed', but nowhere 'unmashed mashed'.

The bizarre thing was how abusive he got in defense of the oxymoron. As Mark pointed out in his previous post, none of us are die hard traditionalists who are against innovation. It was just the logical contradiction of saying you could have unmashed mashed orators that was confusing.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Amie on October 24, 2010, 04:02:52 AM
Sorry, that should be 'potatoes', not 'orators'. I'm on my phone and the screen won't let me expand enough to correct it. Wanted to add more, but will have to wait til I'm at a proper computer. Basically, it just seemed to come down to semantics in the end, and illogical semantics at that, which made me feel that it was just about arguing and acting superior rather than actually discussing poetry. No new concepts were brought to the table, we never learned anything we didn't already know, all we had was a defense of an oxymoron riddled with snide personal digs.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Brownlee on October 24, 2010, 08:04:34 AM
Amie -
Quote
As Nelodra pointed out, none of us have been able to find that exact term anywhere, not even B, when pressed.

Then was this post (quoted again below) invisible or something? (It seems to be as no-one has paid any attention to this 'incovenient truth'). Here it is, clear as day, proof that free verse sonnets have been recognised as a form, by an independent source, in print, (and in the 20th century as well). No one has been able to provide independent evidence that categorically states 'you can't have a free verse sonnet because...'; all there have been are people's own opinions and interpretations of other definitions.

I did not invent the term. I was merely aware and open-minded enough to accept its existence.

This is taken from the introduction to Don Paterson's book '101 Sonnets, from Shakespeare to Heaney' (Faber and Faber, 1999):

"Somehow it crawled out into the twentieth century intact; thereafter the sonnet becomes so popular and varied in its forms that its story becomes impossible and probably pointless to delineate other than through the pages of this book: almost every major twentieth-century poet has written sonnets - and sonnets strictly rhymed, free-rhymed and unrhymed, in long lines, short lines and free verse, with stanza breaks and turns in the strangest places imaginable." (p. xiii)

So in answer to your question, yes, poets do call their own free verse sonnets free verse sonnets.

You asked me to provide evidence of the term being used - there it is.  What else can I do if you choose to ignore it?
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Brownlee on October 24, 2010, 08:10:57 AM
Otherwise - Bar - congratulations! You've invented a new form of the sonnet. The free verse sonnet. Wow - how inventive and creative you are! Well done for breaking down the boundaries!
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: eric on October 24, 2010, 11:00:15 AM
This discussion is getting a bit tedious and repetitive.  Don Paterson's quote, now quoted two or three times, does not say what Brownlee says it does.  Yet, despite saying he would say no more, he insists it does.  It is the comment of an advocate of his point of view.  Yet Brownlee insists it is authoritative.  I showed that Elizabeth Bishop's poem was a non-opinion, but rather than argue that straight-on, Mr. Brownlee simply assumed I said it was. Mr. Brownlee argued in the most vituperative terms for the existence of a free-verse sonnet, then congratulated Bar for inventing a "new" term, the free-verse sonnet.  We could argue into the night, and already have, over things like this, and did again, and are beginning to again.  I submit that there is nothing further to be gained from this discussion and that the thread should be locked.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Brownlee on October 24, 2010, 11:43:12 AM
Quote
Don Patterson's [sic] quote, now quoted two or three times, does not say what Brownlee says it does. It is the comment of an advocate of his point of view.

1. Yes it does say what I say: that there is such a thing as a free verse sonnet. How does it not say this?
2. It is an independent statement of fact that proves what I was saying was a statement of fact. I don't see an equivalent independent statement that disproves this from you or anyone else.

Quote
I submit that there is nothing further to be gained from this discussion and that the thread should be locked.

The surest sign you've lost the argument. Shame you couldn't have admitted this days ago.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: twisted wheel on October 24, 2010, 12:01:37 PM
hi brownlee,

let's cut to the chase - write one and post it.

so far, you have argued your point and critted poems but not shown us any of your work. here is the ideal opportunity to do so.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: eric on October 24, 2010, 12:18:57 PM
B., We have shown, through Mary Oliver and others as well as application of pure and applied logic, the negation of your theory.  You have relied again and again on an inference from Paterson as well as lists of poets from Emily Dickinson onwards, and a free verse poem called Sonnet from Bishop.  I have tellingly compared that to her free verse poem called Sestina.  You did not respond.  I have questioned your choice of poets.  You did not respond.

Mark showed that the main general authority you rely on directly contradicts your argument.  Amie has ably refuted your points while demonstrating the futility of authority-based argument.  There is nothing left to argue about. Unless you want to take up MC's challenge to write one yourself, this argument is over.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Mark H on October 24, 2010, 06:31:42 PM
B

Don't you think Patterson was just getting a bit carried away? He's writing an introduction to a book of sonnets, enthusiastically selling us on the wonders of the form, and makes a slight slip in his use of language. But even if it wasn't a slip, and he thought long and hard before making the statement, then where does that leave us? How would he justify single handedly changing the definition of free verse?

M
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: eric on October 24, 2010, 06:54:31 PM
As I said, the argument is done.  What Paterson might have thought he or others were doing, though he did not say it, has been shown to be spurious. If the potato is mashed, so be it.  If not, let's have baked spuds, or fried ones.  End of story.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Bar on October 24, 2010, 07:06:34 PM
Would you imagine? Mark Pattison asserted that "... the so-called sonnets of Shakespeare are not sonnets at all, but fourteen line stanzas." !!!


Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: eric on October 24, 2010, 07:47:19 PM
except that pattison was wrong, the eliabethan sonnet was well into existence before shakespeare took it over.  
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: drab on October 24, 2010, 08:08:56 PM
Jeez guys, I never realised that poetry was so technical, and so boring!  ::)
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Brownlee on October 25, 2010, 05:32:57 PM
Oh dear, Eric…

R.S. Thomas, 'The Bright Field':

'In this unrhymed free verse Italian sonnet Thomas – a Welsh Anglican Priest […]' (Don Paterson, 101 Sonnets: from Shakespeare to Heaney, Faber and Faber, 1999, p. 110).


He shoots, he scores! 2-0.

Now, as you suggested the last quote (which was clear as day anyway) was an 'inference', I think to try and argue this one is as well, you're going to have to contact every English dictionary publisher in the world and somehow persuade them to change their definition of 'inference' so it fits your argument. (Although, somehow I think you're going to find some straws to clutch at.)

Give it up Eric – you've lost. At least others have had the humility and good grace to accept that free verse sonnets have been recognised as a form and that I have proved this.

Why can't you do the same? I would like to know because I am now at a loss to see how you can continue this argument in the face of clear evidence which proves my point, when you have provided nothing that disproves my point.

Is it because I have challenged, and defeated, your authority on the forum? (And coming from a 'newbie' that must really hurt.) Oh, but I thought you didn't value authority? I have to wonder though, and I'm sure other people are now doing the same.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: eric on October 25, 2010, 07:35:52 PM
Paterson uses the words in describing a single piece.  Score 1 for you.  I do not remember anyone else going your way in the thread, except the enthusiastic Bar, but now that you have made at least one cogent quote by your one academic advocate and one agreeable acolyte, good on you.  

You are, by the way, still incorrect on the general proposition, but it would be redundant to say why.  At this point, as Rhett Butler said to Scarlett O'Hara:  "My dear, I don't give a damn" -- the hour is getting late, said the Joker to the Thief, and as I said it was time to quit a long while ago.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Bar on October 25, 2010, 08:26:33 PM
So what should we conclude at the end? That a development did take place, actually, within the compass of the famous fourteen lines? a development of a new sonnet form (a sonnet with free impetus!), just as the Miltonic sonnet grew out of the 'normal' Petrarchan (and the Petrarchan from the popular song)? Or should we conclude, against the great, that what has developed can't be called a sonnet?

In the meantime I found, about the 'old' one, by Edwin Arlington Robinson:

". . . these little sonnet men,
Who fashion, in a shrewd mechanic way,
Songs without souls, that flicker for a day,
To vanish in irrevocable night."

This alone must have motivated innovation...

But I also found a beautiful 'normal' one, by A.E. Poe:


Silence


There are some qualities--some incorporate things,
That have a double life, which thus is made
A type of that twin entity which springs
From matter and light, evenced in solid and shade.
There is a two-fold Silence--sea and shore--
Body and soul. One dwells in lonely places,
Newly with grass o'ergrown; some solemn graces,
Some human memories and tearful lore,
Render him terrorless: his name's "No More."
He is the corporate Silence: dread him not!
No power hath he of evil in himself;
But should some urgent fate (untimely lot!)
Bring thee to meet his shadow (nameless elf,
That haunteth the lone regions where hath trod
No foot of man) commend thyself to God!


Please, let's all make peace. I'll go to the Sorbonne in a month to learn more about the sonnet, but this thread, were it not for the occasional kicks (springing from love of poetry only!), was instructive, informative, exciting!... and I thank you all.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Amie on October 26, 2010, 01:29:46 AM
Actually, my reading of it was that Paterson was saying that you could have elements of free verse in a sonnet. This isn't the same as saying 'free verse sonnet'. You can use vegetarian ingredients in meatballs - say breadcrumbs, tomato puree etc - but once you put meat in them, they aren't 'vegetarian meatballs'. (oh wait! I've just noticed at the top of this page, you have finally found a quote where he actually uses the term 'free verse sonnet'! At last! seemed to take a huge amount of digging to find even one reference, but never mind...)

Bar's right, the discussion has been interesting. And it's a shame that it got unpleasant on occasion, given that it seems to me it has been largely about semantics. If Brownlee had said, for example, "You could make a modified sonnet" or "You could develop the sonnet-like elements of your poem a bit more" I wouldn't have batted an eyelash. So, unless there is further unpleasantness that needs sorting out, I think I'm out of this one - I don't want to squabble just because a particular order of words doesn't make sense to me.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: sweetgirl09 on October 26, 2010, 11:32:59 AM
Ah, I've come back to this party just as everyone's leaving. Has anyone quoted this poem in the discussion yet? I don't know what it adds to the debate, except it's lovely. It's 'Sonnet' by Billy Collins. Easily accessible by Googling 'Billy Collins Sonnet'. I've put that in in case the Mods delete the text for copyright reasons. I think it would be OK though as it epitomises 'fair use for comment or review'


All we need is fourteen lines, well, thirteen now,
and after this one just a dozen
to launch a little ship on love's storm-tossed seas,
then only ten more left like rows of beans.
How easily it goes unless you get Elizabethan
and insist the iambic bongos must be played
and rhymes positioned at the ends of lines,
one for every station of the cross.
But hang on here wile we make the turn
into the final six where all will be resolved,
where longing and heartache will find an end,
where Laura will tell Petrarch to put down his pen,
take off those crazy medieval tights,
blow out the lights, and come at last to bed.


Included in the book, Sailing Around the Room: New and Selected Poems.
Title: Re: Definitions
Post by: Amie on October 26, 2010, 11:40:26 AM
Yes, I've seen that one before, it's brilliant. The irony of the deviation from form is so well handled - especially all those extra syllables to cram in 'Elizabethan'.