Feb 252015

George Szirtes is a prolific poet and translator, a prize-winning poet, also a wit and a deft hand at Twitter. Born in Hungary, he moved to England in 1956, after the uprising in Budapest (probably not something many of you remember, though when I was growing up and going to university in Canada, I knew several Hungarians in diaspora dating from 1956).

We have some of his poems coming in the April issue, a truly special event. But I wanted to whet your appetites and also display this lovely essay he published in Poetry. It’s a defense of rhyme, an apologia for form, not a rant, not a call to arms, but a gentle and passionate reminder of the beauty of traditional rhythms and the human touch. Very smart, and applies to more than just poetry, if you extrapolate.

Rhyme can be unexpected salvation, the paper nurse that somehow, against all the odds, helps us stick the world together while all the time drawing attention to its own fabricated nature. Knowing that rhyme might become part of the field of poetic expectation, we strive to make its arrival as unexpected and therefore as angelic as possible, and, in so doing, we discover more than we knew. Rhyme can be an aid to invention rather than a bar to it. It is an aid because it forces us into corners where we have to act and take the best available course out. In the process of seeking it, we bump up against possibilities we would not have chosen were we in control of the process.

via Formal Wear: Notes on Rhyme, Meter, Stanza & Pattern by George Szirtes.

  One Response to “Formal Wear: Notes on Rhyme, Meter, Stanza & Pattern — George Szirtes @Poetry”

  1. Support for Szirtes’s themes beggars the mind.

    I too have often wondered how the free verse absolutists can imagine themselves somehow to be anti-establishment, free verse having been enshrined as the MFA juggernaut’s lingua franca, for example, decades and decades back.

    Given the political examples of Eliot, Pound, and Wallace Stevens, moreover, it’s hard to imagine that vers libre and progressivism are ipso facto conjoined. (And what does one do with the politics of the greatest American formalists in terms of worldwide influence: the Delta blues musicians with their strict twelve-bar format?)

    Each to his own. It takes all kinds. Etc. I am not an absolutist of formalism, either. But everything Szirtes says about rhyme as leading to imaginative discoveries that one hadn’t anticipated rings clear as can be to me. It’s an enabler, not an impediment, to free surmise.

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