Saturday, July 18, 2009 3:04 PM
Dear Mr. Turco,
I have, for some time now, been exploring the internet-based world of modern metrical poets, and it has not been easy. I came across your work, though, and was very impressed. It is hard enough to find modern metred and rhymed poetry, much less truly good examples of it. Not that I have anything against more experimental work - Eliot is one of my true treasures - but it is a great loss to cast something so enjoyable aside with little or no consideration.
I was hoping, in that vein, that you might take a look at a bit of my own work. I'm sure you get dozens of letters like this, but I have put a great deal of effort into developing my ability to write formal poetry, and I can promise you that it is at least beyond the level of what you might find in 'A Child's Garden of Verses.' I hope that you can find the time to take a look, and perhaps even offer me your thoughts. To be honest, the world of a metrical poet feels very lonely, right now, and most of all, I'm simply looking for other serious poets, or even communities of poets, who are attempting, like myself, to write something worthwhile in the structures of metre and rhyme, and who don't mind allowing another into the fold. I'll include one or two poems, so you can see I'm not all hot air, but I also have a blog at (http://quietcartesian.blogspot.com/) which I update once a week with a new poem.
Thank you very much for your time, and I look forward to hearing back from you, should you find the time.
Eos and Apollo
Young dawn, with fingertips of rose,
now makes a soft approach from Helios' house
to lay the dim stars in repose
and usher out her ancient Phoeban spouse.
He waits, his chariot prepared,
all girt about in godly fire and light,
and holds his steeds, so fresh and flared,
from leaping forward in untimely flight.
She calls him forth, her waking chant
of spousal love sounds on the morning air
with warbling birds that raise a cant
of glory for the god, their humble prayer.
The two embrace in endless dance
that she begins and he concludes in turn,
her blush in bloom at his advance,
her chambers ready for his fit return.
Just so he bursts upon the earth,
as she recedes again into her hold,
and yet, in each they find their worth:
her beauty is his merry mirth;
his majesty, her happiness untold.
If love, in longing, found a holy hand,
as palm and palm, profaner than the eye,
enfold and follow, like the two demand,
and make communion in a mute reply,
or if it sought a cheek of softer flesh
than falls upon this settling embrace,
prepared to offer up, and so enmesh,
as ought to marry hearts in happy grace,
or if it heard, again, a hushing breath,
unfinished until breathed afresh in turn
by other lips that long for sober death,
when told to love will only be to yearn,
then there is hope that heaven will arise,
although it be obscured in mortal guise.
Dear Mr. Newhall,
There has been a New Formalism movement afoot in this country since the early 1980s abetted largely by The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics which I’m sure you know about. There is even a neoformalist conference every year, the West Chester Universtity Poetry Conference, www.wcupa.edu/_ACADEMICS/SCH_CAS/POETRY/Poetry_Conference/ where you can meet scores of poets, students of poetry, editors of magazines, and so forth. And there are formalist societies around the country, the best of which is probably the Powow River Poets in Newburyport MA; they published a wonderful anthology not long ago: www.ocean-publishing.com/Powow.html. But lots of state poetry societies welcome formal verse, too; check out the National Federation of State Poetry Societies: http://www.nfsps.com/. There are print magazines that publish formal poetry, the most prominent of which is probably: measure.evansville.edu/Staff.htm which is an annual, but there are on-line journals also, including: Poetry Porch: www.poetryporch.com/poetry109.html, Per Contra: http://www.percontra.net/14poetry.htm , and Trellis Magazine: http://www.trellismagazine.com/index.html. You can find on-line addresses here:http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/pbonline.html. An on-line periodical that specializes in reviewing books of formal poetry is the Contemporary Poetry Review: http://www.cprw.com.
I don’t criticize poems for people, but I will say that you can write formal verse well enough, though your diction is rather archaic and your subject matter is too classical for my taste, and probably for most people’s. Gods and goddesses? Not much call for them these days I shouldn’t think, and few people would have any idea what most of them stand for symbolically. The only specific criticism I’ll give you of your poems, though, is just that in the line, “enfold and follow, like the two demand,” “like” should be “as.” In your formal syntax and diction “like” is far too colloquial as you use it here. Kind of interesting to see this, though. Do you mind my asking how old you are?
Well, thank you very much for all the information, and for such a speedy response. That's quite more than I was hoping for, given that my email was so out of the blue. I've heard of one or two of the journals you mentioned, but most are new to me. As for myself, I live in Portland, Oregon, am 27 years old, and have been writing poetry steadily for 4 or 5 years now, but have only recently made any attempt to move my poetry beyond my own small circle of friends and writers.
Thanks, too, for your comments. You're quite right, and I do see, that my writing is a bit too archaic and romantic for most tastes. On the other hand, it's what I enjoy, and I write like that because that is how I hear the poetry in my mind. I grew up on the likes of Dickinson and Yeats, and I fear that if I attempted anything too modern, it would take me quite a bit of time to write anything that didn't seem artificial and contrived. After all, it's not about writing what others want to read, but creating something from within, and that's all I've ever hoped to do.
Have a wonderful weekend.
Mon, Jul 20, 2009 at 7:18 AM
I knew you had to be relatively young, Matt, because of the way you substituted "like" for "as" — the former has become ubiquitous as a synonym for the latter during the past forty years, starting in the 'sixties, and it's become totally ubiquitous as a sentence opener.
I guess you live a bit too far away to be able to join the Powow River Poets group, but you could always begin your own. I'm sure there are plenty of young poets in your area who would be interested in getting together to discuss and read each-other's formal verse. Find a place to meet, and write a story for your local paper about it. You could even start it at your home or that of a friend, or in a church basement, or almost anywhere. Would you like me to post your letter and this reply on my blog?
Yes, I suppose that does give it away. Thanks for pointing that out. I try to avoid that sort of thing, but it can be hard when it's such an ingrained habit.
I would certainly appreciate it if you'd post that on your blog. It'd be nice to discover an established group, but if not, then it helps to be able to reach out to local poets in any way possible. You've been far too helpful, honestly. Thank you, again.