Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Friday, February 13, 2015

10 Greatest 21st Century Poets - Versers

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #11
     The issue is one of qualities, not quality.  As shorthand, we tend to use the most inclusive connotation, one which spans from metrists and free versers to prose poets and p[r]osers.  The range is limitless, from William Shakespeare to William McGonigall¹, from Robert Frost to Lawrence Ferlinghetti.   

     The vast majority of "poetry" being printed today is prose, with or without linebreaks.  Prose qua poetry rules the land of Content Regency.  The lineation, affected language and delivery may fool the gullible and, like all prose and meme, can still be excellent, fascinating and profound writing.  However, of poetry's essentials, it lacks all three:  memorable text, performance and audience.  This is not an aesthetic opinion;  it is observable, quantifiable² fact.

     Being a hybrid, "prose poetry" would also be considered separately, as vodka and screwdrivers are.  Because it doesn't rely on rhythm [strings], prose poetry is identified by strong repetitions in sound, including assonance, alliteration, consonance, anaphora, repetend and parallelism but not, as a rule, rhyme.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #37
     By contrast, meter and free verse are cadenced, these being counted in measures (accentual-syllabic verse) or not (free verse).  Barring a few individual poems (e.g. "flukes" such as "How Aimee Remembers Jaguar" by Eric Hopson and "There are Sunflowers in Italy" by Didi Menendez), we know that free verse cannot be written [consistently, at least] by anyone who cannot write competently in meter.  A person who cannot sustain one ball in the air can hardly juggle five (i.e. iambic, trochaic, anapestic, dactylic, and amphibrachic).  This explains why free verse, like prose poetry, is extremely rare, constituting less than 1% of the "poetry" published today.  (Don't hold your breath waiting for a list the Top 10 Free Versers or Prose Poets.  Given the tiny sample size, it would be hard to come up with 4, let alone 10.)

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #157
     In this sense, then, "poets" means "versers", free or metrical.     In this sense, then, "poets" means "versers", free or metrical.  To put in perspective, here is how metrical poems are written:
  1. Ideas are collected.

  2. Ideas are organized into a prose outline.

  3. Words are arranged to form a rhythm.

  4. Rhythms or stresses are quantified into meter.

  5. Words are revised so they don't sound like a cat giving birth in a washing machine.

  6. Publication.
     Free versers skip Step #4.

     Prose Poets skip Steps #3 and #4.

     Prosers skip Steps #3, #4, and #5.


¹ - The Wikipedia entry for William McGonagall is a hoot, including this snippet:

     "Before he showed an interest in poetry, he displayed a keenness for acting, though Mr Giles' Theatre, where he performed, let him play the title role in Macbeth only if he paid for the privilege. The theatre was filled with his friends and fellow workers, anxious to see what they expected to be an amusing disaster. The play should have ended with Macbeth's death, but McGonagall believed the actor playing Macduff was trying to upstage him, and refused to die."

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #78
² - One could, I suppose, create a formula that measures technique, performance and audience.  It would ignore content, of course, since that never distinguishes one mode (poetry) from the other (prose).  It could count the repetitions of phonemes, syllables, words and patterns.  It could measure speech patterns against norms.  It could count audiences and their responses.  The number of mentions, quotes, performances (minus readings, since those are votes against something being poetry), reprints and criticisms could be recorded by web crawlers.  This wouldn't tell us anything we don't already know, though.  Our lack of interest in memorizing or performing any of today's poetry is all that matters.


1. 10 Greatest 21st Century Poets - Preamble

2. 10 Greatest 21st Century Poets - Versers

3. 10 Greatest 21st Century Poets - The List

4. 10 Greatest 21st Century Poets - The Geeks

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