18 mar. 2004

{lime tree}: Conformalism

Jonathan, I feel, indulges that Rhina P. Espaillat poem far more than it deserves.  Even granted that the sonnet is apparently part of a longer cycle, which I haven’t read, and which looks like it has a larger thematic focus on storytelling in the abstract, thus potentially relieving the individual poem somewhat of the accusation that the story it tells isn’t interesting in itself, there’s just no excusing the arthritic prosody and trite phrasing, which are clearly not self-consciously intended.  If a beginning or intermediate student wrote this poem, I would praise him or her in due measure for the work that had obviously gone into practicing the metrical “scales,” and for fitting the narrative with some competence into a fair approximation of a Shakespearean quatrains-and-couplet syntactic structure, but—especially if it were a more advanced class—I would call the student on the limpness of the language, the cliches, the gratuitous and unjustified show-offiness of the form.  Most annoying of all to me is the poem’s complacent comfort with its own snug, smug “literariness,” its embarrassing self-delight in having accomplished such a slight feat: gosh, fitting a whole ghost story into a single sonnet, imagine!  And in iambic pentameter too!

I knew I could draw Kasey into this debate. It is rather pointless, because you are not going to convince a hardened new formalist to reform.