A Companion to Poetic Genre

A Companion to Poetic Genre

A Companion to Poetic Genre

A Companion to Poetic Genre


A Companion to Poetic Genre brings together over 40 contributions from leading academics to provide critical overviews of poetic genres and their modern adaptations.
  • Covers a large range of poetic cultural traditions from Britain, Ireland, North America, Japan and the Caribbea
  • Summarises many genres from their earliest origins to their most recent renderings
  • The only full-length critical collection to deal with modern adaptations of poetic genres
  • Contributors include Bernard O'Donoghue, Stephen Burt, Jahan Ramazani, and many other notable scholars of poetry and poetics


Erik Martiny

Since this book is entirely given over to proclaiming the vigor of traditional genres in modern poetry, let us begin by considering the anti-formalist trend that still often interacts with the notion of genre, if only to reject it. A recent poem by the American poet Sapphire serves to illustrate this particular tendency. The text, entitled “Villanelle,” does initially take the late Renaissance genre into perfunctory consideration before it is dismissed:

At school the workshop focuses on villanelle
& sestina — the light at the end for counting
knowing, rhyming, European, white
I’m interested in the black howl,
light candles to invoke it.


The speaker later asks:

Can a French form do anything for me?
Can the light dying behind my eyes be
recorded in rhymes schemes?


Admittedly, the poem never dwells on the formula of the fixed form it evokes in the title and develops regardless of the ordered iteration of the villanelle. In the same collection of poems, “Sestina” proceeds along the same disdainful lines, using no more than the word “sestina” to head its entirely organic growth:

Last night after school I finally got around
to looking at the formula for a sestina
& thought of Crazy Horse dancing in the desert

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