Commentary: Critics Claim That Anyone Who Writes Rhyming Verse "Can Never Be a True Poet". but Surely, Writes Felix Dennis, There Is Still Place for a Form That Has Been Used by Many of Our Greatest Poets

By Dennis, Felix | New Statesman (1996), October 11, 2004 | Go to article overview

Commentary: Critics Claim That Anyone Who Writes Rhyming Verse "Can Never Be a True Poet". but Surely, Writes Felix Dennis, There Is Still Place for a Form That Has Been Used by Many of Our Greatest Poets


Dennis, Felix, New Statesman (1996)


I was a dunce at almost everything in school except English literature and cross-country running. Too small to bulldoze my way out of trouble on the rugby pitch and too idle to obtain approval through serious study, I learned that a smart mouth and a retentive memory were the best ways to escape the bullying of classmates or the wrath of masters. Poetry came early to my rescue. By chance, I had a kindly, enthusiastic English teacher, known to us as "Abdul" Rowe (on account of his long black beard and swarthy complexion), who took to lending me his heavily annotated poetry anthologies. By my mid-teens, I had devoured Donne, Herrick, Raleigh, Herbert and Shakespeare's sonnets ("almost certainly not written by a glove-maker's son from Warwickshire", Abdul opined airily) and was eagerly making my way through Blake, Tennyson, Byron, Shelley, Browning and Wordsworth. The real discoveries came shortly before my expulsion from school at 15, when the works of A E Housman, Robert Frost, Edward Thomas, W H Auden, Charlotte Mew and Emily Dickinson gripped me by the throat.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

I was dazzled and utterly entranced. I also struggled with T S Eliot and Ezra Pound, but they left me mostly unmoved. Nor could I make too much of Allen Ginsberg and the Beat poets, even with an inexpertly rolled reefer in my hand. "Free verse" seemed to me then, as it does now, 40 years later, too slick, too facile, with insufficient craft and a great deal of deliberate obscurity masquerading as erudition. Far too often, late 20th-century poetry left me feeling that I had somehow missed the point.

Where was the melody? Where was the meter? Where was the musical complexity of form? Where was the rhyme? And where, oh where, was the meaning? I found I was unable to retain it in my memory. As the retention of crucial lines of verse is one of the great joys of poetry, I eventually did what most readers did--I simply stopped reading many "modern" poets and sought refuge in the great anthologies and "complete works" of traditionalist masters.

Some free verse is marvellous. Many lines from Stevie Smith, Sylvia Plath, Les Murray, Ted Hughes, James Fenton and Cathy Song are engraved in my memory. Their work has given me enormous pleasure. It is not so much the form or approach of free verse that I object to. It is more the arrogant demand from a section of the literary world that all contemporary poetry be written in that form, and that form exclusively.

I draw the line when modern critics and poets assert, loudly and very rudely, that anyone who writes today in traditional forms is a "philistine" and "can never be a true poet". …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Commentary: Critics Claim That Anyone Who Writes Rhyming Verse "Can Never Be a True Poet". but Surely, Writes Felix Dennis, There Is Still Place for a Form That Has Been Used by Many of Our Greatest Poets
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.