Miller Williams, 1979
POETRY MISCELLANY: In all your poems, however free they seem, there is a careful control of the line. Let's begin by talking about that basic unit, the line, about a theory of the line.
MILLER WILLIAMS: The line is very important to me. I like the five-stress line as a base, but I like to have it broken into twos and threes for sense, breath, conversational tone, pacing. If you take a poem like "The Caterpillar" or "Let Me Tell You," you can usually take adjacent lines and put them together into five-stress lines. I suppose, then, that almost all my poetry could be read as blank verse. But I hope that some interest is created when you realize that you are not moving through quite those blank verse rhythms. I hope that there's a tension between the sense of free verse and the sense of blank verse and that this creates a richness of texture. At least it seems to give me an opportunity to control pacing and meaning better than the squared blank verse base itself.
I agree with Conrad Aiken 1917 review of Prufrock and Other Poems. He talked in that review about T. S. Eliot's fragmented blank verse, about Eliot's concealment of iambic pentameter. He suggested that this technique might be followed profitably in American poetry, and I think he's been proven right. And I think some of our best poetry has not only done that but has added "scattered" rhyme--full and slant rhymes that don't just occur at line breaks, but at more random intervals, unexpected places.