Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2004 Issue

InFORMing an Audience—Poetry on the 'Net

0917

Susquehanna Quarterly ( www.susquehannaquarterly.org) is a widely respected online magazine for formalist poetry.



by Renée Magriel Roberts

To begin with a quick question, how many of you have a "favorite poem" that you can quote at least some portion of from memory? Most of you? I thought so. And I'd be willing to bet good money that in virtually every case this particular poem is rhymed and metrical. Good poetry sings to us, and memorable poetry sings very well indeed. The human brain seems to be wired for rhythm, for beat, for meter. It always has been, and this doesn't, on the evidence, seem to be changing.

So what happened? How did it come to be that the vast bulk of poetry published and reviewed and lionized in "serious" magazines and anthologies in the latter three fourths of the 20th century is poetry written in "open forms"? How did it happen that one of the core subjects of a formal education, poetry and prosody (the structure of poetry) fell by the wayside? How did we end up with vast quantities of irregular, unmelodic "verse" that (based on sales figures) nobody much wanted to read swamping all our publications and choking the popular lifeblood of the poetic impulse in the reading public?

That's a huge topic, and not one that can be easily explored in an essay of this length, or indeed of any length. Still, one thing's clear -- poetry took a strange turn in the twentieth century, and doing so it lost the confidence of its erstwhile readership. Vers Libre, Concrete Poetry, Imagist Poetry, L-a-n-g-u-a-g-e Poetry, and various other subsets of "experimental" verse became the accepted norms of poetic expression in English, with the impetus of the academic establishment and without the consent of the reading public, and poetry became a bad joke to most otherwise-educated readers. "I like to read, but I'm not good with poetry; I don't understand it," became a commonplace.

In the meanwhile, a significant core group of highly-talented poets who chose to write in relatively traditional forms and metrics were essentially pushed off to the sidelines, ignored by the academic and publishing establishment both. This was not only occurring with "form"; a certain, hugely-influential genre of traditional poetry, the Narrative Poem, was also getting extremely short shrift at the hands of the various schools of "modernism." In other words, not only were we being offered up very few ballads, villanelles, sonnets, and the like; we were no longer seeing works of the type exemplified by, say, "The Divine Comedy" or Pushkin's "Eugene Onegin", a great novel-in-verse.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Lyscosthenes, Conrad. <i>Prodigiorum ac ostentorum chronicon,</i> Basilea: Henricus Petrus, c. 1557, first edition, folio. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Collection of Ethiopic Religious Texts, in Ge'ez , illuminated manuscripts on vellum, c. 1700-20th c. (5 pcs.) $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Augustinus, Aurelius Sanctus.<br><i>De Civitate Dei,</i> Venice: Bonetus Locatellus per Octavianus Scotus, 9 Febbraio, 1486, 4to. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b><center>Neal Auction Company<br>Spring Estates 2021<br>April 16-18</b>
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Choiseul-Gouffier, Marie Gabriel Comte de. <i>Voyage Pittoresque de la Grece,</i> Paris, J.J. Blaise, 1782-1809-1822, first edition. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Rufinus, Tyrannius (c. 345-411). <i>Expositio in symbolum apostolorum,</i> [Cologne, Ulrich Zel, c. 1472], first edition. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> Magnus, Albertus. <i>Summa de eucharistiae sacramento,</i> Ulm: Johann Zainer, 1474. $3,000 to $5,000.
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    <b>Neal Auction Co., Apr. 16:</b> <i>Ecclesiasticae Historiae, Eusebii Pamphili...Eiusdem de vita Constantini...Socratis...,</i> Paris, Robert Estienne, 1544. $800 to $1,200.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
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    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Manetti Saverio, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo. Cinque volumi. 1767. 18.000 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Poe Edgar Allan, Double assassinat dans la rue morgue. Illustrations de Cura. 1946.
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  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>The Passion of American Collectors: Property of Barbara and Ira Lipman<br>Highly Important Printed and Manuscript Americana<br>April 13, 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Apr. 13:</b> The first book-form printing of the Declaration of Independence. $250,000 to $350,000.
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