Playing Poetry With a Net

In the Introduction to his classic anthology of Fugitive verse, William Pratt writes: “Modern American poetry abounds in individualism, but two groups of poets have affected its course profoundly.”  He is referring, of course, to the Imagists and the Fugitives.  Nearly a century after the Imagists first gathered in London in 1909, I wonder what current movements in poetry will seem to have been decisive to a critic writing 100 years from now.  I suspect that the rediscovery of formal verse by American poets at the end of the 20th century will rank high on the list.  As poet-critic David Middleton has pointed out, “for well over three thousand years—from before Homer until the end of the nineteenth century—almost all poets in the western tradition composed in measured verse.”  In the long view, the free-verse revolution of the 20th century may prove more an aberration than a permanent development.  If this is true, then Catharine Savage Brosman’s poetry is likely to stand the test of time.

It may be that poetry is neither an expression of emotion, as Wordsworth thought, nor an escape from emotion, as Eliot would have it, but a channeling of emotion.  To accomplish that task, all the resources of language must be available.  For this reason, the term “expansive” poetry is surely more accurate than the constricted designation “Neoformalist.” ...

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