1 Gardabar

Prose Narrative Criticism Essay

Some Literary Criticism quotes

(there's a blog version at http://litrefsquotes.blogspot.co.uk/)

Purposes and Definitions of the Arts

  • Purposes
    • Poetry and other Arts
      • "poetry is music set to words", Dennis O'Driscoll
      • "One of [Donald Davie's favourite notions] was that there were three useful analogies for the understanding of literature in general and modern literature in particular. Poetry was like theatre, as in Yeats; like music, as in Pasternak and Eliot; and like sculpture, as in Pound", Denis Donoghue, "Words Alone", 2000
      • "Poetry, unlike music, is a meta-art, and relies upon non-physical structures for the production of its effects. In its case, the medium is syntax, grammar and logical continuity, which together form the carrier-wave of plain sense within which its deeper meanings are broadcast.", Don Paterson, "The empty image: new models of the poetic trope",
      • "Poetry lies at the centre of the literary experience because it is the form that most clearly asserts the specificity of literature", Jonathan Culler, "Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics and the Study of Literature", Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975, p.189
      • "Of all the arts poetry (which owes its origin almost entirely to genius and will least be guided by precept or example) maintains the first rank", Kant, "Critique of Judgement", p.215
      • "Hegel declares that poetry is supreme among the arts, combining music's apprehension of the inner life of the mind with the determinate phenomenal character of sculpture and painting. In contrast to many of his contemporaries who make similar claims, however, Hegel never wavers in insisting that poetry is the crisis of art as much as it is its triumph. Poetry's uniqueness stems from the fact that the subject and the object of poetry, the medium and the message, are one and the same. Unlike painting or sculpture, poetry can deal with any and every topic in any and every fashion because in the final analysis what poetry really expresses is the mind's apprehension of itself to itself in itself", "Derrida, Hegel, and the Language of Finitude", Jan Mieszkowski, Postmodern Culture, May 2005
    • Poetry and Ritual
      • "Poetry speaks most effectively and inclusively (whether in free or formal verse) when it recognizes its connection - without apology - to its musical and ritualistic origins", Dana Gioia, "The Dark Horse", 2015, p.13
      • "I suggest that what artists do in all media can be summarized as deliberately performing the operations that occur instinctively during a ritualized behaviour: they simplify or formalize, repeat (sometimes with variation), exaggerate, and elaborate in both space and time for the purpose of attracting attention and provoking and manipulating emotional response", Dissanayake, "Aesthetic Incunabula", Philosophy and Literature - Volume 25, Number 2, October 2001.
      • "all art emulates the condition of ritual. That is what it comes from and to that it must always return for nourishment", T.S. Eliot, The Dial 75
    • Poetry and Life
      • "poetry gets to be the poetry of life by successfully becoming first the poetry of poetry", Hollander, "Melodious Guile", Yale Univ Press, 1988, p.15
      • "Those who are not very concerned with art want poems or pictures to record for them something they already know - as one might want a picture of a place he loves" George Oppen, "An Adequate Vision: A George Oppen Daybook", ed Davidson, IR 26:5-31, p.29.
      • "Poems very seldom consist of poetry and nothing else; and pleasure can be derived also from their other ingredients. I am convinced that most readers, when they think they are admiring poetry, are deceived by inability to analyse their sensations, and that they are really admiring, not the poetry of the passage before them, but something else in it, which they like better than poetry", A.E. Housman, "The Name and Nature of Poetry" (lecture), 1933.
      • "The public, as a whole, does not demand or appreciate the pure expression of beauty. Its cultured members expect to find in poetry, if anything, repose from material and nervous anxiety; an apt or chiselled phrase strokes the appetites and tickles the imagination. The more general public merely enjoys its platitudes and truisms jerked on to the understanding in line and rhyme; truth put into metre sounds overwhelmingly true", Harold Monro, "The Future of Poetry", Poetry Review, January 1912
    • "artworks not only mime nature; they also mime the accepted modes of miming", Stephen H. Blackwell, "The Quill and the Scalpel", Ohio State University Press, 2009, p.88
    • "art as a whole is a riddle. Another way of putting this is to say that art expresses something while at the same time hiding it", Adorno,""
    • "What the artist tries to do (either consciously or unconsciously) is to not only capture the essence of something but also to amplify it in order to more powerfully activate the same neural mechanisms that would be activated by the original object", Ramachandran, 1999
    • "It is a mistake to suppose, with some philosophers of aesthetics, that art and poetry aim to deal with the general and the abstract. This misconception has been foisted upon us by mediaeval logic. Art and poetry deal with the concrete of nature, not with separate 'particulars,' for such rows do not exist.", Fenollosa, The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry, p.27
    • "The function of poetry is to point out that the sign is not identical to the referent", Jacobson
    • "The end of writing is to instruct; the end of poetry is to instruct by pleasing", Samuel Johnson, "Johnson on Shakespeare" (ed. Walter Raleigh), 1908. p.16
    • "one’s deepest impulse in writing … is to my mind not "I must tell everybody about that" (i.e. responsibility to other people) but "I must stop that from being forgotten if I can" (i.e. responsibility towards subject)", Philip Larkin, "Daily Telegraph interview"
    • "All Poetry, to speak with Aristotle and the Greek critics (if for so plain a point authorities be thought wanting) is, properly, imitation. It is, indeed, the noblest and most extensive of the mimetic arts; having all creation for its object, and ranging the entire circuit of universal being", Richard Hurd, "Discourse on Poetical Imitation", 1751
    • "Poetry exists partly to undermine the certainties of an accepted intellectual system, by opening a fissure of awareness at which the reality of the unconquered world may enter", "Slip-shod Sibyls", Germaine Greer, Viking, 1995, p.3
    • "I want poetry not to be like reality but to be as impossible as reality" - Keston Sutherland
    • "The job of the poet (a job which can't be learned) consists of placing those objects of the visible world which have become invisible due to the glue of habit, in an unusual position which strikes the soul and gives them a tragic force", Cocteau, p.12, "La Mort et les Statues", Paris, 1977.
    • "The future of poetry is immense, because in poetry, where it is worthy of its high destinies, our race, as time goes on, will find an ever surer and surer stay ... More and more mankind will discover that we have to turn to poetry to interpret life for us, to console us, to sustain us", Matthew Arnold, "The Study of Poetry".
    • "If reality impacted directly on our senses and our consciousness, if we could have direct communication between the material world and ourselves, art would be unnecessary", Bergson, ""
    • "If what has happened in the one person were communicated directly to the other, all art would collapse, all the effects of art would disappear", Valéry, "Reflections", p.64, Collected Works 13:142.
    • "The non-mimetic character of language is thus, in a certain way, the opportunity and the condition for poetry to exist. Poetry exists only to 'renumerate' in other words, to repair and compensate for the 'defect of languages'" - Gerard Genette, "Valéry and the Poetics of Language"
    • "The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects 'unfamiliar', to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception, because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object; the object is not important" - Shklovsky, "Art as Technique", 1917 (in Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays, Lemon and Reis, Univ of Nebraska Press, 1965), p.12
    • "Poetry presents the thing in order to convey the feeling. It should be precise about the thing and reticent about the feeling, for as soon as the mind responds and connects with the thing the feeling shows in the words" - Wei T'ai, 11th century.
    • "No longer do we accept the 'sublimation model' according to which 'the function of art is to sublimate or transform experience, raising it from ordinary to extraordinary, from commonplace to unique, from low to high'", Rosalind Krauss, October 56, [spring 1991]:3
    • "A poem points to nothing but itself. Information is relative. A poem is absolute", EM Forster, "Anonymity: An Inquiry", 1925.
    • "Poetry is not only the most concise way of conveying the human experience; it also offers the highest possible standards for any linguistic operation" - Brodsky, "On Grief and Reason", Hamish Hamilton, 1996
    • "The primary function of poetry, as of all the arts, is to make us more aware of ourselves and the world around us. I do not know if such increased awareness makes us more moral or more efficient. I hope not. I think it makes us more human, and I am quite certain it makes us more difficult to deceive", Auden, in "The English Auden: Poems, Essays and Dramatic Writings, 1927-1939", ed Mendelson, Faber, p.371
    • "The primary pigment of poetry is the IMAGE", BLAST
    • "The poetic myths are dead; and the poetic image, which is the myth of the individual, reigns in their stead" - C. Day Lewis
    • "Thought must be hidden in the verse like nutritional virtue in a fruit", Valéry
    • "If the value of poetry is seen as dependent on posterity, and thus in opposition to strategies of intervention in the present, particularly to interventions with any serious prospect of political effectivity, then contemporaneity is mortgaged to aesthetic ambition", Drew Milne, "Agoraphobia, and the embarrassment of manifestos" (Parataxis, republished in Jacket 20, 2002).
    • "Verbal art is experienced as aesthetic because it exploits to the full every option for making verbal behaviour difficult", Nigel Fabb, "Language and Linguistic Structure", CUP, 2002, p.217
    • "most poets who have little or nothing to say are concerned primarily with the way in which they say it ... if it is true that the style of a poem and the poem itself are one, ... it may be ... that the poets who have little or nothing to say are, or will be, the poets that matter", Wallace Stevens, "Two or Three Ideas" in "Opus Posthumous", Samuel French Morse, Knopf, 1975.
    • "Poetry is always the most impure and most conservative of the arts", Monroe K. Spears, "Dionysus and the City", OUP, 1970, p.111
  • Definitions
    • "As I see it, the value of poetry is that it should matter. It should matter first to the writer and then to the reader", Michael Rosen
    • poetry is the "fusion of three arts: music, storytelling, and painting" where the line represents the poem's music, the sentence explains the story and the image displays the 'vision' of the poet, Molly Peacock, "How to read a poem ... and start a poetry circle", 1999, p.19
    • "a poem is an interruption of silence, an occupation of silence, whereas public language is a continuation of noise", B. Collins
    • "A poem needs to find a way into itself", G. Margolis
    • "A poem is a detour we willingly subject ourselves to, a trick surprising us into the deepened vulnerability we both desire and fear. Its strategies of beauty, delay, and deception smuggle us past the border of our own hesitation", J. Hirshfield, "Nine gates: Entering the mind of poetry", Harper Collins, 1997, p.125
    • Poets "peer into dark places and speak for those who have no voice. They wonder into the cities and forests, with eyes and ears open, and report on these experiences with astonishing candor and subtleness", Parini, "Why Poetry Matters", Yale UP, 2008, p.178
    • "Poetry offers a way of understanding and expressing existence that is fundamentally different from conceptual thought", Dana Gioia, "The Dark Horse", 2015, p.17
    • "So we start with an oversignifying reader. Those texts that appear to reward this reader for this additional investment - text that we find exceptionally suggestive, apposite, or musical - are usually adjudged to be 'poetic'. ... The work of the poet is to contribute a text that will firstly invite such a reading; and secondly reward such a reading.", Don Paterson, "The empty image: new models of the poetic trope"
    • "The poem is a structure of signifiers which absorbs and reconstitutes the signified", Jonathan Culler, "Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics and the Study of Literature", Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975, p.191
    • "Literature is the question minus the answer", Roland Barthes
    • "Poetry is language in orbit", Seamus Heaney, " Sunday Independent", 25 September 1994
    • "poetry is to be distinguished from the other arts, according to Lessing, Kant, and Heidegger, by its freedom from intuition and its disavowal of imitation. In effect, poetry renders the world by making illusory and even impossible images of things - by rendering the world as what it is not", Daniel Tiffany, "Infidel Poetics", Univ of Chicago Press, 2009, p.38
    • "uniquely, poetry is concerned as much with the processes and material of language as it is with its use as an efficient medium of exchange", Richard Bradford, "Poetry: The Ultimate Guide ", Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, p.3
    • "poetry is the most versatile, ambidextrous and omnipotent of all type of speech or writing, yet, paradoxically, it is the only one which is unified by a single exclusive feature, that which enables us to identify it and which separates it from every other kind of linguistic expression. This element is the keystone of my definition of poetry and it is called 'the double pattern' ... One half of the double pattern is made up of devices, effects, habits and frames of reference that poetry shares with all other linguistic discources ... The other half of the pattern pulls against this, it announces the text as a poem by marshalling aspects of language into patterns that serve no purpose elsewhere in language yet which play a role in the way the poem is structured and, most significantly, in how it discharges meaning.", Richard Bradford, "Poetry: The Ultimate Guide ", Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, p.25-28
    • "Poetry is about language. It shows us that language is brittle, magical, untrustworthy, arbitrary, but unlike a philosophical essay on such topics, it does not enable us to answer back. It demonstrates that, on the one hand, language creates it, that consciousness and language are coterminous but also that we can step outside it", Richard Bradford, "Poetry: The Ultimate Guide ", Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, p.261
    • "When [oxygen and sulphur dioxide] are mixed in the presence of a filiament of platinum, they form sulphurous acid. This combination takes place only if the platinum is present; nevertheless the newly formed acid contains no trace of platinum, and the platinum itself is apparently unaffected: has remained inert, neutral, and unchanged. The mind of the poet is the shred of platinum", T.S. Eliot, "Selected Prose of T.S. Eliot", p.41
    • "[A poem] begins in delight and ends in wisdom", Frost, "The Figure a Poem Makes"
    • "Poetry is the sound of language organized in lines. More than meter, more than rhyme, more than images or alliteration or figurative language, line is what distinguishes our experience of poetry as poetry, rather than some other kind of writing", James Longenbach", The Art of the Poetic Line", Graywolf, 2009
    • "[poetry is news] brought to the mountains by a unicorn and an echo", Milosz
    • "Eloquence is heard; poetry is overheard ... All poetry is of the nature of the soliloquy", JS Mill, "What is Poetry", 1833
    • "What characterizes a poem is its necessary dependence on words as much as its struggle to transcend them", Paz, "L'Arc et la lyre", 1965, p.46
    • "Poetry is a satifying of the desire for resemblance", Wallace Stevens, "The Necessary Angel", 1951, p.116
    • "poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind. In this mood successful composition generally begins", Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads, 1800
    • "[Poetry is ] An integral/Lower limit speech/Upper limit music", "A" 12, Zukovsky, p.138
    • "poetry is the break (or rather the meeting at the breaking point) between the visible and the invisible", Genet, "Our Lady of the Flowers", 1963, p.293
    • "the poem is not only the point of origin for all the language and narrative arts, the poem returns us to the very social function of art as such", Ron Silliman, "The New Sentence", Roof, 1987
    • "poetry is a verdict rather than an intention", Leonard Cohen
    • "Art's effect is due to the tension resulting from the clash of the collocation of elements of two (or more) systems [of interpretation]. This conflict has the function of breaking down automatism of perception and occurs simultaneously on the many levels of a work of art ... All levels may carry meaning", "Analysis of the Poetic Text", Yury Lotman, Ardis, 1976, p.xv
    • "Poetic language features an iconic rather than a predominantly conventional relationship of form and content in which all language (and cultural) elements, variant as well as invariant, may be involved in the expression of the content.", "Analysis of the Poetic Text", Yury Lotman, Ardis, 1976, p.xxi
    • "certain supplementary restrictions imposed on the text compel us to perceive it as poetry. As soon as one assigns a given text to the category of poetry, the number of meaningful elements in it acquires the capacity to grow [and] the system of their combinations also becomes more complex", "Analysis of the Poetic Text", Yury Lotman, Ardis, 1976, p.33
    • "in several ways, one of which is entirely specific to it, poetry contains repetitions in the signifier which thus work to foreground the signifier. This feature can stand as a definition of poetry", Antony Easthope, "Poetry as Discourse", Methuen, 1963, p.16.
    • "The underlying purpose of all art is to create patterns of imagery which somehow convey a sense of life set in a framework of order ... all great art ... harmonises consciousness with the ego-transcending Self", "The Seven Basic Plots", Christopher Booker, continuum, 2004, p.552
    • "[Poetry is] that magic which consists in awakening sensations with the help of a combination of sounds ... that sorcery by which ideas are necessarily communicated to us, in a definite way, by words which nevertheless do not express them." - Banville
    • "In literature, questions of fact or truth are subordinated to the primary literary aims of producing a structure of words for its own sake, and the sign-values of symbols are subordinated to their importance as a structure of interconnected motifs", Frye, "Anatomy of Criticism", p.74
    • "[Literature is a form of language that] breaks with the whole definition of genres as forms adapted to an order of representations, and becomes merely a manifestation of a language which has no other law than that of affirming in opposition to all other forms of discourse its own precipitous existence", Foucault, "The Order of Things", p.300
    • "Verse is a mechanism by which we can create interpretative illusions suggesting profoundities of response and understanding which far exceed the engagement or research of the writer", John Constable, PN Review 159, V31.1 (2004), p.40
    • "A poem is a small (or large) machine made of words. When I say there's nothing sentimental about a poem I mean that there can be no part, as in any other machine, that is redundant.", William Carlos Williams, "Selected Essays"
    • "The poem, in a sense, is no more or less than a little machine for remembering itself ... Poetry is therefore primarily a commemorative act" - "101 Sonnets", Don Paterson, Faber and Faber, 1999, p.xiv.
    • "[a poem is] a kind of machine for producing the poetic state of mind by means of words", Valéry, "Complainte d'une convalescence en mai"
    • "a bad poem is one that vanishes into meaning", Valéry
    • "As far as I can tell, there are two kinds of poets: those who want to tell stories and sing songs, and those who want to work out the chemical equation for language and pass on their experiments as poetry" - "Short and Sweet", Simon Armitage, Faber and Faber, 1999, p.xiii.
    • "A poem is like a radio that can broadcast continuously for thousands of years", Ginsberg
    • "verse is the vehicle of exploration rather than the versification of a pre-conceived idea", Peter Armstrong, Other Poetry II.22
    • "[a poet's work] consists less in seeking words for his ideas than in seeking ideas for his words and predominant rhythms", Valéry
    • "True art can only spring from the intimate linking of the serious and the playful", Goethe.
    • "Art is the placing of your attention on the periphery of knowing", Robert Irwin, Arts Magazine, Feb 1976.
    • "The power of verse stems from an indefinable harmony between when it says and what it is.", Valéry, Tel Quel
    • "it is never what a poem says that matters, but what it is" - I.A. Richards
    • "a poem shouldn't mean but be", Archibald MacLeish, "Ars Poetica"
    • "to write a poem is to find a way from exile into pilgrimage" - Gunn?
    • "Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things", T.S. Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent", 1919.
    • "[the poet's mind is] a receptacle for seizing and storing up numberless feeling, phrases and images, which remain there until all the particles, which can unite to form a new compound are present together", T.S. Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent", 1919.
    • "the ordinary man's experience is chaotic, irregular, fragmentary. [He] falls in love or reads Spinoza, and these two experiences have nothing to do with each other, or with the noise of the typewriter, or the smell of cooking; in the mind of the poet these experiences are always forming new wholes" - T.S. Eliot.
    • "Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting" - Robert Frost
    • "Poetry is not the record of an event: it is an event" - Lowell
    • "poetic effect [is] the peculiar effect of an utterance which achieves most of its relevance through a wide array of weak implicatures.", - D.Sperber and D.Wilson, "Relevance", Blackwell, 1986, p.222)
    • "[the poetic function is] the set (Einstellung) towards the message itself, focus on the message for its own sake [which] by promoting the palpability of signs, deepens the fundamental dichotomy of signs and objects", Jakobsen, in "Style in Language", (ed T.A. Sebeck), Cambridge, 1960, p.356
    • "the machinations of ambiguity are among the very roots of poetry", William Empson, "Seven Types of Ambiguity", Penguin, 1961, p.21
    • the "meaning of poetry is its 'tension', the full organised body of all the extension and intension that we can find in it", Tate, quoted in "Sense and Sensibility in Modern Poetry", O'Connor, Univ of Chicago Press, 1948, p.143
    • "What is common to all modern poetry is the assertion or the assumption (most often the latter) that syntax in poetry is wholly different from syntax as understood by logicians and grammarians", Donald Davie, "Articulate Energy", 1955
    • "Two opposing forces inhabit the poem: one of elevation or up-rooting, which pulls the word from the language: the other of gravity, which makes it return. The poem is an original and unique creation, but it is also reading and recitation: participation. The poet creates it; the people, by recitation, re-create it. Poet and reader are two moments of a single reality.", Octavia Paz
    • "Poetry is the art of creating imaginary gardens with real toads.", Marianne Moore, "Poetry"
  • Reception
    • "se un branco di musica lascia ancora a un uomo la possibilità di scegliere tra il ruolo passivo dell'ascoltatore e quello activo ... un'opera letteraria ... lo destina a un unico ruolo, quello dell'interprete", (if a piece of music lets the audience choose between an active and passive role ... the reader of a literary work is doomed to an interpretive role), Brodskij, "Dall'esilo", p.50
    • "[for Fish], poetry is generically characterized not by any formal quality distinguishing it from prose, but by the activity of the reader, who gives one kind of attention to prose and another kind to poetry. Nor does the supposed rich excess of meaning provide a useful means of defining poetic language, since the reader can readily supply that excess in the act of reading", "Studying Poetry", S.Matterson and D.Jones, Arnold, 2000, p.115
    • "We might think of poetry as the most compelling, forceful use of language, but we must also consider whether that is because we give that force and that richness to the language. That is, poetry may be demanding to read because we think of a poem as a powerful, concentrated use of all the resources of language", "Studying Poetry", S.Matterson and D.Jones, Arnold, 2000, p.117
      • "The first demand any work of any art makes upon us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive", p.19
      • "a work of (whatever) art can be either 'received' or 'used'. ...'Using' is inferior to 'reception' because art, if used rather than received, merely facilitates, brightens, relieves or palliates our life, and does not add to it ... When the art in question is literature a complication arises, for to 'receive' significant words is always, in one sense, to 'use' them, to go through and beyond them to an imagined something which is not itself verbal", p.88
      from "An Experiment in Criticism", CS Lewis, CUP, 1961
    • "I do share Jacobson's sense that the characteristic response associated with the reading of poetry, at least in postmedieval Western culture, is a feeling of intensified referentiality combined with (and inseparable from) a heightened awareness of the aural qualities of language", Derek Attridge, "Peculiar Language", Methuen, 1988, p.135
    • "I regard literary reception as generally characterised by subjectivity, fictionality, polyvalence and form orientation", "Understanding Metaphor in Literature", G.Steen, Longman, 1994.

Form(back to top)

  • "Do not be led astray by the surface of things, in the depths everything becomes law", Rilke
  • "the notion of conflicting structural principles [is] a specific property of literary art", Meijer, "Verbal Art as Interference", p.223
  • "the sonnet is an obsessional form. Its intellectual skeleton is opposition, its form is imbalance, the impatient compression of its concluding section (whether six, four, three or two lines) always leaving a question only temporarily settled, so the writer is invited or compelled to return to the charge", Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, "Dublin Review of Books" (Issue 90, June 2017)
  • "The rules of formal poetry generate not static objects like vases, but the same kind of bottom-up, self-organizing processes seen in complex natural systems such as flocking birds, shifting sand dunes, and living trees. ... symmetrical forms such as sonnets, villanelles, and ballad stanzas are not static 'received forms'; they evolve, like plants, through a process of iteration and feedback. The regular meter of formal poems is not a dull mechanical ticking, like a clock's; it coalesces out of the rhythms of randomly jotted phrases through a process of 'phase-locking'", Paul Lake, "The Shape of Poetry", The Winter Anthology, V2
  • "[for Pareyson] structure is absolved, but on the grounds that it does not harm the poetry, not because it too is poetry. Structure functions as a buoy to which the poetic swimmer clings: it is good that it is there, but only to let us catch our breath before we start again on the crawl of lyric effusion", Umberto Eco, "on literature" , Vintage, 2006, p.206
  • "in the new book Field Work I very deliberately set out to lengthen the line again because the narrow line was become a habit. The shortness of line constricts, in a sense, the breadth of your movement", Seamus Heaney, "Ploughshares, 5, 3", 1979, p.21
  • "The great thing about form is that it hinders us from saying what we had originally intended to say", John Glenday, "Northwords Now, issue 27", summer 2014, p.8
  • "In 1889 Walter Pater argued that the 'chaotic variety and complexity of the modern world' could not be properly mediated by the 'restraint proper to verse form', that the 'special art of the modern world was imaginative prose'", Richard Bradford, "Poetry: The Ultimate Guide", palgrave macmillan, 2010, p.120
  • "form is largely neglected in contemporary poetry. It is largely untaught - except in rather pointless exercises in which students write a sestina or a vilanelle - and most critics of contemporary poetry seem largely uninterested in it", David Kennedy, "The Ekphrastic Encounter in Contemporary British Poetry ", Ashgate Publishing, 2012, p.14
  • "Indents or centre-justification really ought to have some rationale, and I'd extend that to those poems that roam freely about the whiteness", Glyn Maxwell, Glyn Maxwell, "On Poetry", Oberon Books, 2012, p.57
  • "I see these days, in young aspiring poets, a phenomenal complacency regarding form, a prejudice that allows them to arrive at aduplthood having been convinced somehow that rhyme and meter and pattern are things of the past", Glyn Maxwell , Glyn Maxwell, "On Poetry", Oberon Books, 2012, p.59
  • "Many of the old forms - sestinas, villanelles - had a purpose centuries back but are no more than exercises now ", Glyn Maxwell, Glyn Maxwell, "On Poetry", Oberon Books, 2012, p.69
  • "people who use 'formalist' as an insult think poets who use meter are counting crotchets when in fact we're passing through bars", Glyn Maxwell , Glyn Maxwell, "On Poetry", Oberon Books, 2012, p.86
  • "Blessed be all metrical rules that forbid automatic responses, force us to have second thoughts, free from the fetters of Self", W.H. Auden
  • "Form exists for us only as long as it is difficult to perceive, as long as we sense the resistance of the material", Jackobson, "The Newest Russian Poetry", 1921,
  • "The Acrostick was probably invented about the same Time with the Anagram, tho' it is impossible to decide whether the Inventor of the one or the other were the greater Blockhead ", Addison, "The Spectator", 1711
  • "the numerical patterning of language in verse encourages creative play with gaps among the aural, the graphic, and the numerical", David J. Rothman, "Verse, Prose, Speech, Counting, and the Problem of Graphic Order" in Versification, Vol 1, No. 1, 1997
  • "poets write in verse partly because it excites what we could call the numerical imagination, which is both rational and superstitious, quotidian and magical. Versification is inherently a way of asserting the relatedness of words and therefore also of things to one another", David J. Rothman, "Verse, Prose, Speech, Counting, and the Problem of Graphic Order" in Versification, Vol 1, No. 1, 1997
  • "It can be argued that to invent a verse-form which becomes immortal, living on in the works of future poets and in other languages, is one of the greatest achievements possible for a poet", Martin Lyon, "Acumen 71 (Sept 2011)", p.71
  • "Much contemporary 'free-verse' is in fact blank verse", Fiona Sampson, "Poetry Writing: The expert guide", Robert Hale, 2009, p.41
  • "Many poetry tutors don't like to discuss [line endings] at all; there is such a taboo on discussing this most personal aspect of poetry", Katy Evans-Bush, in "Stress Fractures" edited by Tom Chivers, 2010, p.194
  • "Syllabic meter in English is a compelling measure because it is clear, simple, consistent, and regulates phonemic flow, albeit minimally", Rothman, in "Meter in English: A Critical Engagement", David Baker (ed), University of Arkansas Press, 1996, (p. 207).
  • "My impression is that contemporary syllabics, where the organisational principle in the line is the number of syllables, never was and still isn’t popular ... Peter Groves has listed the judgments of anti-syllabicists including Basil Bunting (‘silly’), Michael Hamburger (‘cannot see the point’), Adrian Henri (‘redundant’), Peter Levi (‘uninteresting’), and John Heath-Stubbs (‘totally spurious’) ... Many excellent syllabics-controlled poems offer occasional miscounted lines", Claire Crowther, "Syllabics: Psycho-Syllabics / Confessing to Syllabics" (PN Review May/Jun 2016)
  • "Personally I have a dread of the sonnet. It must contain 14 lines and a man must be a tremendous poet or a cold mathematician if he can accommodate his thoughts to such a condition", Edward Thomas
  • "Personally I enjoy writing in a form first, then playing the same set of words through variations of different forms, lengthening the poem, shortening it, until it either 'clicks' into the right form (Robert Frost again), or decides that it wants to be 'free' verse. The move into free verse is always a pleasant surprise for a poem that has passed through so many cages and narrow ways. And such a poem bears the voice-print of strictness and discipline while also appearing to be merely spoken, inevitably, as if improvised on the spot. Your working must never show. Art must conceal art", David Morley
  • "Form is content-as-arranged; content is form-as-deployed", Helen Vendler
  • "Can form make the primary chaos ... articulate without depriving it of its capacious vitality, its generative power? Can form go even further than that and actually generate that potency, opening uncertainty to curiosity, incompleteness to speculation, and turning vastness into plentitude? In my opinion the answer is yes", Lyn Hejinian in "Moving Borders", Mary Margaret Sloan (ed), Talisman House, 1998, p.622
  • "Writing's forms are not merely shapes but forces, too; formal questions are about dynamics... Form does not necessarily achieve closure, nor does raw materiality provide openness", Lyn Hejinian in "Moving Borders", Mary Margaret Sloan (ed), Talisman House, 1998, p.618
  • "It seems that in Ireland radical 'content' is permissable only through conventional 'form'", p.164, Trevor Joyce in "Assembling Alternatives", Romana Huk (ed), Wesleyan Univ Press, 2003
  • "we ... have no choice but to write in free verse", Bly, American Poetry: Wildness and Domesticity, Harper and Row, 1990, p.38
  • "Instead of treating verse as a by-product of prose, I suggest that verse is composed directly: that lines are the units of composition. Since lines are not linguistic units, they must be produced by other than the normal linguistic processes, and I will show that this is why lines take on 'poetic' characteristics", Nigel Fabb, "Why is Verse Poetry", PN Review, V36.1, p.52
  • "In a truly beautiful work of art the content should do nothing, the form everything", Schiller, "On the Aesthetic Education of Man", 1795, xxii.106
  • "Form is a straitjacket in the way that a straitjacket was a straitjacket for Houdini", Paul Muldoon, "Irish Times", 2003
  • "Poetic formalism is a bit like keeping a bale of hay in your garage to remind you of the horse-power that preceded automobiles", Jed Rasula, "Syncopations", Univ of Alabama Press, 2004, p.130
  • "Only new contents permit new forms. Indeed they demand them. For if new contents were forced into old forms, at once you would have a recurrence of that disastrous division between content and form", Brecht, "Uber Lyrik", 1938, p.16
  • "Perhaps giving oneself a tight structure, making limitations for oneself, squeezes out new substance where you least expect it", Doris Lessing, "the golden notebook" (Preface), Flamingo, 1972, p.10
  • "the primary reason for reading is pleasure, and, dry as it sounds to say so, the primary source of poetic pleasure is form. The content of a poem may be personal to the point of narcissism, self-involved to the point of autism, but its form - that is, any feature that gives the poem cohesion and keeps it from drifting into chaos - is communal, inclusive, even cordial.", Billy Collins, 2006
  • "The rhyme and uniformity of perfect poems show the free growth of metrical laws and bud from them as unerringly and loosely as lilacs or roses on a bush ... and shed the perfume of impalpable form", Whitman
  • "I would contend that the constraints of form are spurs to the imagination: that they are in fact the chief producers of imagination", George Szirtes, Poetry, Feb 2006
  • "Formal writing is, in fact, a beautiful device for liberating the essential powerlessness of the artist, Keats's negative capability. Outsiders may see formal composition as rule-fixated grind: practitioners know it as rule-forgetting delight ... I have heard it said that the least talented writers benefit the most from practising form. This is only partly true ... In general ... form urges all degrees of ability to optimum performance", Carol Rumens, "The Creative Writing Coursebook", Julia Bell & Paul Magrs (eds), MacMillan, 2001, p.226
    • "Ingarden's treatment of the structures of objects of art is indebted ... to both Aristotle's primary stress, in the Poetics, on the stratified structure of the work of art itself, and to Lessing's attempt, in the Laocoon, to set psychologistic questions aside in the interests of general problems of structure.", p.8
    • "The formal unity of the work derives from the essential inner-connectedness (sic) of these four strata.", p.11
    From "Selected Papers in Aesthetics/Roman Ingarden", P.J. McCormick, The Catholic University of America Press, 1985.
  • "I think there is a 'fluid' as well as a 'solid' content, that some poems may have form as a tree has form, some as water poured into a vase. That most symmetrical forms have certain uses. That a vast number of subjects cannot be precisely, and therefore not properly rendered in symmetrical forms", Ezra Pound, "A Retrospect" in Literary Essays of Ezra Pound
  • "vers libre has not even the excuse of a polemic; it is a battle-cry of freedom, and there is no freedom in art", T.S. Eliot, "Reflections on Vers Libre"
  • "I began to suspect that the vaunted strictures of the New Formalism were rather like the rules in a household with small children: tiny attempts at maintaining order, frequently reiterated, and rarely observed.", Eliot Weinberger, "What Was Formalism?", Jacket 6
  • "Regular rhythm and rhyme schemes work for me as a kind of drilling rig to mine for meanings that lie beneath the original idea of the poem", A. Adams, "Rialto 38", 1997, p.45
  • "metre with its tendency towards statement rather than exploration ... It has long been recognised that metrical verse encourages a tendency towards reflection and introspection while free verse acts as a vehicle for expressing the immediate, capturing the sense of the moment as it happens", Ian Parks, p.14, Acumen 51, 2005
  • "metre always fixes at least two characteristics of the line. The metre always fixes the length of the line (with controlled variation) ... In English, stress maxima are fixed in place. In Welsh, rhyme is fixed in place. In Irish, word boundaries are fixed in place", Nigel Fabb, "Language and Linguistic Structure", CUP, 2002, p.142
  • "formal complexity has a function irrespective of whether it is mirrored in the concept of the poem; I suggest that we experience these shifting formal contradictions and complexities at aesthetic", Nigel Fabb, "Language and Linguistic Structure", CUP, 2002, p.185
  • "While there is a general tendency [Greek dactylic hexameter, Vedic Sanskrit, etc] for the end of the line to be metrically strict, there is also a general tendency for the very final syllable to show some metrical looseness", Nigel Fabb, "Language and Linguistic Structure", CUP, 2002, p.175
  • "form is never more than an extension of content, and content never more than an extension of form opposition", Creeley or Olson
  • "History and politics can play a part: they propose questions. In poetry the answers come not as arguments but as form" - Schmidt, "Lives of the Poets", 1998, p.1
  • "[Words] already have what the artist first wants to give them - meaning - and fatally lack what he needs in order to shape them - body. I propose that the nature and primary function of the most important poetic devices - especially rhyme, meter, and metaphor - is to release words in some measure from their bondage to meaning, their purely referential role, and to give or restore to them the corporeality which a true medium needs.", Burckhardt, "The Poet as Fool and Priest", ELH 23 (1956), p.279
  • "When the correct device is also the expected one and by definition outworn, the act of composition will bristle with difficulties, with unforgivable wrong choices. The device itself will be parodied, distorted, or avoided in such a way as to make its absence very remarkable", "The Chances of Rhyme", R.Wesling, Univ of California Press, 1980.
  • "a new form will always seem more or less an absence of any form at all, since it is unconsciously judged by reference to the consecrated forms", Robbe-Grillet, "For a New Novel", Grove-Evergreen, 1965, p.17.
  • "In all beautiful art the essential thing is the form", Kant, "Critique of Judgement", p.214
  • "[free verse is the] direct utterance from the instant, whole man ... [, the ] soul and mind and body surging at once, nothing left out", D H Lawrence, "New Poems", 1918.
  • "The difficult thing about learning to write free verse is that you have to improvise what you consider to be interesting enough rhythms to exist on their own, and they have to be different for each line. So I think it's easier to write well in metrical poetry, when you can", Thom Gunn, quoted by Potts in The Guardian.
  • "I think I read my poetry more by length than by stress - as a matter of movements in space than footsteps hitting the earth. I think more of a bird with broad wings flying and lapsing through the air, than anything, when I think of metre ... It all depends on the pause - the natural pause, the natural lingering of the voice according to the feeling - it is the hidden emotional pattern that makes poetry, not the obvious form", D H Lawrence, letter to Edward Marsh
  • "Forms are unlike those sent by the IR, they are not to be filled in" - Alan Rawsthorne
  • "Form is regarded not as a neat mould to be filled, but rather as a sieve to catch certain kinds of material", Theodore Roethke, in "A Poet's Guide to Writing Poetry", Mary Kinzie, p.345
  • "form isn't a container (of content) but rather a rule for generating a possible 'next move'", Foreman, "How to write a play", p.229
  • "It has been suggested that free verse is inferior to metrical verse because it provides nothing against which to make variations. [Louis] Simpson's ear is so good that some of his poems suggest ... that free verse can be rewardingly varied by the occasional use of meter" - "Compulsory Figures", Henry Taylor, Louisiana State Univ Press, 1992, p.46
    • "Meter is perceived in the actual stress-contour, or the line is perceived as unmetrical, or the perceiver doesn't perceive meter at all", p.262
    • "It follows ... that the notion of norm and variation is not relevant to traditional meter", p.268
    from "Collected Essays", JV Cunningham
  • "The governing principle of much Persian poetry is circular rather than linear; rather than a logically sequential progression, a poem is seen as a collection of stanzas interlinked by symbol and image - the links being patterns of likeness and unlikeness, of repetition and variation - which 'hover', as it were, around an unspoken centre", Glyn Pursglove, Acumen 25, p.9
  • "As stress-languages, English and German allow for great flexibility in the formation of lines; the French alexandrine however is based on syllable count, and so effective versification becomes a matter of observing certain norms: the caesura dividing the two hemistichs, the avoidance of hiatus, the alternation of masculine and feminine rhymes, and so on", Marjorie Perloff, "Lucent and inescapable rhythms: metrical 'choice' and historical formation"
    • "Aristotelian logic, the reigning mode until the time of Coleridge and Hegel, analyzes the forms of coherence found in completed acts of thought. What Coleridge proposed as a dynamic supplement, in his idea of method as 'progressive translation', is a logic of the activity of thinking ... the miming of the writer's choices at transition points and of the reader's shifting attention.", p.113
    • "The principal of expressive variation from a metrical norm, according to Paul Fussell in Poetry Meter and Poetic Form, 'is certainly the primary source of metrical pleasure for the modern critical reader' ... Such patterns - of expectation, delay, and resolution - exercise the grasp of grammar and the delicacy of anyone's ear.", p.151
    from Wesling, D, "The New Poetries", Associated University Presses, 1985.
  • "The further in anything, as a work of art, the organisation is carried out, the deeper the form penetrates ... the more capacity for receiving that synthesis of ... impressions which gives us the unity with the prepossession conveyed by it", Hopkins, "Notebooks", p.96
  • "In poetry deviations from the vraisemblable are easily recuperated as metaphors which should be translated or as moments of a visionary or prophetic stance; but in the novel conventional expectations make such deviations more troubling and therefore potentially more powerful", J. Culler, "Structuralist Poetics", Cornell UP, 1975, p.198.
  • "on the simplest level, form functions for any poet as a kind of scaffold from which the poem can be constructed. Stravinsky maintained that only in art could one be freed by the imposition of more rules, perhaps because these rules limit the field of possibilities and escort us rapidly beyond the selection of tools and media to laying the first stone of the work itself. For the reader, on the other hand, the shared language of the poem functions as a map through the terrain of a new idea ... The effect of form on the reader is like the hypnotist's dangling fob watch ... We are hypnotised or spellbound by form, because the traditional aural techniques of verse ... are designed to fix the poem in the memory ... But think of the unconscious effect of form on the poets themselves ... Any degree of difficulty in a form requires of the poet that s/he negotiate with the medium, and compromise what s/he originally 'spontaneously' intended to say ... surely this is precisely the function of 'form in the traditional sense' - that serendipity provided by negotiation with a resistant medium." - Michael Donaghy, "binary myths" (Andy Brown ed.), p.16.
  • the HEAD, by way of the EAR, to the SYLLABLE
    the HEART, by way of the BREATH, to the LINE
    Olson, Poetry New York No 3, 1950.
  • "In the classical system, the length or shortness of syllables is fundamental, but there was also a beat accent, and the two never corresponded exactly. In the European system the beat is fundamental, but still the two never correspond. This sets up a descant. The natural rhythm of the spoken language, that is the rhythm of syntax, of meaning, also never or nearly never coincides with the metrical units even for a single line. When is does so, it produces the gigantic clang of a final closure ... But sometimes the ground-rhythm is very obscurely established; in that case the moment it becomes clear is an important and tense one", "The Noise Made by Poems", Peter Levi, Anvil, 1977, p.77.
  • "free verse is inherently more private in character [than metrical poetry]", Jonathan Holden, Style and Authenticity in Postmodern Poetry, Univ of Columbia Press, 1986, p.73
  • "I will do what I will do, the free verse poet says to his audience, and it is not yours to wonder why. He versifies by fiat", Timothy Steele, Missing Measures, Univ of Arkansas Press, 1990, p.283
  • "the distinction of metre is regular and uniform, and not, like that which is produced by what is usually called POETIC DICTION, arbitrary, and subject to infinite caprices upon which no calculation whatever can be made. In the one case, the Reader is utterly at the mercy of the Poet, respecting what imagery or diction he may choose to connect with the passion; whereas, in the other, the metre obeys certain laws, to which the Poet and Reader both willingly submit because they are certain, and because no interference is made by them with the passion, but such as the concurring testimony of ages has shown to heighten and improve the pleasure which co-exists with it.", Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads, 1800
  • "the free verse, now dominant not only in the US but around the world, has become, with notable exceptions, little more than linear prose, arbitrarily divided into line-lengths", Marjorie Perloff, "The Oulipo Factor", Jacket 23
  • "The poetic line seems highly problematic nowadays and it sometimes seems better to avoid it altogether", Frances Presley, "Poetry Review", V98.4, 2008
  • "Not only hapless adolescents, but many gifted and justly esteemed poets writing in contemporary nonmetrical forms, have only the vaguest concept, and the most haphazard use, of the line", Denise Levertov", On the Function of the Line", 1979
  • "The term structure which we have used so often, is a metaphor from architecture, and may be misleading when we are speaking of narrative, which is not a simultaneous structure but a movement in time.", "The Great Code", Northrop Frye.
  • "Constraints are interesting interfaces between processes and products", Cris Cheek
  • "Sequence and contiguity are inescapable features of sentence-processing, of meaning creation" .. "duple patterns ... are optimally contrastive, and lend themselves most readily to both local and larger-scale contrasts" - "Against Transcendental Gossip: The Symbolic Language of Rhythm" (in PN Review 123), Chris McCully, p.44.
  • "The poetic spirit requires to be limited, that it may move within its range with a becoming liberty ... it must act according to laws derivable from its own essence", Schlegel, quoted by Coleridge.
  • "vers libre has become as prolix and as verbose as any of the flaccid varieties that preceded it", Pound, "A Retrospect", 1918.
    • p.93 - "1) coupling need not occur solely between two lines (as in the cases with rhyme) but may arise within equivalent syntactic positions in one line; 2) coupling which primarily foregrounds one element (a phonic one, for instance) tends, secondarily, to foreground other elements (semantic ones); 3) coupling on the semantic level involves opposed as well as parallel features ...; 4) coupling is not solely a microcontextual trait."
    • p.97 - "Modernist verse perforce employs couplings in many ways different from couplings which arise in traditional verse. Two differences between a Modernist coupling and a traditional coupling involve the assumption of nondeleted syntax and accurate 'positioning' through meter"
    • p.98 - types of cohesion: phonic, grammatical, rhetorical and semantic.
    • p.110 - "[free verse] is based not on the recurrence of stress accent in a regular, strictly measurable pattern" and it "treats the device of rhyme with a similar freedom and irregularity", "The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics", Preminger and Brogan, Princeton University Press, 1993
    from "Modernist Form", J. S. Childs, Associated University Presses, 1986.
  • "The only reality in literature is form; meaning is a shadow-show", Valéry
  • "Form in literature is an arousing and fulfilment of desires. A work has form insofar as one part of it leads us to anticipate another part, to be gratified by the sequence", Kenneth Burke, "Counter-statement", 1931
  • "Forms can only expose other forms, and the new ones seem transparent only by highlighting the opaqueness of the old", ra page, "hyphen", Comma Press, 2003, p.x
  • "The poet who writes 'free' verse is like Robinson Crusoe on his desert island: he must do all his cooking, laundry and darning for himself. In a few exceptional cases, this manly independence produces something original and impressive, but more often the result is squalor - dirty sheets on the unmade bed and empty bottles on the unswept floor." - Auden, "Writing" (from "The Dyer's Hand")
  • "La nuova fase della poesia in rete richiede un intervento sulle forme, dunque, perché le questioni di forma sono questioni di contenuto; e di nuovi contenuti ha bisogno la poesia in rete" (the new phase of online poetry demands changes in form, because questions of form are questions of content, and online poetry needs new content), Valerio Cuccaroni, "Poesia, Giugno 2010", p.51
  • Books - "Vision and Resonance", John Hollander. "Rhythmic Phrasing in English Verse", R.D. Curton, Longman, 1992. "Lines and 'Lines'", Sinclair, J.McH, 1972, in B.B. Kachru and H.F.W. Stahlke (eds) Current Trends in Stylistics, Edmonton, Alberta: Linguistic Research Inc. "Cohesion in English", Halliday, M.A.K. and Hasan, R., 1976, London:Longman. "The Web of Words", Carter, R. and Long, M., 1987, London: Longman. "Linguistic Structures in Poetry", SR Levin.

Poetry/Prose(back to top)

  • "I felt that the best style for poetry was none of the many poetic styles in English, but something like the prose of Chekhov or Flaubert", Lowell
  • "Poems, even when narrative, do not resemble stories. All stories are about battles, of one kind or another, which end in victory and defeat ... Poems, regardless of any outcome, cross the battlefields, tending the wounded ... They bring a kind of peace", John Berger, "and our faces, my heart, brief as photos" (Bloomsbury, 2005), p.21
  • "This ability of the compactness of Novel Word Juxtapositions to give 'the mind several notions at one glance of the eye' is the basic element that distinguishes poetry from prose", Jeffrey Side, "Empirical and Non-Empirical Identifiers" in "Jacket 36 " (2008)
  • "If prose is a house, poetry is a man on fire running quite fast through it", Anne Carson
  • "I think that writing prose and writing poetry are so different, you almost use different sides of the brain ... I'd say that prose definitely kills off poetry rather than the other way. Although it depends what kind of prose", Jackie Kay, "The Poetry Paper", Issue 8
  • "Gothic novels were strong from 1800-1825, sporting novels seem to run from 1820 to 1860, while imperial romances run from 1850 though 1890, and so on for over 40 genres. What is most interesting, however, is that the genres seem grouped into six periods of creativity and they disappear in clusters as well. Consequently there is an almost complete turn-over in genres every 25 years or so, that is, roughly a generation", Moretti, F., "Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History", "New Left Review 24" (quoted by William L. Benzon in PsyArt)
  • "la differenza tra prosa e poesia non viene più avvertita come quantitativa o tecnica, ma come qualitativa: lo stile è infatti percepito come prodotto di una sensibilità particolare e irripetibile", (the difference between prose and poetry no longer derives from issues of quantity or technique, but of quality: the style is in fact perceived as a product of a particular and unrepeatable sensibility), Fiorenza Lipparini, "L'oscurità nella poesia moderna", in "Lettere Italiane", LXI, N.2, 2009, p.293
  • "Prose invents - poetry discloses", Jack Spicer, "The Collected books of Jack Spicer, letter", p.15
  • "Prose is much more heraclitean [than poetry], it begins with change and seeks only to find ways of managing it", Godzich and Kittay, "Emergence of Prose", U of Minnesota P, p.197
  • "in prose you start with the world/ and find the words to match; in poetry you start/ with the words and find the world in them.", Charles Bernstein, "Dysraphism", 1983
  • "Perhaps one of the more interesting developments in poetry over the last fifty years has been its overlap with short story writing. It's unsurprising that poetic language has relaxed into an easy colloquial manner but maybe what wasn't expected is the way poetry's taken on the subject matter of prose forms", ???, "Seam 27", 2007, p.53,
  • "There are two chief classical sources of the long line - the epic hexameter and the dithyrambic lyric: the first stands for heroic endeavor. the second for ecstatic utterance ... Hopkins used the long line in several ways - as a container of heterogeneity [or] to creep up on something by a chromatic series of words ... Whitman ... also used it to signify intellectual and speculative difficulties", Helen Vendler, "The Breaking of Style: Hopkins, Heaney, Graham", Harvard Univ Press, 1995, p.72
  • "isometric breathing is the basis for regular lines, orderly and successive ones. But the gaze has no such isometric rhythm: a gaze can be prolonged at will, held for inspection, meditated on, and periodically interrupted ... what utterance becomes is the tracking of the gaze.", Helen Vendler, "The Breaking of Style: Hopkins, Heaney, Graham", Harvard Univ Press, 1995, p.83
  • "In contemporary European literature, 'poetry' hardly consists exclusively of work with line breaks; 'short prose' no longer necessarily implies 'fiction' or 'short story'", John Taylor, "The Antioch Review", Summer 2007, p.574
  • "Everyone grasps that hospitals operate as factories of feeling - humming production lines of dread and despair, of hope and renewal. Poems start here; novels finish here", Boyd Tonkin, "New Writing 15", Evaristo and Gee (eds), Granta/British Council, 2007, p.281
  • "'poetry' is a genre, with fiction, drama, and the various nonfiction genres (autobiography, travelogue, epistles, journalism, and so forth), whereas 'verse' is a mode like prose, and again, any of the genres may be written in either of the modes", Turco, The Book of Forms, 2000, p.250
    • "An important difference between poetic and non-poetic text is that for ordinary language the number of structural levels and their meaningful elements is restricted and known to the speaker in advance, whereas for the poetic text it remains for the reader or listener to establish the nature of the aggregate of code systems that regulate the text. Therefore, any system of regularities can in principle be perceived as meaningful in poetry", p.68
    • "Prose is a later phenomenon than poetry, arising in a period of chronologically more mature esthetic consciousness ... notwithstanding its seeming simplicity and closeness to ordinary speech, prose is esthetically more complex than poetry", p.24
    From "Analysis of the Poetic Text", Yury Lotman, Ardis, 1976
  • "In poetry it is the choice of expression that determines the content, whereas in prose it is the opposite; it is the world the author chooses, the events that happen in it, that dictate its rhythm, style, and even verbal choices", "on literature", Umberto Eco, Secker & Warburg, 2005, p.313
  • "The terms poetry and prose are incorrectly opposed to each other. Verse is, properly, the contrary of prose ... and writing should be divided, not into poetry and prose, but into poetry and philosophy", Rev William Enfield, "Monthly Magazine", II (1796), p.453-6
  • "Much confusion has been introduced into criticism by this contradistinction of Poetry and Prose, instead of the more philosophical one of Poetry and Matter of Fact, or Science", Wordsworth, "Wordsworth's literary Criticism", p.21
  • "No truth, it seems to me, is too precious, no observation too profound, and no sentiment too exalted to be expressed in prose", AE Housman
  • "poetry is now more quintessentially poetical than ever before; 'purer' in the negative sense. It not only does (like all good poetry) what prose can't do: it deliberately refrains from doing anything that prose can do", "An Experiment in Criticism", CS Lewis, CUP, 1961, p.97
  • "I'm being somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but only somewhat when I say that a poem is the city of language just as prose is its countryside. Prose extends laterally filling the page's horizon unimpeded, while poetry is marked by dense verticality, by layerings of meaning and sound. Cities and poetry also share compression, heterogeneity, juxtaposition", Cole Swensen, identitytheory.com
  • "Prose exists to convey meaning, and no meaning such as prose conveys can be expressed as well in poetry. That's not poetry's purpose." - Basil Bunting
  • "all the modern experiments in reading seek to make the poem end as a novel and the novel as a poem" - Mallarme, 1892, letter to Georges Rodenbach.
  • "In Bakhtin's scheme of genres, poetry is characteristically monological. ... 'Stream of consciousness' is a belated rearguard action to confine the novel within the linguistic modes and norms of poetry" - Charles Lock, Stand 2(4)/3(1), p.81
  • "Many great novelists begin by aspiring to poetry or drama ... there may be only one major poet who would have preferred to have been a novelist: Boris Pasternak", Charles Lock, Stand 2(4)/3(1), p.74
  • "neither meter nor rhyme are sufficient conditions for an identification of a text as a poem" - "Linguistic Structures in Poetry", S.R. Levin, The Hague:Mouton, 1962
  • "Prose ... must return to its only purpose; to clarify to enlighten the understanding. There is no form to prose but that which depends on clarity. If prose is not accurately adjusted to the exposition of facts it does not exist ... Poetry is something quite different. Poetry has to do with the crystallization of the imagination - the perfection of new forms as additions to nature", WC Williams, "Imaginations", New Directions, 1970, p.116-17, 140.
  • "the insistence that poetry partake of the lofty and sublime ... meant that poetry abandoned large areas of subject matter as 'unpoetic'. These areas were eagerly seized on by the newly enfranchized medium of prose .. In essence [the free verse reform] took away from poetry what had always been its distinguishing and defining characteristic, metre, and offered in metre's place nothing which prose could not already accomplish much better", Dick Davis, Poetry Durham, 28, p.33.
  • "So often, when reading 'free' verse, I can see no reason why a line ends where it does; why the poet did not write it out as a prose-poem", Auden, "On Technique", Agenda V10.4, 1972.
  • "the lines allow for the visual interruption of the phrase (or sentence) without necessarily requiring a temporal interruption, a pause. ... I can ... set in motion a counter-measure that adds to the rhythmic richness of the poem" - Bernstein, "An Interview".
  • "The gap between verse and poetry is enormous. Between good poetry and good prose the gap is much narrower" - Michael Longley in "How Poets Work", Tony Curtis, 1996, Seren, p.118.
  • "to have the virtues of good prose is the first and minimum requirement of great poetry", T.S. Eliot.
  • "Verse is always struggling, while remaining verse, to take up more and more of what is prose, to take something more from life and turn it into 'play'", T.S. Eliot, "Prose and Verse", The Chapbook 22, 1921, p.9
  • Samuel Johnson's style is a "species of rhyming in prose ... each sentence, revolving round its centre of gravity, is contained with itself like a couplet, and each paragraph forms itself into a stanza", William Hazlitt, Complete Works (ed P.P. Howe), 1931, V6, p.102
  • "Too many poets today think that not to write prose is certainly to write poetry" - Samuel Johnson, 1777
  • "In prose as in algebra concrete things are embodied in signs or counters which are moved about according to the rules, without being visualised at all in the process ... One only changes the X's and Y's back into physical things at the end of the process. Poetry, in one aspect at any rate, may be considered as an effort to avoid this characteristic of prose ... It chooses fresh epithets and fresh metaphors, not so much because they are new, and we are tired of the old, but because the old cease to convey a physical thing and become abstract counters.", Hulme
    • p.108 - "Conventions associated with lineation appears to have emerged originally from the economic needs of the book-trade in Alexandria ... First the size of the rolls was standardised so that they were easier to transport. Later the lines contained in the columns of prose writing in any one roll were made almost equal in length. ... By this standard length, payment of the scribe and the price of the book were fixed."
    • p.1 - "Old English text is written continuously across the page, filling the valuable vellum from left to right margin"
    • p.20 - "colour ... in early Middle English texts is sometimes used to mark the beginning of a metrical unit in texts without lineation"
    • p.101 - "the practise [of lineation in English poetry] is clearly not established for late Old English poetry in the mid-eleventh century and that it is well established, especially for socially valued reproductions of texts, by the end of the fourteenth century."
    • p.114 - "The practice of bracketing lines in various ways to indicate rhyme schemes is also frequently encountered in manuscripts with the dominant one verse per line layout"
    • p.25 - "The interrelating of sound pattern and visual line is so well established that modern poetry, even when without traditional metrical regularity or rhyme scheme, may encourage us to read in a certain way according to the line breaks."
    From "The Written Poem", Rosemary Huisman, Cassell, 1998.
    • "Obtrusive irregularity (poetic deviation) and obtrusive regularity (parallelism) account for most of what is characteristic of poetic language"
    • "The feeling of 'heightening' in poetic language is, in part, nothing more than the consciousness that it is strange and arresting by the side of common usage."
    • "in judging [traditional modes of foregrounding and contrivances] we clearly have to take account of the different standards of different periods. We live at a time when poetic heightening for its own sake, i.e. the contrived distancing of poetic language from 'ordinary' language, tends to be avoided by poets and condemned by critics. Our demand for a justification of parallelism is stronger than that of other ages."
    From "A linguistic guide to English poetry", Geoffrey N. Leech, Longman, 1969.
  • "an abundance of blank verse lines in English prose usually indicates an incursion of solemnity or melancholy". F Scott Fitzgerald's "Babylon Revisited" story has examples, p.114, "Oulipo Compendium", Harry Mathews and Alastair Brotchie (eds), Atlas Press 1998
  • "I think many people (like myself) prefer to read poetry mixed with prose; it gives you more to go by; the conventions of poetry have been getting far off from normal life, so that to have a prose bridge make reading poetry seem more natural" - William Empson, "The Complete Poems of William Empson", John Haffenden, Penguin, 2000. p.112.
  • "In the classical period, prose and poetry are quantities, their difference can be measured ... modern poetry is a quality sui generis and without antecedents. It is no longer an attribute but a substance, and therefore it can very well renounce signs, since it ... does not need to signal its identity outwardly: poetic language and prosaic language are sufficiently separate to be able to dispense with the very signs of their difference. ... modern poetry is opposed to classical art by a difference which involves the whole structure of language, without leaving between those two types of poetry anything in common except the same sociological intention. ... modern poetry, since it must be distinguished from classical poetry and from any type of prose, destroys the spontaneous functional nature of language, and leaves standing only its lexical basis", Barthes, "Writing Degree Zero"
  • "Contemporary poetry ... tries to transform the sign back into meaning: its ideal, ultimately, would be to reach not the meaning of words, but the meaning of things themselves. This is why it clouds the language, increases as much as it can the abstractness of the concept and the arbitrariness of the sign and stretches to the limit the link between signifier and signified", Barthes, "Myth Today"
  • "we read prose, we listen (albeit internally) to poetry", ra page, "hyphen", Comma Press, 2003, p.xiii
See also "New Meaning and Poetic Vocabulary ...", B.Watten, "Poetics Today" (V18:2) and my The End of the Line for Modern Poetry article.

Linear/Spatial Form (back to top)

  • "The least effective method of describing landscape is by cataloguing all the things in it. Language is successive and contrastive, space is simultaneous and without emphasis. .. A method of rendering landscape ... by minimal signs distributed around a suggested shape .... Carefully breaking down the successive feature of language structure, so that A does not disappear when we move onto B", Andrew Duncan, "The Failure of Conservatism in Modern British Poetry", 2003, p.199
  • "Spatial Form (modernist poetics) gives unity to a literary work by a pattern of interconnected motifs that can only be perceived by 'reading over'", "The Art of Fiction", Lodge, p.82
    • "the internal conflict between the time-logic of language and the space-logic implicit in the modern conception of the nature of poetry."
    • "The meaning-relationship is completed only by the simultaneous perception in space of word-groups that have no comprehensible relation to each other when read consecutively in time ... modern poetry asks its readers to suspend the process of individual reference temporarily until the entire pattern of internal references can be apprehended as a unity"
    From "Spatial Form in Modern Literature", J. Frank, Sewanee Review (1945) (see also "Spatial Form: Thirty Years After" in "Spatial Form in Narrative", Smitten and Daghistany, Cornell Univ Press, 1981)
  • "[Frye] argues that whatever literary structure is in itself, it must be spatial to the critic", "Beyond Formalism", G.H. Hartman, Yale University Press, 1970, p.13.
  • "Deconstruction of the image: 1) presented as inherently deceptive (Ashbery); 2) word as Image (Concrete); 3) Images give way to syntax. "Making strange" now occurs at the level of the phrasal and sentence structure rather than at the level of the image cluster (Coolidge, Bernstein, Andrews, Gertrude Stein)", "Radical Artifice", Marjorie Perloff, 1991, University of Chicago Press
    • p.87 - "When ordinarily unassociated elements are juxtaposed, they constitute a 'place of indeterminacy' (Ingarden) that the reader is called upon to determine. But if this determination is not logically possible, if the relation between the two is undecidable, something else appears in this gap. Eliot and Pound spoke of 'emotion'"
    • p.98 - "the order of words (in most languages) is meaningful, whereas the order of saccadic recurrence (in most visual acts) is not."
    From "The Poetics of the Mind's Eye", C Collins, Univ of Pennsylvania, 1991
  • "Browning ... makes a conscious and concerted effort to disrupt the linearity of time ... through interior and exterior monologues, and through the juxtaposition of opposing points of view", "Modernist Form", J. S. Childs, Associated University Presses, 1986, p.72.
  • "Abrupt and disordered syntax can be at times very honest, and an elaborately constructed sentence can be at times merely an elaborate camouflage", "A B C of Reading", Erza Pound, p.86.
  • "We no longer think or need to think in terms of monolinear logic, the sentence structure, subject, predicate, object etc. We are as capable or almost as capable as the biologist of thinking thoughts that join like spokes in a wheel-hub and that fuse in hyper-geometric amalgams", Erza Pound
  • "
Book Description:

Although Chinese narrative, and especially the genres of colloquial fiction, have been subjected to intensive scholarly scrutiny, no comprehensive volume has provided a framework that would permit an overall view of the tradition. The distinguished contributors to this volume have taken an important first step in making possible the consideration of Chinese narrative at the level of comparative and general literary scholarship.

Originally published in 1987.

ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

eISBN: 978-1-4008-5646-6

Subjects: Language & Literature

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