front cover of Free Verse
Free Verse
An Essay on Prosody
Charles O. Hartman
Northwestern University Press, 1996
To make sense of "free verse" in theory of in practice, the study of prosody—the function of rhythm in poetry—must be revised and rethought. In Free Verse: An Essay on Prosody, Charles Hartman develops a theory of prosody that includes the most characteristic form of twentieth-century poetry.

front cover of The Ghost of Meter
The Ghost of Meter
Culture and Prosody in American Free Verse
Annie Finch
University of Michigan Press, 2000

The Ghost of Meter: Culture and Prosody in American Free Verse provides a new strategy for interpreting the ways in which metrical patterns contribute to the meaning of poems. Annie Finch puts forth the theory of "the metrical code," a way of tracing the changing cultural connotations of metered verse, especially iambic pentameter. By applying the code to specific poems, the author is able to analyze a writer's relation to literary history and to trace the evolution of modern and contemporary poetries from the forms that precede them.

Poet, translator, and critic Annie Finch is director of the Stonecoast low-residency MFA program at the University of Southern Maine. She is co-editor, with Kathrine Varnes, of An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art, and author of Calendars. She is the winner of the eleventh annual Robert Fitzgerald Prosody Award for scholars who have made a lasting contribution to the art and science of versification.

Author bio:
Annie Finch, poet, editor, and critic, has published twenty books of poetry and poetics including Spells: New and Selected Poems, The Body of Poetry: Essays on Women, Form, and the Poetic Self,  An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art, A Poet's Craft: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Sharing Your Poetry, and The Ghost of Meter: Culture and Prosody in American Free Verse.  Based in New York, Dr. Finch travels widely to teach and perform her poetry and is the founder of, where she teaches poetry, meter, and more. She is the winner of the eleventh annual Robert Fitzgerald Prosody Award for scholars who have made a lasting contribution to the art and science of versification.


front cover of A History of Free Verse
A History of Free Verse
Chris Beyers
University of Arkansas Press, 2001
This book examines the most salient and misunderstood aspect of twentieth-century poetry, free verse. Although the form is generally approached as if it were one indissoluble lump, it is actually a group of differing poetic genres proceeding from much different assumptions. Separate chapters on T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, H.D., and William Carlos Williams elucidate many of these assumptions and procedures, while other chapters address more general theoretical questions and trace the continuity of Modern poetics in contemporary poetry. Taking a historical and aesthetic approach, this study demonstrates that many of the forms considered to have been invented in the Modern period actually extend underappreciated traditions. Not only does this book examine the classical influence on Modern poetry, it also features discussions of the poetics of John Milton, Abraham Cowley, Matthew Arnold, and a host of lesser-known poets. Throughout it is an investigation of the prosodic issues that free verse foregrounds, particularly those focusing on the reader's part in interpreting poetic rhythm.

front cover of Missing Measures
Missing Measures
Modern Poetry and the Revolt Against Meter
Timothy Steele
University of Arkansas Press, 1990

By the close of the nineteenth century, many poets had abandoned rhyme and meter in favor of “free verse.” Nearly one hundred years later, a growing number of younger poets are reclaiming traditional conventions of prosody by composing rhymed and measured poetry.

Missing Measures is the first full articulation of the aesthetics of this new movement. Timothy Steele, one of the best of those poets who are sometimes called the “New Formalists,” treats his subject against a backdrop of the long history of ideas about poetry, formulated first by the ancients and re-examined and re-interpreted by subsequent writers.

Steele offers a new perspective on the wholesale departure from tradition proclaimed in modernist critical justifications. A rare marriage of clear writing, careful scholarship, and bold thinking, Missing Measures provides a vital new movement with a critical manifesto.


front cover of The Origins of Free Verse
The Origins of Free Verse
H. T. Kirby-Smith
University of Michigan Press, 1998
H. T. Kirby-Smith offers a far-ranging and intellectually engaging study of the literary history of the debated genre of free verse, aimed not at perpetuating a particular dispute but instead at discovering the generative points of this often celebrated, often maligned form.
Though free verse became a dominant poetic mode only in the twentieth century, Kirby-Smith finds its roots in seventeenth-century England. Beginning his study with writers such as John Milton--who was considered by T. S. Eliot to be the greatest writer of free verse in English--the author places recent and divisive topics in poetics in context, showing them to be attenuated remnants of issues first broached hundreds of years ago.
The book seeks to establish a consensus on the nature of free verse, with reference to critics and poets including Pound, Eliot, Williams, Amy Lowell, Yvor Winters, and Hugh Kenner. Good free verse, argues Kirby-Smith, arises as a reaction to a well-established set of conventions. Likewise, The Origins of Free Verse goes against the conventions of existing poetic scholarship, offering an encompassing yet fresh--and controversial--literary history of free verse.
"At moments, this study is revelatory. . . . In its range and detail it offers a way of thinking about the history of English-language prosody which recognizes the importance of the poet's individual choices and undercuts our century's vanity. . . . Poetry is a learned art, and Kirby-Smith brings both insight and much learning to reading it." --Times Literary Supplement
"The best study of free verse I have seen. . . . The Origins of Free Verse is a book that all students of prosody will want to read. " --Harvard Review
". . . a witty and polemical account of the emergence and development of free verse." --Choice
H. T. Kirby-Smith is Professor of English, University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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