Posts Tagged ‘vrye vers’

Louis Esterhuizen. Oor poësie, prosa en prosaverse

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013


Verlede naweek, tydens Montagu se Breyten Breytenbach Boekefees moes ek praat oor die problematiek van tyd in die poësie en hoe ek dit in my bundel Wat die water onthou (2010: Protea Boekhuis) gereflekteer het. Tydens my navorsing vir dié geleentheid lees ek toe ‘n besonder interessante artikel, “Is it poetry or prose?“, deur Caleb Murdock op raak; ‘n artikel wat nie veel te make gehad het met my praatjie nie, maar wel heelwat te sê gehad het oor poësie, prosa en die sogenaamde ‘prosavers’.

Caleb se openingsparagrawe lees soos volg:

Prose and poetry are two sides of the same coin.  Both of them communicate ideas, and both of them can be written beautifully.  But the essential purpose of prose is to communicate ideas, and the essential purpose of poetry is to move us with the beauty of its crafted language, and in this distinction the two diverge.  Prose is communication; poetry is art.  When a reader is moved by prose, he is moved primarily by its meaning.  Of course, the distinction between poetry and prose can be blurred.  Prose can be written with extra attention to its beauty, in which case it is called “poetic prose”; and poetry can be written with extra attention to its meaning, in which case it is called “prosaic poetry”.  But the essential distinction remains.

What are the ways that poetry can be crafted?  The poet has a limited number of tools, and they are pretty specific:  metaphor, simile, parallelism, line breaks, enjambment, alliteration, consonance, assonance, form (stanzas, sonnets, etc.), rhythm, meter, internal rhyme, and end rhyme (I may have left out a few).  But what of poetry that has almost none of these elements – is it poetry?  I think the answer to that is more than just semantic.  In the past century, the one century in all of English-language history in which free verse was the dominant form, poetry lost much of its audience.  When an art form devolves to the point where it no longer contains the elements that define it, we have to question whether the result is art or something else.

Hierna volg ‘n beknopte, dog indringende kyk na die ontwikkeling van die vrye vers en hoe dit uiteindelik aanleiding gegee het tot meer amorfe versvorme soos die prosavers, onder andere. Gaan lees gerus die volledige artikel vir dié oorsig en ook Murdoch se kommentaar.

By wyse van lusmaker plaas ek graag die volgende aanhalings:

“The best poems, in my view, contain a high number of poetic elements, and rhythm is the most important of them.  More than any other quality, rhythm distinguishes poetry from prose.”

“I think the reason that such prosaic poetry has become so prevalent is that anyone can write it.  It is a method by which people without poetic talent, or without a true love of the sound of poetry, can express their private feelings in a public manner […] But the prosaic style misses the point of poetry altogether, which is to create beauty with words.  Such poetry can only be read for its meaning, not its beauty.”

“I believe that this prosaic style, which lacks almost all poetic elements, is the natural evolutionary end-result of free verse.  When you remove the most important elements from poetry (form and meter), all the remaining elements become expendable […] As long as poets take the word ‘free’ to mean ‘without’ (as in, without rhythm, without rhyme, without alliteration, etc.), then free verse will be doomed to disintegrate into prose.”

“Practitioners of the prosaic style have convinced themselves that the sound of metered language is unpleasant.  They view it as an anachronism, a throwback to artificial formality.  But Frost, Francis, Auden and Roethke showed us that metered poetry can be informal and accessible. Meter is what gives a poem its structure and momentum; it carries the reader forward to the poem’s conclusion (imagine song lyrics without the melody and you will see what I mean).  Without meter, long poems lose their coherence – unless they are written in the loose cadence of prose.  And this brings us to another reason why modern free verse has degenerated into prose:  free verse cannot be sustained over long passages without losing its integrity, whereas prose can be.  In other words, if a poet writes his poems in prose, he can write longer poems.”

“I find more grand and phony sentiments in prosaic poetry than in metered poetry, and I think I know why:  The language itself is so mundane that the poet has to find some other way to move his audience, so he resorts to sentimentality (or drama or other similar techniques).”

As leestoegif volg ‘n toepaslike gedig deur Archibald MacLeish; ‘n gedig wat ook deur Caleb Murdoch aangehaal word in sy artikel “Is it Poetry or Prose?” en waarna hy verwys as waarskynlik “the most beautiful free verse poem ever written”.


Ars Poetica

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit.

As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown.

A poem should be wordless
as the flight of birds.


A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees.

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves
Memory by memory the mind—

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.


A poem should be equal to:
Not true:

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

A poem should not mean
But be.

© Archibald MacLeish