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Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse
by Mary Oliver
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 039585086X, Paperback)Just as dancing is "the art of moving in accord with a pattern," says Mary Oliver, so is writing metrical verse. "One sorts out the pattern, one relies on it, and relaxes from effort to pleasure." The rules (concerning rhyme, line length, and pattern) are made if not to be deliberately flouted, then at least to be toyed with. Oliver claims to have written this book for both writers and readers of metrical verse, but it is an odd sort of fit for either. A writer might wish for a little more detail; a reader might find too much. The book works best as a kind of refresher course, for those who have forgotten the difference between metaphysical and Petrarchan conceits, between masculine and feminine rhymes, and would like to brush up a bit. Oliver does a wonderful job of explaining why the most common forms of metrical verse came to prevail (for instance, the five-foot line is "the line which is the closest to the breathing capacity of our lungs"), and of nudging us into reading more metrical poetry (nearly half this volume is devoted to works by John Donne, William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop, and others). Blessedly, Oliver reminds us that, though one could get carried away trying new meters and forms, one shouldn't expect to be writing a lot of double ionics anytime soon. "Expect to use one hypersyllabic foot in ten years, perhaps," she says. "Anacrusis, rarely. Catalexis: often. The double ionic: when the next comet flies over." --Jane Steinberg
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:59 -0400)
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