the temperaments

i just finished reading a book of essays on poetry (Poets Teaching Poets, edited by Ellen Bryant Voigt and Gregory Orr) and the essay that i found to be the most interesting just happens to be available to read online { here }.

according to Orr, to be a poet you must be born with a gift for one of the four temperaments of a poet--Story, Structure, Music, Imagination--and to grow in your art you must develop whichever one you were born with further but also expand your range by growing in the other three.

His definitions:

the limiting qualities:
Story: dramatic unity, conflict resolution
Structure: measurable patterns

the limitless qualities:
Music: rhythm and sounds
Imagination: flow of image to image, thought to thought

my work is much more concerned with the limitless qualities--Imagination and Music (in that order). Orr thinks that to have a balanced poem, you need some limiting qualities to balance out the limitless (and vice versa), and for me the grounding force is typically Story (a narrative--many of my poems tell stories), Structure, particularly very formal structure, being what i am least interested in. i tend to feel like Pound in the quote Orr uses--"don't put in what you want to say and fill in the vacuums with slush"--since my attempts to write in form are typically that way--its not an extremely fair view though, i've read some very lovely and skillfully written form poems (a few of my mfa classmates were particularly talented at this).

i am glad i came  across this essay; it has helped me to better understand poets who write very differently from me (i've in the past particularly had a hard time appreciating new formalist poets, unless their work is structured but heavy with one of the limitless qualities that i'm into), and to think about how i can push myself further as a writer. not that i plan to delve into formal writing any time soon--its just not an interest for me--but maybe to think more on how i structure my free verse, lineation, stanza breaks, repetitions. reading criticism and essays always gets me so pumped up to write! i hope i'll have some time to edit and write and read this week, as Zuzu allows!

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