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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