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“A Return To Form;”
The Resurgence of Form Poetry Amongst Writing Students
There’s often a knee-jerk reaction against form poetry among Creative Writing students. Some just don’t like the challenge, many see it as an outdated means of expression, like doing the jitterbug at a rave. Others think it only stifles their writing, that it takes something beautiful and makes it contrived, like capturing a butterfly in a jar.
However, after taking a course that deals exclusively in form, both literary editors of Pulp have adopted a newfound appreciation for form poetry. Along with the discipline any form requires comes a sense of validity, a feeling that some objective thing has been accomplished. Being able to fit your words, ideas, motifs, etc, inside of a set of rules that dates back hundreds of years takes a lot of skill, but can be immensely rewarding
The boundaries inherent in writing form poetry will frequently act as a funnel of creativity; they force the young writer never to accept the easiest answers, to think outside to box in order to make everything fit within the box. Working within an established structure, even if it’s just rhyme scheme, scansion, or rhythm, can open up a whole new world to consider in the creation of a poem; how will the meter effect how will this line is read? What does the use of repetition signify emotionally? So many aspects of popular forms reflect the very nature of poetry itself; iambic pentameter has been so prevalent throughout the ages because it is the natural cadence that our language falls into.
Additionally, most forms have lasted throughout the centuries because they convey unique ideas, even evoke powerful emotions in their readers. Ghazals, for example, (four of which are published in our recent issue) traditionally serve as expressions for genuine grief or reverence of God. What makes a ghazal so special is the ability to take away or rearrange any of the couplets without disrupting the poem. Each verse stands alone, the reader’s intuition guides him or her throughout the poem based on colour, repetition, sound, and other images.
Likewise, poetic forms like villanelles and sestinas accentuate the nature of subjects that linger, often to the point of obsession. Palindromes comment not only on reversal and cyclical patterns in their subject matter, but also the very power of the lines and their ability to be interpreted in a multitude of different ways.
Looking back at few of my old, pre-form poems they feel sloppy now, unfocused. I think to myself “that would work better as a sonnet” or “a glosa could convey this idea much more effectively.” Form poetry, especially for writers still shaping themselves, still tuning their voices and digging out their own niches in the world of Creative Writing, can lend an air of sophistication, but more than that, that help to hone a writer’s ability and place him or her in a long tradition of creative expression through the written word. Like grappling with a worthy adversary it can make you stronger, more versatile. Besides, there’s always plenty of room to change certain forms in original ways, to adapt them to fit a poet’s distinct verse.
I’ve begun to think that form poetry is anything but dead; in fact, it might just be the next step in the evolution of emerging writers.
Production is underway!
We are in the office figuring out who will show up where in the mag and getting pages laid out. If you have not been notified already of your inclusion in the mag, you will be by Wednesday, February 29th.
In terms of online publication, we will be putting up a PDF version of the magazine online once its out (it will be on stands at all Kwantlen campuses mid-March) and any work that does not end up in the print publication will also be posted online separately.
Today at the Committee meeting we decided that we will also have an Online Summer PDF publication of the mag, which is super exciting, especially since we’ve already received more work than we can physically publish, so this will allow us to showcase even more of your fine work.
Stayed tuned and keep creating!