Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Strong Verse, Part 3: Trobar ric, part the second: Fun Verse, Van Verse, and Full Verse

So first we'll need new terms.

Semantics is always important, you know.

Trobar leu is easy. "Light verse" is already an accepted term that is only a vehicle for derision when an idiot is speaking. However, since idiots often speak, let's go with "fun verse," for reasons we'll see later.

Trobar clu presents a greater renaming problem. In many respects it's a form of shibboleth--a poetry for poets' sake, a secret handshake--and at the same time it can and does pull the art of poetry forward. "Vanguard verse" is delightful and alliterative--and retains a nod to "avant-garde" without owing a loaded debt. Since "fun verse" is a spondee, however, I think we should stick with that metrical pattern and skip, Cockney-like, to "van verse."

So we are left with Trobar ric. "Rich verse" is the obvious answer, but I think "ripe verse" is more accurate--if less serious. Likewise I am tempted by "perfect verse" though that is 1) too big of a hand-tip and 2) annoyingly arrogant. "Plenary verse" is the right feel but the wrong word, metrically and lexically. So we're left with the "Saxony" shortenings of plenary: "whole" and "full." As "whole" has a popular and unwanted homophone, we'll go with "full verse."

So we have three classes of poetry, coming roughly from the troubadoric terms:

Fun verse
Van verse
Full verse.

They line up metrically and alliteratively. Good and poetic terms for good and poetic things.

Fun verse is easy to read and immediately understandable but does not gain meaning upon multiple readings. It is not superficial or shallow--for those words are far too loaded to be useful but, if such a word can serve here, fey, or indeed, fun.

We must have fun verse because it teaches readers that poetry is not a puzzle while endearing and indoctrinating them into poetry's many forms and folds. It must be praised and encouraged as it, like all poetry, is difficult to write well.

Van verse is poetry that is exceedingly difficult for the layman to read and understand. Only poets and rare connoisseurs of poetry enjoy--or benefit from--reading it. The closed nature of van verse in no way diminishes it. All art needs a vanguard to discover what can and what cannot work within the limits of the mode.

We must, however, ensure that we--as poets and teachers and promoters of poetry--do not treat van verse as if it were the "only proper form" of writing poetry. Too many poets view form and experimentation as more important connection--and because of the grave tendency within "the right people" to view anything that has popular appeal with derision, there is a trend toward valuing "the new" and "the difficult" and "the unpopular" above all others. Such hubris cannot be encouraged--though we should not commit the reverse sin of throwing out van verse altogether. Just as surely as we will lose new readers without fun verse we will lose all freshness without van verse.

Full verse should combine the best of fun and van verse. It should be easy to read and immediately understandable but it should reward and grow from multiple readings. The form should not be in the forefront but appear as a supporting structure to the verse. It is from full verse that the language should grow--as it once did through the works of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Tennyson, and Longfellow.

Full verse, being neglected in the current longueur, must be encouraged and gotten out to the layman reader. Perhaps the efforts of EA, Longfellow, and Dante will remind people that such works are enjoyed by more than just the attendees of MFA programs and workshops. Perhaps not. To say that the current world of mainstream publishing is unfriendly to poetry is to make an obvious understatement. Serialization might help. A friendly magazine certainly would--perhaps Poetry or another high-tone rag can serialize a long narrative poem. Maybe one of the many periodicals famous for publishing short stories. But again, maybe not. I'm not enthusiastic about the world of print publishing. Serialization online similar to online comics may be the best bet.

Obviously I'm most interested in full verse--as I likely would have been interested in van verse at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries--as a lover and defender of the art of poetry I feel compelled to ensure it is a complete art--with introductory, experimental, and mature work.

As this series continues, which will probably get some name like "complete poetry," we'll look at how to integrate full poetry into the already established teaching curricula of van poetry (and how to get fun poetry in there, too) and what changes can be made (or proposed) that will allow room for full poetry in publishing (where fun poetry and van poetry are already well-established, if not well-read).

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