Thoughts . . . by Mark Rich

. . . scribbled . . . scrawled . . . trimmed . . . typewritten . . . grubbed up . . . squeezed from circumstance . . .

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Creative Antiquities, Part II

I did go and read my old verse, "Dream-mare," in that on-line zine named Surprising Stories (as you may do here:

It is a piece of verse I remember feeling quite satisfied with -- and somewhat dissatisfied with. On the one hand, it is, to my mind, a good example of a particular type of verse ... you might call it short dramatic verse, since the dramatic element takes precedence over other aspects. This sort of verse suited some areas of the small press, being the staple especially of the dark fantasy and horror-emphasizing zines.

Back in the 1980s I felt I excelled in writing short poems in which some single element loomed over others, within the confines of rhymed, sometimes idiosyncratically metered verse. Oftentimes the verse in these zines took the form of stilted balladry, in which the sentence structures and the line structures were, for all practical purposes, one and the same. In mine I usually held to a pattern of straight rhymes or slant rhymes, while making every effort to de-emphasize the pattern by means of phrasing. I avoided having the sentences align with the metrical line wherever possible -- which is a practice that allows you to instill a strong sense of closure within the final line of the verse.

That last line is the one place in a verse where the end of the sentence and the end of the line can only fall together.

I remember one editor, in writing to me and accepting a poem or two, saying that he finally understood what I was doing in my poetry. He had just discovered that if he read my poems as if they were spoken colloquially, or conversationally, they suddenly "worked," or "made sense." Previously he had been in the habit, apparently, of pausing at the end of each line. The editor's exact words, of course, escape memory. Yet I do recall the surprise I felt, that this should have represented a leap, for him or her. (As I recall it was a him.)

This Surprising Stories, by the way, seems attractive. I was happy to see the index page -- for it is very much the sort of cover you might have encountered, a quarter-century ago, when you opened a large manila envelope sent by one of the many intrepid editor-publishers of those times. The presentation of the poem is quite nice, too -- with an effective illustration by La Joillette.

Cheers ...


  1. Isn't that how you're supposed to read poetry? The "tidy" poetry with pauses at the end of every line seems so pedantic...

  2. And, by the way, a total yikes on Dream-mare. Of course having been laid off from my job of calling attention to developing environmental contamination, perhaps I relate too well...

  3. In response to the first comment, sure, yes ... except when the poetry is written to be read with pauses. Oddly enough, Eliot's type of verse relies on the reader's instinct to feel a pause at the end of the line.

    "Total yikes" -- what a lovely reaction.