Wednesday, September 08, 2004

A Lesson in Rhyme from William Logan

I’m not one to disparage any worthy effort of any poet. OK, well, I changed my ways. But this passage from a William Logan poem memorializing Donald Justice has me reeling:
Carved from gray blocks of wood,
enormous sad pelicans
on the concrete balustrade stood
stiff as librarians,

as if they dimly knew
the mighty events to come.
Two things are striking. That third line is so awkward and so written for the rhyme. That fourth line, though not completely rhyme-driven (or maybe it is), leads to the first 2 lines of the next stanza, and leaves me with this question. Why do librarians dimly know anything of the future?

These are two very real dangers of writing in rhyme. The first is falling into awkward syntax. The second is leaving a rhyme word in the dust. These dangers are especially critical in a tightly wound narrative poem. Such a poet takes a risk. But things spring wrong so quickly.

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