Does the Author's Journal
Accept Formal Poems?
Not only do we accept and publish formal poems, but we go far beyond "formal" in our description of the poems we are looking for.
If you want to learn more, read on.
Sound-techniques such as meter, rhythm, rhyme, assonance, etc. are essential to poetry. They are not the same as form; but we want them just as much.
Form is more than pattern. It is more than repetition.
Repetition can be meaningless.
Pattern is inherently suggestive.
Form goes beyond any of this. It is shape; it is planning; it is requirements; it is challenge; it is, most of all, the proportionate relation of the poem's parts to one another. It is harmony.
Poetic Diction is not form, either, but we are addressing it on this page because formal poetry does tend to use poetic diction.
At one time, or so the followers of Wordsworth felt, poetic diction became habitually purple and overly predictable. A movement came into being toward a more conversational way of using words in poetry. Poetic diction - a special way of using words just for poetry - became despised.
In our time we see the opposite problem. Poetry is now so dull and pedestrian that it can only be distinguished from prose by the fact that it falls into lines and stanzas. (Sometimes it doesn't do that, and then it can only be distinguished by the fact that its creator calls it poetry.)
How human is it, really, to avoid poetic diction in that very art for which it is named?
We think people like their poetry poetic; and we encourage the elevated, unusual, and expanded uses of language for which poetry conventionally provides the excuse.
Archaism is perfectly acceptable, so long as it is employed with taste and consistency. (In other words, you'd need a good reason to switch between modern and archaic language within the same poem.)
How They All Relate to Form
We notice what others notice - that the same people tend to enjoy and use form, pattern, poetic diction and musicality. It just so happens that free verse eschews them all, and free verse is the preponderant form of poetry in our time.
Here at the Author's Journal we regard people who wince at a rhymed couplet, the un-ironic use of the word 'Behold,' or the coupling of 'verdure' with 'violets' to be the cultural equivalent of a 3-year old who gags when presented with an authentic Ethiopian Doro Wat, deeply seasoned with berbere.
The situation in which most journals publish only vers libre, in this simile, is like an endless succession of meals composed entirely of vanilla ice cream, on the theory that everything else is irritatingly restrictive and apt to be done badly.
Of course, the mere requirement that the poem should be presented in lines and stanzas, rather than in sentences and paragraphs, is a requirement, which is why vers libre itself is a kind of formal poetry. However as free verse has the fewest requirements of any kind of poetry, it might be described as the least formal.
Isn't Form Too Artificial and Contrived?
Poetry, we consider, is the art of language. It is the art which uses language for its material, as painting uses paint for its material.
But language, unlike paint, is inherently formal. The sentence itself is a miracle of form.
Yet every human being of normal intelligence and experience learns to use the sentence correctly and effectively by the age of 4 years old. A human race which could no longer form sentences would be lacking in a natural achievement.
It seems, then, that form and artifice are natural. They belong to a mature human nature.
Taking delight in the artifice of others also belongs to human nature. What kind of editor is incapable of that?
The good poet thinks of his reader's enjoyment when he writes. The best poet thinks of his most aesthetically receptive reader when he writes.
The good editor is similarly minded.
So What Kind of Poetry Should I Submit?
The only kind of poetry which is completely informal is actually prose, which some rascal of an author has decided to call poetry in order to prove that nothing matters.
Do not send us any of that, we beseech.
Generally, the more poetic techniques a poet has attempted, and succeeded at, the more we admire his poems. Send us lots of that kind of thing, we implore.
If your poetry is jagged and incoherent, then we might find it rather depressing.
You see, the way a poem is arranged carries philosophical stowaways. The inventors of that way of arranging a poem, in other words, had a philosophy - and that arrangement was suitable to their philosophy. Everyone who uses that arrangement must suffer the importation of unspoken philosophies into his poem.
The inventors of the jagged and incoherent model of poetry were moderns who were protesting the falling apart of their culture. While culture is still in ruins, we think that sensitive prose is the proper art to deal with that anguish. Poetry was made for delight, and bears ill the burdens of the social activist.
The skilled poet understands the aesthetic effects produced by his techniques, and employs them with due consideration. Any technique can create a ridiculous effect if it is piled on too thick, or fails to harmonize with the meaning of the poem.
As beauty presents its own excuse for being, aesthetic effects do not need any justification. They are there for delight, and that is what we feel in them.
So send us what has been metely measured out, and what has fallen into waves of rhythm; send us what lilts and what pounds and what roars and what whispers. All that rises above pedestrian speech, send us. All that coheres and all that is tastefully arranged, we seek; all that searches out the limits of the power of our splendid language, we desire that you send to us.
If you think you can't pull it off, do it as a joke first. You'll get the hang of it.