A very brief history of modern poetry: Mallarmé banished the world. The poem became a room panelled in mirrors – all four walls, floor and ceiling – and the poet’s pen at the center in lieu of a sky. Whitman invited the world back in, all of it. Nothing was to be excluded. The walls of the room began to expand at an exponential rate. Physicists refer to this as the Big Bang – their own, two-word poem. Though it seems a little comical to give an unimaginable event the power to generate impossible sound waves, to rattle windows in their non-existent frames.
So anyway, that’s the point of free verse: either to free the pen from the tyranny of writing alogether, or else to make a place in the poem for everything, “poetic” or not. Free verse means that the poet is no longer a dictator, but a maker who gives full autonomy to her creations. It has little to do with the presence or absence of rhyme and meter. Almost everything rhymes if you listen right.
What do I hope to accomplish through my writing? I would like to de-mystify the mind and re-mystify the world. The one word I keep coming back to is incommensurate, even though I am never exactly certain what it means. The night before last when I walked out of my parents’ house after supper I could feel the fog all around like the moist breath of a large dark animal. When I got to the driveway a sudden fear gripped me. What’s that? Nothing but a trickle of water in a ditch that was usually dry. Whence this fear? I haven’t been afraid of the dark since I was eight years old! But just as I was saying this to myself, something in the woods right beyond my house very loudly cleared its throat. Half-growl, half-cough: the sound supposedly made by (for example) very large cats. I stood motionless in the driveway for a few minutes, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the dark. Then I walked slowly down the hill, heart pounding, nostrils flaring. Why hadn’t I left any lights on? As soon as I got in, I switched on both spotlights and walked out on the porch. The thick fog swallowed the light. “Little cat feet,” my ass!