Following the Parnassian French poets of the late 19th century, comes one named Paul Verlaine, whose writings lead to inspire and shape the twentieth-century free verse. Hereby I shall present to you “The Art of Poetry”
The Art of Poetry
by Paul Verlaine
You must have music first of all,
and for that a rhythm uneven is best.
vague in the air and soluble,
with nothing heavy and nothing at rest.
You must not scorn to do some wrong
in choosing the words to fill your lines:
nothing more dear than the tipsy song
where the Undefined and Exact combine.
It is veiled and lovely eye,
The full noon quivering with light;
it is, in cool of an autumn sky,
the blue confusion of stars at night!
Never the Color, always the Shade,
always the nuance is supreme!
Only by shade is the trothal made
between the flue and horn, of dream with dream!
Epigram’s an assassin! Keep
away from him, fierce Wit, and vicious
laughter makes the Azure keep,
and from all that garlic vulgar dishes!
Take Eloquence and wring his neck!
You would do well, by force and care,
wisely to hold Rhyme in check,
or she’s off—if you don’t watch—God knows where!
Oh, who will tell the wrong of Rhyme?
What crazy negro or deaf child
made this trinklet for a dime,
sounding hollow and false when filed?
Let there be music, again and forever!
Let your verse be a quick-wing’d thing and light--
such as one feels when a new love’s fervor
to other skies wings the soul in flight.
Happy-go-lucky, let your lines
disheveled run where the dawn winds lure,
smelling of wild mint, smelling of thyme…
and all the rest is literature.
Listen carefully: “where the ‘Undefined’ and ‘Exact’ combine,” “Never the ‘Color,’ always the ‘Shade.’” Oxymoron almost, where our definitions gather around something we cannot name, neither grasp, as if it were “Love,” “Soul” or even “Life.”
Like any other Art, writing poetry is not just about the words, the musicality, the grace, the beauty or maybe not even about truth. It is mainly about our voices; how we express ourselves, and what we want to say about what; because we are speaking truthfully about that. Some use a piano, a canvas, a short story, a film… in the end “You would do well, by force and care.”
The Romantics may have gone to dream in the Heaven of our world, and the Realists may have died to suffer in the Hell of it. However, since our reality is completely relative to our frame of mind, it is up to us to keep the balance between Earth (“wisely to hold Rhyme in check,”) and Sky (“or she’s off- if you don’t watch—God knows where!”) to create our poetic stories in how we live our lives, and how we write them with the ink of our mind; free.
“And all the rest is literature.”