Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" first popularised 'free verse' in the 19th century. While I don't like his poem much (I have animadverted about it on a different thread somewhere - oh yes - the book lists one), I have to admit that parts of it are quite rhythmically splendid. He deliberately avoids conventional metrical styles to achieve a spontaneity of effect.

Coming along with Eliot's subtle innovations in the early 20th century, it spelled the virtual death of verse in poetry. Few less gifted poets appreciated the genius of the rhyme and rhythm in Eliot, and saw it instead as a carte blanche for them to produce mystical musings with no structure at all. As you can see, the result (apart from Marty's mighty effort above) is often drivel. The problem, of course, is that any poet who writes in verse is likely to be dismissed these days as a mere versifier.

Even the more highly regarded ones (the late Ted Hughes in the UK, for instance) often need to establish their reputations before they can get away with good verse (sonnets in Hughes' case).

But there is no need to despair - I have read (or merely perused?) many books of contemporary verse that show there is, perhaps, a resurgence in the appreciation of the traditional values. See if you can track down the "Poems on the Underground" anthologies, or the (admittedly rather British) "The Nations Favourite Poems". Ted Hughes, before he died, also edited a delightful anthology called "By Heart", in which he makes the case for 'knowing' the poems by heart without trying to learn them by rote. One hundred gems - many old and well known, many startligly good new/fresh stuff.

Ah enough with the poetry, how about some medical words? Can anyone explain to me what dolichocephalic is supposed to mean?


the sunshine warrior

ps. Bel - some free verse is very, very good - and not all poetry should be rejected on the grounds that it doesn't follow the traditional structures...