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March 25, 2014

Jorge Luis Borges on Poetry

"I think young poets are apt to begin with what is really the most difficult—free verse. This is a very great mistake."

Now this does not mean that I prefer a sonnet to a piece of free verse. I like both. If you take some of the best pages in Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and ask me whether or not I find them better than a sonnet by Shakespeare or Wordsworth or Keats or Yeats, I would say that the question is meaningless. There is no need to like one and discard the other, since you can keep both.

But the difference is this: if you attempt a sonnet, you already have something given to you, and the reader can anticipate the form, while if you attempt free verse, everything must come from within you. You have to be far more skillful technically to attempt free verse than to attempt what you may think of as being old-fashioned. Of course, if you happen to be Walt Whitman, you’ll have the inner strength, or inner urge, that makes you capable and worthy of free verse, but this doesn’t happen to many of us.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at March 25, 2014 07:47 AM