Conservative Prosody

By James Matthew Wilson for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC

Devon, PA. The turning of the plow in the dark fields and the turning of verses on a white field of paper are more than etymologically related; they share in the dignity of craft, and so I invite those with an interest to turn their thoughts hither:

At the Lehrman American Studies Center blog, I launch a short essay beginning . . .

Conservatives are fond enough of lamenting the absence of Shakespeare in the modern college curriculum that one would expect them to take a keen delight in poetry. To the contrary, they often are equally uninterested in that much receded art form as anyone else. I am told that Edwin Arlington Robinson, writing at the turn of the Twentieth Century, estimated that about one percent of the American public read poetry; if the percentage has increased since his day, I should be much surprised. And, I suppose, it would be unfair to poetry and conservatives alike to presume that conservatives should read poetry just because it is a very old art form, spuming an august mustiness through the attic of the mind at its very mention. One might just as readily, and wrongly, hold up the obscure or obsene scattering of words that typifies much of contemporary poetry and presume that all liberals must love it just because, by its very ugliness and emptiness, it evidently was miscarried yesterday (or the day after tomorrow, as the anxious poet gropes for a form still struggling to be born).

I would like to propose two reasons that conservatives ought to take an interest in verse, one historical and the other ethical. Following them, I should like to offer as a teaching resource a guide to verisification (prosody) that the reader may find of interest as a means of understanding this seldom taught craft and that the professor of good will is welcome to use as a booklet to distribute to students.

The Versification: A Brief Introduction, to which this essay provides a link, may be of some interest to those who always meant to get the hang of prosody but live lives too harried to give it attention; the guide is less than twenty-five small pages and can be read through quite quickly.  It can be accessed directly here.

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