Richard Blanco is not only a celebrated poet and a genuine soul, unafraid of the perilous depths of self, but he also really knows his stuff. I was privileged to be part of the Sanibel Writer’s Conference this weekend and listen to his thoughts in workshops and readings. No single line of poetry is ever arbitrary. Every line of poetry is like a truss in a bridge. It has to hold its own weight. It’s picking up from one side to the next. Each must be able to transfer the load to the next. It’s not that different from prose, understanding the basics of language. All poems should be read aloud. You’ll be surprised what your body tells you about it. Poetry cannot escape that aspect. We need to remember poetry was once a means of gathering, around the camp fire. It was music, the troubadours. That’s its roots. He even explained iambic pentameter with ease.
It’s not just the syllables and iambs. It’s important because it matches one breath. It is a unit of thought, a yardstick for ideas. Anything shorter seems abrupt. Anything longer seems long-winded, more of narrative rhetoric. Iambic pentameter is a good fundamental tool to focus and modulate the lines, something that can now be played with in free verse.
I want to find The Gulf Motel exactly as it was
And pretend for a moment, nothing lost is lost.
(*From Looking for the Gulf Motel.)