Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Issue 31, July 2013—Mixed Form Issue)

Jesse Ball
A Few Words on Works of Verse

Verse was the main form of writing for a very long time. Why? Perhaps because it is closer to an oral tradition than is prose (forever mired in its physical manifestation). The principal (or seemingly principal) features of verse – rhyme, alliteration, meter, line breaks – are then visible as tools. They exist to aid memory, to make statements echo.

Yet, I think we can ignore all else and say – verse is but the strongest use of language. Though it is often abused by weak poets (who will always be dominant in any age) verses should, as Kharms says, break a pane of glass when they are thrown at it.

Thought is the only thing – conveying a mind state from one brain to another through rootless, attendant space.

When I’m asked why I would alternate between verse that shows the hallmarks of tradition (line breaks, etcetera) and prose paragraphs apparently bucking it, I can say: a work visibly in verse engages with a verse tradition, pulls first from an image lexicon of hard verse, and thereafter from the general tradition. It is a question of order – and of what is meant at the moment of composition. One might feel a fondness for Thomas Hardy and sit in a foul basement dreaming of moors and mornings, versifying. So, too, one might roam a city pouring prose paragraphs onto paper in fealty to Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen.

Yet – when it comes to the crucial moment of transmission – of saying things that must be said, and with utmost economy – one perhaps needs to consider the audience and the use of the object. If I were to write a charm that a friend might say before going pearl diving, it would certainly be metered verse – and might even rhyme. I should like her to easily recall it and carry it where no book may go. But, if a friend wanted a plan for an October day, I might write it in no less poetic prose. Or even something less refined.

You can imagine then that a book of mine would call out to mix these voices, these needs, and these modes. This is my explanation for why I might be accused of mixing prose and verse. Also – no one can stop me!