How can the content be separated from the poem's
fluid and breathing body?
Mary Oliver, A Poetry Handbook
In the preseason forecasts a few years ago a new player on the men's basketball team at the university where I work was expected to see considerable playing time. At six feet eleven inches, he was the tallest player on the squad, adding height to what had been a vertically challenged team despite its Final Four run the previous season. Coach said he needed to work on his shooting, his passing, his rebounding, and his defense, but, as the old saying goes, you can't teach height.
You can't teach creative writing, either, as another old saying goes, but that does not seem to deter us. By the way, Coach retired three games into that season.
Age five: Left leg, twenty-two and five-eighths inches. Right leg, twenty-four and three-eighths.
Body metaphors abound in discourse about poetry. From the basic unit of meter to discussions of language and form, from the long, skinny finger of the dactyl to the poem’s beating heart and loping flesh, the body is not just an important image in poetry, it is also an important image of poetry. Alfred Corn entitled his excellent manual of prosody The Poems Heartbeat. Contemporary poets as varied as Corn, Mary Oliver, Robert Hass, Donald Hall, and John Vernon describe the poem as a body not just as something that comes from the poet's body, not just as something felt and enlivened in the reader's and the auditor's body, but as a body unto itself. "Poems are bodies," Vernon asserts:
They are drops that break off from the mass of a poet's body, congeal, take shape, and become bodies themselves. When a poem speaks, it speaks with its entire body, not only with its voice, but with its rhythm, pace, shape, and tone, as well as its denotative content.
A few years ago I had a new brace made. It is mostly high-test polypropylene, so this contraption which helps me walk is kin to medicine bottles, to indoor-outdoor carpeting, to the spaceships plumbing the farthest reaches of the galaxy. When heated to three hundred degrees, this thick, cloudy-white plastic becomes clear, like an ice cube warmed to the melting point. This hot slab of polymers, this enormous chain of perfectly rhythmic, uniformly aligned molecules, can be
molded into just about any shape that can stand up to it: the shape of a dishwasher-safe food container; the shape of a flat, straight line; the shape of a leg.
Donald Hall calls form "the sensual body" of a poem. In seeking to distill the psychic origins of poetic form, Hall identifies three key elements which he calls Goatfoot, Milktongue, and Twinbird. To explain Twinbird, Hall evokes Yeats's comment that the finished poem makes a sound like the click of the lid on a perfectly made box; Twinbird is our sense of joy at the play of the structural elements, our satisfaction at the resolution that is reached with the click.
Milktongue is our joy in the sounds of words, the pleasure of the way they feel in our mouths. Goatfoot refers to the pleasures of rhythm, the call of the beat.
This sensual body reaches us through our mouths, which are warm in the love of vowels held together, and in the muscles of our legs which as in dance tap the motion and pause of linear and syntactic structure.
Age six: Leg-length measurements from the anterior iliac spine to the medial malleolus: left leg, twenty-four and one-half; right leg, twenty-six and three-fourths.
Lines that end without any parallel to a normal speech pause are called run-on or enjambed.
I first started wearing a brace when I was nine. A year and a half earlier I had slipped on some ice, fallen, and broken my leg. But listen: I think the only reason my leg broke or at least the only reason it broke where it did was the doctors. In trying to make my leg longer, in trying to regulate the length of my jambe, they sawed up my femur, then wired it to a metal rod jammed in my leg. Fragmentation and rodding, they called it, and the rod stayed inside my leg until the next surgery. When I fell, my leg broke just past the end of the rod.
Longer may not be stronger. The rod, there to promote what all would agree is normal growth, was itself of course abnormal. Maybe the rod prevented greater damage to my leg. Or maybe the rod interfered with the natural flexibility my bones would otherwise have shown.
Robert Wallace, Writing Poems
Enjambment: Spillover of poetry from the end of one line to the beginning of the next line.
William Packard, The Poet’s Dictionary: A Handbook of Prosody and Poetic Devices
Enjambment: A line ending in which the syntax, rhythm, and thought are continued and completed in the subsequent line.
The Longman Dictionary of Poetic Terms
Enjambment: The line pushes ahead to the next.
Stephen Adams, Poetic Designs: An Introduction to
Meters, Verse Forms, and Figures of Speech
Enjambment: from the French jambe, leg.
Spare the rod, spoil the child?
Flash forward from the accident: summer, more than a year later. Broken leg healed, largely forgotten. I am a golden-haired boy of eight, taking the family's sweet-tempered, rambunctious, ill-fated dog for a walk. Rascal is his name, and he is a beautiful red-brown mutt. We are perhaps a block away from home, heading east on Randolph Street, crossing the gravel alley between Nineteenth and Eighteenth. Something catches Rascal's eye: a squirrel? a cat? Fill in the blank. Rascal, the happy dog, somehow manages to circle me once or twice, binding my legs together, before he dashes off after the temptation, pitching me onto the ground. I sustain a deep gash across my left knee. (Ask me later, I'll show you the scar it's a beauty.) Or was it Candy, Rascal's mom, I was taking for a walk? Anyway, I get several stitches, then an infection. A few months later I get the brace.
Age seven: Leg measurements revealed that the left is a little over two inches short, and the mother is instructed to get a one-and-three-fourths-inch heel lift for the shoe.
Ask me what is the most important element in prosody.
What's the most important ele?
Poetry handbooks and prosody manuals so often imply certain kinds of bodies: the body of the poem shows whether it is a sonnet or villanelle, a limerick, a prose poem, or one that seeks to describe and define its own form. Robert Hass:
We speak of the sonnet as "a form," when no two sonnets, however similar their structures, have the same form.
The form of a poem exists in the relation between its music and its seeing... the music of the poem as it develops imposes its own restrictions. That is how it comes to form.
Age eight: Measurements today indicate eight point four centimeters discrepancy in the lower extremities the left being the shorter. Note the first appearance of the metric system here.
Polypropylene is a linear polymer, a thermoplastic resin made of carbon and hydrogen. Formed through a chain-growth polymerization of propylene, it is highly crystalline, which means that its molecules are tightly ordered but unsymmetrical, with every other carbon atom having a methyl group hanging onto it. Only the isotactic form of polypropylene is used much so, at least all the methyl groups are arranged along the same side of the polymer chain.
Or this: Polypropylene is a precise arrangement of carbon and hydrogen atoms marching in lockstep from edge to edge. It is excited by heat, so when polypropylene is warm enough it can flow and dance into new shapes, tableaux it will hold until again the heat is on.
I was quite young when I started wearing a built-up shoe on my left foot, so young that I don't even remember. Starting at nine, with the advent of the brace, I began wearing only a shoe bolted to the brace. One shoe for all purposes: school, church, play, gym class. Early on I made an aesthetic decision: my nonmatching shoes, my uneven feet, did not matter. I was a born loser on that count, so I decided to pay it no heed. Ever since it has been difficult for me to concern myself with appearance in general, but especially with feet as in wearing shoes and socks that match. Writing lines with even feet.
Symmetry is fascinating and appealing; scientists seek it in their data and incorporate it in their theories, ironically even when there is no immediate evidence for it.... We have a tendency to impose symmetry onto images that are not symmetrical. Symmetry equates with good genes while asymmetry, whether intrinsic or caused by damage from conflicts, implies problems.
Frank Close, Lucifer's Legacy: The Meaning of
Age nine: His leg lengths today are twenty-seven and one-fourth on the left and thirty and one-half on the right. This is a little over three inches.
When poets discuss craft, the line is often described as the crucial unit of poetry. Words and sentences are also important, but they are not specific to poetry. Stanzas are specific to poetry, but you can have a great poem without them, and they are a lot like paragraphs anyway. Neither is it the figures of speech, the tropes, and the schemes, that make poetry different. It is not the atom, but the molecule the line that makes poetry.
Lack of a firm sense of the line is a handicap.
The first stitches were taken in my body to repair a surgeon's caesura when I was a scant year old. The medical records do not keep track of this sort of thing, but I reckon I've had several hundred stitches so far in my life. Probably not a thousand, though.
John Haines, "Further Reflections on Line and the
A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
William Butler Yeats, "Adam's Curse"
A few years ago I visited the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, DC. Inside the building that houses the gift shop was a small, temporary display showing a pair of FDR's braces fairly simple arrangements of steel and leather, probably with a little felt under the leather for padding, very like my first brace, made for me almost twenty years after FDR passed into history. Very like the brace made for me almost thirty years later, nearly fifty years after Roosevelt died.
I hated that first brace; I had to be ordered, cajoled, seduced into wearing it. My mother talked me into putting it on for just one hour after school, but somewhere down the line I discovered that I was wearing it all the time and I needed it. The brace was made by August Dreher of Oak Park, Illinois, with whose grandson I would attend high school years later. It was clunky, heavy, constraining, and it seemed to call even more unwanted attention to me than I already got. Mostly, I hated feeling bound confined to a brace.
Edward A. Millar, M.D., surgeon: "This child who is almost ten years of age is wearing a long leg brace with a stilt on it, but the mother says he objects to this and apparently he is undergoing considerable emotional disturbance." When I ask Mom about this, she doesn't have much to say.
Age ten: Total on the right of thirty-four and one-eighth inches, and on the left thirty and five-eighths inches, which gives a difference of three and one-half inches.
A whole generation of poets now maturing has been educated in brutal indifference to the technical complications of the art rhyme, meter, the shape and support of stanzas, all those formal devices of music and metaphor that condition meaning. It isn't that most poets don't use these devices in piecemeal fashion; it's that the effects are often piecemeal as well. What for most poets passes as craft is sensibility or the presentation of subject.... The tyranny of material has reached an unforgivable state in our poetry. It is as if sculptors had been instructed that, their only concern being the provenance of the marble, the use of chisels was a moral offense.
When I was a child, surgeons would use chisels, also called osteotomes, on my bones. It's good that I was insensible then. There's a way in which we are all material: our bodies are meat, shaped by genes, by chance, by surgeons, and by time, and from that meat spring the ideas, feelings, and experiences that are our material as writers. We're all chiselers, aren't we, in our own ways.
William Logan, All the Rage
I have a confession to make: Though I claim to be a poet at least, I try to make poems traditional poetic forms have mostly baffled me. I don't do set forms received forms particularly well. This is an embarrassing admission to make. I don't draw very well, either, but I don't call myself a visual artist. It seems decadent to me that someone who thinks of himself as a poet isn't a master of everything from iambic pentameter to hendecasyllabics, from the dithyramb to the choriamb to the amphibrach. As Logan says, "Surely a poet should master the techniques available." By the way, how were Shakespeare's sestinas and ballades? I can only seem to remember the sonnets and the plays.
The poet is... the man without impediment.... He is the true and only doctor.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The Poet"
Age eleven: The measurement of leg lengths today revealed the right to be thirty-five and one-fourth inches and the left thirty-one and one-half inches. This is a little less than four inches leg-length discrepancy.
The forms of poetry in English all seem to come from other languages and traditions: French, Italian, Greek, Roman. Malayan, Arabic, Japanese. Or else they are not borrowed but made up fresh, like the paradelle, like free verse. Billy Collins invented the paradelle a few years ago, initially trying to pass it off as an ancient and obscure French form which first appeared in the langue d’oc love poetry of the eleventh century. He 'fessed up, of course the playful guy is our best-loved poet, after all, complete with laurel wreath.
Dare I say it? I hope poets are trying to invent form anew each time they attempt a poem, whether they are writing sonnets, ghazals, paradelles, or that free-verse stuff.
To fit the brace to my peculiar shape, Harold the orthotist first had to make a plaster cast of my leg, which he would then use to mold a serene white replica leg, also in plaster.
My first cast, put on right around my first birthday, must have been a tiny thing it would probably fit in my hand now. New casts were a frequent occurrence every year until I was sixteen; I cannot imagine how many linear feet of plaster were dunked and unrolled to keep my body from moving. I wonder how far they'd stretch if we could straighten out and line up all those rolls.
Age twelve: I measure thirty-six on the right, thirty and one-half on the left, a difference of five and a half inches.
The water temperature has to be just right to trigger the catalysts in the plaster.
I took my pants off and put on the goofy paper droopy-drawers shorts. A tube of cotton called a stockinette slipped over my leg, a rubber tube down the front of my leg, and then the wet, sloppy plaster wound around from foot to thigh and back. Cotton gauze impregnated with calcium sulfate hemihydrate, which interacts with water to become the dihydrate form. At first the warm wrappings were pleasant; as the catalysts got to work, though, the temperature continued to increase. But the heat was not the real problem. After a few minutes the plaster started to harden, and I started to get antsy. My leg was immobilized no bend, no flex. Too tight even to wiggle my kneecap.
I can remember having to defend my practice of "free verse" in workshops. Someone might raise an eyebrow and say, "This appears to be written in free verse." "Oh no," I'd reply, "it's written in sprung accentuals with variant lines."
It takes twenty to thirty minutes for plaster to harden enough for removal. I did well during the wait not to tear it off with my bare hands. Once the plaster was ready, Harold fired up the cast saw and cut along the rubber tube. Cast saws don't have a rotating blade; rather, they cut using vibration. This one buzzed wickedly. I wanted the cast off quickly, but once Harold had finished his run with the buzz saw, he had to cut through the remaining matrix fibers with some heavy-duty scissors. Then he pulled out the rubber tube. I tried to wiggle my leg at this point, but there was still not a bit of room. Tied down, nailed down, I couldn't even twitch a muscle. Of course, I could move my other muscles, but I was focused on my casted leg, my constrained jambe.
Marvin Bell, "The Impure Every Time"
Harold used the spreader next, and at last I had a little room. It felt great:
air on my leg, and I could actually move it a bit. Pulling my leg out of the cast, though, was dicey. Since Harold was going to use the cast as a mold, he had cut it only once rather than making the two cuts that would have allowed the cast to come right off. He had to pull the sides of the cast apart with his bare hands while I worked my leg free, wincing as the hairs which stuck to the plaster were wrenched out.
Oh, but it was worth every sprung follicle to have my leg free. The joy of wiggling a kneecap! I waggled my leg around, rubbed it and washed it, and waited until the last possible minute to put my old brace back on. I told Harold how glad I was that I didn't have to wear a cast for months at a time anymore.
Age thirteen: Leg lengths are thirty and three-fourths and thirty-four and three-fourths.
There is a community of devotees who like to wear casts and have their sex partners wear casts. Check them out on the Internet they love to go out in public with casts that they don't structurally need. People with this fetish seem to have a preference for leg casts, though hand, arm, and shoulder are also popular. Is this a new formalism?
American poets tend to overvalue the formal aspects of their art.
Sunshine, our cranky old coal-black cat, woke me up this morning. Every once in a while we let her sleep in the bedroom with us, and last night was one of those times. During the night she inched her way up from the foot of the bed, and when I awoke she had all four paws on the small of my back, pushing against my body. I understand: sometimes we need something to push against. I still threw her out of the bedroom.
Though I tried to appear cool, I always hated it when the doctors would measure my legs. For one thing, I never measured up. For another, they would always dig their thumbs into my hips, knees, and ankles, searching out just the right spots. I don't remember for sure, but I imagine deep, dark bruises at hip, knee, and ankle. The pleasure of taking pains.
A. R. Ammons says, "A poem is a walk;' and he cites four key resemblances:
first, each involves the whole person, mind and body; second, each is unreproducible: if poem B exactly reproduces "Ode on a Grecian Urn," for example, we call it the Keats poem and get rid of poem B, since we don't need it; third, walks and poems turn and return each defines its shape as it unfolds; and fourth, each has its own characteristic bodily motion, which we can only know by entering into it.
When I walk places, I take as direct a path as possible. I may stop to enjoy the view, to smell the fresh-baked bread or the lilies of the valley, but I would rather dodge cars, trucks, and buses by walking at an angle across a busy street than walk all the way up to the corner, take the crosswalk, and backtrack. Wasted steps.
When I walk, my body goes sideways as well as forward. I lean to the left something to do with balance, I suppose. When I walk, my left knee points one way, my left foot another, my right foot still another. Don't worry I usually manage to get where I'm going. But when I walk, some part of me is mindful of the output of energy, mindful of the pressure my brace puts on odd spots on my leg, mindful of the years of sores and scars and pain that have been some greater or lesser part of walking for me. I may enjoy the walk I may even walk for pleasure but when I walk, I aim to get somewhere. If my meters are sprung, if my feet are uneven, if my path is irregular, that's just how I walk. And how I write.
Author and playwright Charles Mee contracted polio as a teen. He writes:
I find, when I write, that I really don't want to write well-made sentences and paragraphs, narratives that flow, structures that have a sense of wholeness and balance, books that feel intact. Intact people should write intact books with sound narratives built of sound paragraphs that unfold with a sense of dependable cause and effect, solid structures you can rely on. That is not my experience of the world. I like a book that feels like a crystal goblet that has been thrown to the floor and shattered, so that its pieces, when they are picked up and arranged on a table, still describe a whole glass, but the glass itself lies in shards. To me, sentences should veer and smash up, careen out of control, get underway and find themselves unable to stop, switch directions suddenly and irrevocably, break off, come to a sighing inconclusiveness. If a writer's writings constitute a "body of work," then my body of work, to feel true to me, must feel fragmented. And then, too, if you find it hard to walk down the sidewalk, you like, in the freedom of your mind, to make a sentence that leaps and dances now and then before it comes to a sudden stop.
I feel so sad for Chuck Mee. The connection between the body of his work and the physical body which is the ground for that work is profound. But I'm saddened by his sense of his body as not just unreliable all bodies are inherently unreliable but as less than whole. This body, which enlivens whatever there is of him, which in some fundamental way is him, is whole as it is just a different whole than he expected when he was a boy. Perhaps this experience of less-than-wholeness comes from a comparison of life before polio with life after, a comparison not as readily available to those of us with lifelong impairments. But I suspect that, for most everyone, their adult body is not what they expected in youth. Maybe Mee's body diverges farther from youthful expectations than most. But it's still whole, for all its rich uniqueness.
Robert Frost says that our language has virtually but two meters, strict iambic and loose iambic. Maybe I walk in loose iambic.
You can't pick up a literary quarterly without noting how often free verse submits to conventions more hobbling than meter. Why else would so many poets use the same voice, concern, attack, or sentiment?
It was common in the twentieth century for people who used wheelchairs to be described as "confined to a wheelchair" or "wheelchair-bound." To the people who use them, though, wheelchairs are not binding or confining so much as liberating and empowering they enable those who cannot walk, who might otherwise be confined to a back room or an institution, to move around under their own power. Wheelchair users may be confined by architectural conventions such as stairs and small bathroom doorways, but the wheelchair-bound can often travel farther, faster, and easier than those of us hobbled by a reliance on our feet.
My brace may look hobbling to some, an unwieldy thing that ends in a big fat shoe with extra inches of sole. Daddy, why does he wear that thing? Mamá, mira su zapato es grande. And the brace can be constricting, chafing, damned uncomfortable one of my favorite moments in the day is when I take my brace off. But, like a wheelchair, my brace is liberating and empowering, too, good for both walking and standing. One of my favorite moments in the day is when I put my brace on and stand up tall.
The Latin iambus derives from a Greek word meaning "a cripple." The short syllable represents the lame foot, the long one the foot descending with normal strength, perhaps with the added strength of a cane.
We can forgive Shapiro and Beum their ignorance about canes, but there is little use in placing the cane with the stronger foot and jambe they do not need the support. The cane goes with "the lame foot" But God bless those adaptive devices, in poetry and in prose. By the way, iamb is itself a trochee.
Shapiro and Beum, A Prosody Handbook
According to Robert Wallace in Writing Poems, beginning a poem with anacrusis omission of an unstressed syllable can push the poem off to "a sharp, confident start." But: "When such a defective foot occurs within a line, however, it is called a lame foot and usually suggests disorder or a dramatic break."
Just like a cripple to beg for attention.
Again, age thirteen: Measurements today are eighty-six and one-half on the left and ninety-seven and one-half on the right from anterior-superior spine to the plantar surface of the foot. They have switched back to metric here. At 2.54 centimeters to the inch, this works out to a hair over thirty-four inches on the left, 38.38 on the right. We should keep in mind that this is measuring all the way to the soles of my feet, not just to the malleolus the ankle bone.
A few summers ago I spent several weeks in San Francisco in close company with a group of scholars cultivating the fertile field of disability studies. Almost half of our group was disabled, most cases involving sensory or mobility things.
We were on a college campus far from home and several blocks from public transportation and the many joys of the wonderful city. When I walk, no strolls for me I tend to move at a pretty good clip, where momentum works for me, where I can expend less energy per meter. In San Francisco some of my best friends walked slower, sometimes far slower, than I did. I became very conscious of my walk as I worked to slow down, to take on the discipline of someone else's pace. I knew it was worth the struggle, worth the energy and pain and frustration, but it continued to be work right up to the last day.
Age fourteen: The leg lengths today measure from the anterior-superior iliac spine to the medial malleolus ninety on the right and seventy-eight on the left; the apparent length ninety-nine on the right and one hundred nine on the left. This measurement was taken two days after Christmas that year. Maybe this doctor got left and right mixed up as he moved from the middle to the end of the sentence, or maybe it was a bit of a Christmas miracle despite being more than four inches shorter in measurement, my left leg jumped to a few inches longer than my right in apparent length. Medicine may be best left to the doctors, but I'm glad this one was not carrying a knife that day.
According to the poet John Ciardi, every poet "dredges himself in hope of bringing to song and form or to saying and form some shape of his own life, a shape brought up from so deep a level in himself that it will suggest to a good reader his own shapes and his own depths."
Many poets argue that traditional forms give something to work against, a kind of resistance training. This is how we build muscles, how we build power working against all the noise, the silence, the stare, and the averted glance. I do not mean to rail against set forms and strong meters I love them. I don't want to hide behind them as some do, but I want their powerful tools in my chest. I'd love to march with the drill team, too stepping, turning, stopping as one. But I've never been very good at coloring within the lines, let alone walking them. Mine is not the backbeat but the offbeat, the irregular, the free lance, the dropped stitch, the dappled.
Perhaps I've finally given up my dream of a career in modeling. Perhaps I don't after all have to live down to Madison Avenue's ideas of what bodies should be, all regulated jambs and even features. I'm too sexy for my shirt, too sexy for my brace, too sexy for my skin. Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.
I like to use wooden matches, the kind you can strike anywhere. Mostly I strike them on the box.
Life as manifested to us is a function of the asymmetry of the universe and of the consequences of this fact. The universe is asymmetrical. Life is dominated by asymmetrical actions.... I can even imagine that all living species are primordially, in their structure and in their external forms, a function of cosmic asymmetry.
Age fifteen: Final Discharge. Leg length measured to the heel on the right is one hundred one, and eighty-six on the left. He has occasional episodes of pain.
I have another confession to make: I love my body scars, lumps, limp, and all. I'm afraid if I tell you that you'll make this into another inspirational cripple story. It's not. Don't do that to me or to yourself.
William Logan again: "Art is long and life is short, but sometimes the life isn't short enough." Sometimes I wonder if my life will be shorter than it otherwise might have been because of all the disability-related stresses. I know that no body goes through this life unscathed, that life marks and wears us all, but sometimes I wonder if my juice is leaking out a little faster because of my body's uniquenesses.
I love poems, too, far more than I can say here. And if I can make poems that others come to love, what a wonderful thing.
I'm not sure if I want all poems to limp, but I know this: all the interesting ones do, all the lovely ones do, in one way or another.
Stephen Adams. Poetic Designs: An Introduction to Meters, Verse Forms, and Figures of Speech. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview, 1997.
A. R. Ammons. "A Poem Is a Walk." In Claims for Poetry. Ed. Donald Hall. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1982.
Marvin Bell. "The Impure Every Time." In Claims for Poetry. Ed. Donald Hall. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1982.
John Ciardi. Quoted in Clarence Socwell, "Struck by Lightning President's Message." Strophes 37, no. 2 (October 2000).
Frank Close. Lucifers Legacy: The Meaning of Asymmetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Billy Collins. "Paradelle for Susan." In Picnic, Lightning. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998.
Alfred Corn. The Poem’s Heartbeat: A Manual of Prosody. Ashland, OR: Story Line, 1998.
Stephen Cushman. Fictions of Form in American Poetry, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993.
Ralph Waldo Emerson. Essays and Poems. London: Dent, 1992.
Robert Frost. "The Figure a Poem Makes." In Collected Poems, Prose, and Plays. New York: Library of America, 1995.
John Haines. "Further Reflections on Line and the Poetic Voice." In A Field Guide to Contemporary Poetry and Poetics. Eds. Stuart Friebert and David Young. White Plains, NY: Longman, 1980.
Donald Hall. Goatfoot Milktongue Twinbird: Interviews, Essays, and Notes on Poetry, 1970-1976. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1978.
Robert Hass. "One Body: Some Notes on Form." In Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry. Hopewell, NJ: Ecco, 1984.
William Logan. All the Rage. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998.
Longman Dictionary of Poetic Terms. Eds. Jack Myers and Michael Simms. White Plains, NY: Longman, 1989.
Charles Mee. A Nearly Normal Life. Boston: Little, Brown, 1999.
Mary Oliver. A Poetry Handbook. San Diego: Harvest/Harcourt, 1994.
William Packard. The Poets Dictionary: A Handbook of Prosody and Poetic Devices. New York: Harper, 1989.
Karl Shapiro and Robert Beum. A Prosody Handbook. New York: Harper, 1965.
John Vernon. Poetry and the Body. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979.
Robert Wallace. Writing Poems. 3rd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.
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Jim Ferris's The Hospital Poems will be available from the Main Street Rag Bookstore on October 15, 2004.