RT wouldn’t have thought it possible earlier in his life, but over time he’s discovered that he is something of a formalist. Blame it on Gilgamesh, but, no, it goes back farther than that. Doubtless to his days of reading French in High School–and his work as an editor has sharpened his eye for details and organization.
What RT has discovered in his professional work is the lamentable state of language instruction, including English, in the United States. Highly educated people do not know how to string together a sentence, and not because they are stupid, but because American society deems English an easy subject to master, a challenge only for the dim-wits among us.
Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. Learning to write English, in part because the language has shed so many of the rules that help students of other languages find their way in the thickets of verbiage, is a demanding discipline. And English poetry is subtle art; like its brother, English prose, our poetry at first glance seems casual and unstudied, but upon close reading reveals a depth of craft and wisdom. Much must be learned; practice must be constant.
And so, this page devoted to the basics of English prosody, that is, the rules of English poetry. Over the next several weeks, RT, with the goal of helping writers sharpen and expand their skills, will be adding linked pages on various aspects of the craft. And to start, RT offers a page on the basic unit of poetic composition, The Line.