Saturday, March 15, 2008

Some Questions on Form

In an interview in the latest issue of Poetry the poet A. E. Stallings says that she doesn't believe in writing in form for its own sake, but then goes on to defend forms such as the sonnet. In the same interview, the interviewer says that "Christian Bök has written recently (on the Poetry Foundation blog, Harriet, of course!) that writing poems in form today has begun to take on the character of a "conservation society," protecting an endangered form of poetry at the brink of its extinction, thereby preserving these "styles" for posterity, like a taxidermist stuffing dead owls." This raises several questions regarding form in general -- whether in poetry or in other forms of art.

When you write or paint, which typically comes first: the form or the content? Why? Why choose one form over another? To what extent does content dictate form? To what extent does form dictate content? Is working in a given form merely an attempt to "preserve" the form from extinction? What could such a statement even mean? What are the benefits of writing in a particular form? What, if any, problems are there?

Perhaps we could come up with some more questions along these lines -- but let's begin with these.


Z Mascota said...

The quesions you pose there are interesting...i think i would have some responses to them if it weren't 130 am. I was coming by to thank you for your remark on my site/post about art jewelry. So thanks! Hope to see you again.

Todd Camplin said...

Content is my first consideration. Form informs the content. However, once the content is applied to the form, the content falls away to a subjugation of the form. A hint of content is left through the title.

Troy Camplin said...

I'm wondering if this same process works for others when it comes to form in poetry. I'm currently reviewing my poetry to see if any need work, and to make appropriate changes. I wrote a series of sonnets that I'm looking at right now, and I'm finding that as a revise -- concerned with content, mostly, and form only secondarily -- some hold on to the sonnet form, while others quickly shed it. In particular, those poems that have a dialectical evolution lurking in them hold on to the sonnet form. The content, in that case, suggests the form. Of course, this is a case of using a previously-developed form. I haven't really played with creating any kind of new form that makes use of some element of language, thought, etc. I'd be curious to see what others think about the creation of such new forms.