“Most of the great masters of the free verse line came to it through writing formal meters, formal verse. One of the things that it gave them was the sense of a line as a unit, phrases and lines as units, because when you’re writing in traditional meter—be it pentameter, or tetrameter, or hexameter—you always have to come down to a line. It’s a line, and then there’s another line, and then there’s another line, and they go together to make sentences, of course; but if you don’t know this, if you don’t come to free verse that way, it seems to me you tend to write sort of blocky little sentence stanzas, and you worry about line breaks. If people would worry less about line breaks and more about lines, the breaks would take care of themselves. There are six or so basic kinds of free verse lines. There’s the Whitman line, which is self-contained. Most of them are sentences, but they’re all self-contained units. Then there’s a Pound line, which is the syntactical unit line. The there’s a Williams line, which is asyntactical, cross-grain; it cuts at odd places, toward the direction of speech, as he said, toward the measure of speech. And then there are the Stevens and Eliot lines, which are much the same, except that Stevens’s is probably a bit more plastic, whereas Eliot’s is sort of expanded blank verse. Then there’s the Hemingway line, which is the proselike line, currently so popular, the long proselike line. I say it’s a Hemingway line just because he wrote such good prose. Somewhere in those free verse masters—Hemingway was not a free verse master—those six free verse lines, you’ll find an example of most of the free verse lines we write, that you write, that I write.” — Charles Wright
—From an interview of Charles Wright with Carol Ellis, which first appeared in the Iowa Journal of Literary Studies in 1986 and is included in Charles Wright’s Halflife: Improvisations and Interviews, 1977-87 (University of Michigan Press, 1988).
[“An Elegant Epigraph” serves as the recurring title for a continuing series of posts with entries containing brief but engaging, eloquent, and elegant excerpts of prose commentary introducing subjects particularly appropriate to discussion of literature, creative writing, or other relevant matters addressing complementary forms of art and music. These apposite extracts usually concern topics specifically relating to poetry or poetics. Each piece is accompanied by a recommendation that readers seek out the original publication to obtain further information and to become familiar with the complete context in which the chosen quotation appeared as well as other views presented by its author.]