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22 June, 2004

Literary form

Green Fairy mentions a specific form of poetry, the villanelle, and gives an example.  Wikipedia offers a full definition, which triggered a thought.

Does adherence to such a rigid form have any aesthetic merit in itself?  Doesn't it degrade writing to a mere technical exercise?  "I can write a villanelle, aren't I clever?"  Would anyone other than an Eng. Lit. undergraduate even care?

The resulting poem may be beautiful, profound or otherwise praiseworthy, but I'd have to question whether that's in spite of conformity to a restrictive artificial structure, and whether the form itself adds anything to the result.

I suspect many thousand technically-correct villanelles are artistically just plain awful, the authors having stifled true creativity in the laboured effort to meet a strict definition.

Which certainly isn't a comment on GF's example! I'm speaking in general.


"The villanelle form is too strict"
Said a student not of English Lit.
But I do disagree
Because I can see
That the same is true of limericks.

Posted by Mr Lyons at June 25, 2004 04:44 PM

I'm not convinced that 'strict' rhymes with 'Lit.' ;)

A limerick is different, somehow. Part of the fun is to use that literary form to make a joke or a quick point, so I don't find it so objectionable (hmm... that's overstating my opinion, but I'll let it stand). Except in a few classic cases, a limerick is doggerel, and supposed to be throwaway; it's not art, and barely craft.

When literary form becomes more important than content, I start to question its point.

Posted by NRT at June 25, 2004 05:47 PM
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