“Always expanding and enriching the relationship without breaking it”

“Versification involves a continual reconciliation of two apparently opposed elements.  One is rhythm, in the sense of the fluid and shifting movements of live speech.  The other is meter, in the sense of a fixed, abstract pattern according to which those movements are organized.  And this steady and ongoing reconciliation between meter and rhythm is almost like a loving relationship between two people.  There exists a harmony between that is stable and constant and, at the same time, ever-changing and lively.  The two elements are engaged in a spirited dialectic that is always expressing itself in new ways and is always expanding and enriching the relationship without breaking it.  Furthermore, just as every vital interpersonal relationship has its own character – no two being quite the same – so in the work of every excellent poet, the interplay between meter and rhythm will have special traits and vivacities.” Timothy Steele, All the Fun’s In How You Say A Thing

I’ve just begun reading Steele’s highly-regarded book on poetic meter.  This fragment (with which Steele starts the book) illuminates some of the qualities shared by both well-turned poetry and ‘loving’ human relationships, and thus the way they work at their best.  Push and pull, insistence and acquiescence, cleaving and joining, stubbornness and acceptance, structure and fluidity.  Marvelous.

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