Monday, May 26, 2014

Jules Laforgue

Jules Laforgue [Caponnetto-Poesiaperta]

David Arkell's ludicrously ill-informed summation of Jules Laforgue's invention of vers libre from Arkell's informative but mediocre Looking for Laforgue: an informal biography:

Laforgue’s vers libre had emerged in a way that was natural, gradual and inevitable. It came directly from his own previous poetry and from nowhere else. So desperate was he to burst out of his formal strait-jacket that certain pages of the Complaintes were already vers libre in all but name (for example, the last fifteen lines of the ‘Complainte des formalités nuptiales’). Then again there are highly wrought passages of prose in the Moralités which, given a nudge, also break up into vers libre (as we have seen in parts of ‘Hamlet’). But vers libre, as evolved by Laforgue, was something quite personal. It was to be followed very closely — in a spirit of homage — by T. S. Eliot. But none of Laforgue’s contemporaries produced anything comparable. The two so-called vers libre poems by Rimbaud are irrelevant here, as is the entire output of Whitman, not to mention the Kahns and Krysinskas. Neither Whitman nor Rimbaud used rhyme in their free verse, whereas with Laforgue it remains an important element. The essence of Laforgue’s vers libre is that it does not abandon the best of traditional poetry. With great skill it preserves all that is worth saving. Without ever rejecting exact rhymes, he adds the subtleties of internal rhymes and half-rhymes. He never spurns an old quatrain or couplet or rolling alexandrine if it can do something for the poem. Above all he includes wit and keeps out rhetoric. It was a form of vers libre that even Eliot in the end unfortunately rejected, though ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ and ‘Portrait of a Lady’ were in a sense its apotheosis in English.

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