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Formalism in Contemporary Poetry


Formalism in Contemporary Poetry

Formalism in Contemporary Poetry

Formalism in Contemporary Poetry

Formalism in Contemporary Poetry

Formalism, characterized by its adherence to traditional structures and poetic devices, is experiencing a resurgence in today’s poetic landscape. Despite the rise of free verse and experimental forms, many poets are revisiting formalistic approaches, finding new ways to employ rhyme, meter, and established structures. This return to form is evident in the works of poets like Dana Gioia, whose collection “99 Poems” showcases a mastery of traditional forms, demonstrating that formalism can coexist harmoniously with contemporary themes.

Formalism in Contemporary Poetry – Key Features

Rediscovering the Power of Rhyme and Meter

In a departure from the free verse dominant in the mid-20th century, contemporary poets are rediscovering the expressive potential of rhyme and meter. The utilization of structured poetic elements allows for a musicality and rhythm that resonate with readers. Poets like Mary Jo Salter, in her collection “A Phone Call to the Future,” demonstrate how rhyme and meter can enhance the emotional impact of poetry, bringing a timeless quality to the exploration of modern themes.

Contemporary Sonnets and Haikus

The sonnet and haiku, traditional forms with centuries-old legacies, are finding new life in the hands of contemporary poets. Writers such as Terrance Hayes, in his collection “American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin,” use the sonnet’s strict structure to grapple with issues of race, identity, and political turmoil. Similarly, the brevity and precision of haikus are employed by poets like Billy Collins, offering a distilled and impactful snapshot of everyday moments in the modern world.

Formalism as a Vehicle for Social Commentary

Contrary to the notion that formalism is detached from societal concerns, contemporary poets are using structured forms to engage with pressing social issues. Natasha Trethewey, in her collection “Native Guard,” employs traditional forms to explore the complex history of race and identity in America. By infusing formalism with social commentary, these poets challenge the perception that traditional structures are incompatible with the exploration of contemporary themes.

The Intersection of Technology and Traditional Form

In the age of technology, poets are experimenting with the intersection of formalism and modern mediums. Social media platforms, such as Twitter, with its character limit, have given rise to micro-poetry. Poets like Patricia Lockwood use these constraints creatively, showcasing that traditional forms can adapt to and thrive in the digital age. The brevity required by platforms like Twitter challenges poets to distill their thoughts while maintaining the essence of formalistic expression.

Formalism as a Bridge Between Past and Present

Contemporary poets embracing formalism are not merely nostalgic; rather, they see traditional forms as a bridge connecting past and present. By incorporating established structures, poets create a dialogue with literary traditions while addressing the concerns of the modern world. This dynamic synthesis is evident in the works of contemporary poets like Rita Dove, who seamlessly intertwines classical forms with a contemporary sensibility, demonstrating that formalism is a living and evolving tradition. Formalism in Contemporary Poetry


In today’s poetic expression, formalism is not a rigid adherence to the past but a dynamic engagement with tradition, offering poets a versatile toolkit to explore and articulate the complexities of the contemporary human experience. 0 0 0. Formalism in Contemporary Poetry

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