Adventures in Form, ed. Tom Chivers
reviewed by Hannah Rosefield
‘I hear ghostly Academics in Limbo screeching about form,’ wrote Allen Ginsberg in his notes to the 1959 audio recording of Howl. Lest we doubt that this is a bad thing, he follows up with ‘A word on the Academies: poetry has been attacked by an ignorant & frightened bunch of bores who don’t understand how it’s made… [and] wouldn’t know Poetry if it came up and buggered them in broad daylight.’
Ginsberg is not alone: many readers and writers of the past hundred years have regarded poetic form as the preserve of academics whose obsession with counting iambs and spotting spondees acts as a barrier to understanding. Adventures in Form: A Compendium of Poetic Forms, Rules and Constraints, beautifully produced by independent publishing house Penned in the Margins, is determined to prove form’s naysayers wrong. Featuring established (and establishment) names such as Ruth Padel and Paul Muldoon, as well as younger, lesser-known poets, it is a splendid demonstration of how the prioritization of form can provide a freedom absent from free verse.