To the Editors:
In “The Confinement of Free Verse” (May, 1987), Mr. Brad Leithauser argues that the poet makes a “prosodic contract” with the reader and that as free verse makes no such contract it is bankrupt. I find Mr. Leithauser’s terms revealing. He wishes to establish meter again so that the writing of poetry will be a predictable and sound investment. There is, however, an element in poetry that is unpredictable: talent.

I see no point to an argument that is based on the reading of bad poems. Mr. Leithauser speaks of the “jadedness and self-congratulation” of the usual, bad free-verse poem. But this is not a criticism of free verse—it is a criticism of the content and tone of bad poems. Bad poetry proves nothing except that the poet is incompetent. Would Mr. Leithauser like to have some examples of bad poetry written in meter? They are easily available—not every poet who writes in meter is...


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