Verse as Physical Phenomenon
from an interview with Steven Ratiner
I would have to say this: verse is a physical phenomenon.
The sound of poetry seems to be preeminent. I mean, if it
doesn’t have a melody or a rhythm or a meter--some kind
of physical emanation--it just becomes a set of semantic
signals on the page. It just doesn’t hold, so to speak, as verse.
Verse is justified differently from prose. Prose is
technically justified by a printer… Each printer can justify
a piece of prose in a different way, and the rhythm won’t
be affected. Whereas verse is justified by the line ending of
each line; it has to be printed like that every time. That is
why the medium of verse means something. The word
versus actually means “the turning.” So verse means the
turn at the end of the line, and the turn into the next line.
And therefore, whether it’s traditional verse in couplets or
tetrameters…or (more open) forms of free verse, that turn
is still a physical torsion. And I can’t imagine any poet not
feeling it within the body.