Skip to main content


Poetic Adventures in Space 1: Right Margin Flush (RMF)

Recently in a submission of my work to the magazine Magma I was asked about the layout of the poem’s I submitted. This gave me an opportunity to think about the features I had been using in what I hope to be my first collection of poetry “Lines in Space”. As the title suggests, the visual rhythm of lines on the page is an important part of my most recent work.

What I discovered was that in the four poems I had sent in I was using three techniques that do crop up in other work of mine:
1) right margin flush
2) reverse triadic foot
3) internal line-break

I thought it might be interesting to post examples of each here and maybe give my ideas as to why I use the techniques and the rhythmical effects they seem to have for me.

Right Margin Flush
For me, all lineated poetry is written in at least two columns. The left column is traditionally occupied by text, is flush to the left margin and ragged at its own right margin. The second column is traditionally devoid of text, although not always for example Ashbery’s “Litany” or Blau DuPlessis’ “Drafts”, and flush to the right margin and with a ragged left margin.

The right column can be eradicated by the use of prose, or it can be occupied by the use of columnular work. Or, as in the case of right margin flush is can be displaced to the left as is the case in this extract from the beginning of my poem “Old-fashioned night thoughts”: (note had to use dashes here to reproduce the effects in html for blogger)
-----------------------------------------------“by the light of the moon I see
------------------------it felt lonely in Munich and guess what I liked it! it
------------------is good to suffer for once and for one last time be deep
----------potentiality passed me on its bike a crane arm swings ‘cross a
----------------------------sliced-n-diced blue disk sheds and thus I gather
---you said: couldn’t you just try to be around in the moment not fill it?”

The effects of such a gesture are almost too numerous so I will simply list them here.

1.It produces a rhythmic shift across the whole breadth of the poem making it profoundly horizontal as well as vertical. Especially if you then return to the left margin at some point
2.It questions the very predominance of left-handed, western (literally) poetics. 3.You are forced to “see” the normally invisible right column and realise how all lineated poetry (most poetry) is articulated by the negated or ignored presence of spatial absence.
4.You must contend with the edge of the page as also the end of the line and see the spacing there, between one line and the next, as also an impossible spacing between text presence and absence.
5.You attend to the spatial framing essential to the poetic work from the parergons and outworks (cf Derrida) of the titular, institutional and book laws to the centrality of the end of the poem (cf Agamben) as the defining ambiguity of poetic singularity when juxtaposed with prose.
6.Naturally there are lots of local things you can do from spatial metaphors, right hand, over there, the east; to zig-zag patterning that can almost become unpleasant to see/read.

I am sure there are even more results from this radical relocation of the space of the poem but my overall conclusion is that from the development of projective, page-space verse by Olson, there is a further option which is not simply to use the whole page as a site, but also to use parts of the page to undermine assumptions about lines on the page. RMF, while a mode of enhanced, spatio-rhythmical expression, is also a form of aesthetic critique.

___________________________What once was here is now forever over there.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

John Ashbery, Some Trees

John Ashbery, Some Trees
(New York: Corinth Books, 1970)
Originally published (New York: 1956)

Close Readings and annotations of every poem in the collection March-April 1997 in preparation for In the Process of Poetry: The New York School and the Avant-Garde (Bucknell UP, 2001) currently in the process of complete update (2013)

"Two Scenes," 9

This is a poem about duality so in this sense the title actually refers to what the poem is ‘about’. John Shoptaw notes, for example, the phonic mirroring of the poem which he sees as an element later phased out as is the “linear introversion” to be found here. Thus we have the following phonic recurrences: “we see us as we”; “Destiny...destiny”; “News...noise”; “”; “-y” and rhymes of section 2; and “...old man/...paint cans”.

This simple but subtle semiotic device is then developed structurally as well, as the title hints. So ‘scene’ 2 reflects back internally onto ‘scene’ 1. “Machinery” recalls the train as does the canal; g…

John Ashbery, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

John Ashbery, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror
(Manchester: Carcanet, 1977)
First Published (New York: Viking, 1975)

Close Readings and annotations of every poem in the collection March-April 1997 in preparation for In the Process of Poetry: The New York School and the Avant-Garde (Bucknell UP, 2001)


· Shoptaw notes that this return to poetry is dominated by images of waiting, that narrative (especially fairy-tale) returns, as do the musically based titles, there are no prose poems and no fixed forms such as sonnets of pantoums, most are free verse paragraphs, also bring forward a new American speech, more direct and inclusive.

“As One Put Drunk into a Packet-Boat”, 1-2

· Shoptaw notes this was the original title for the collection, marking a self-consciously Romantic return to poetry, recording the thoughts of “I” from afternoon to night, just outside a childhood country home. Has a pastoral crisis narrative in that a summer storm gathers but passes leaving the poet relieved i…

The Grenfell Tower Murders

The 72 victims of Grenfell Tower Fire were murdered, victims of the violence of neglect.  Here is the proof.
A year ago, a fire started on the fourth floor of Grenfell Tower, due to a faulty appliance.  The fire spread quickly up the side of the building because the tower had been refurbished in 2016.  Flammable cladding had been added to the exterior building as part of an £8 million refit which appears to have primarily made the tower more cosmetically pleasing.  The money was not spent on improving fire safety within the building, it would appear, a cause for concern for residents’ groups for years. The initial cladding that was to be used is not illegal in the UK but its use is restricted in other countries.  To save costs a cheaper version was eventually attached to the building, a more flammable version. 
Once the fire caught, residents were advised to stay in their flats.  In 99% of all cases this is the best advice, because flats are designed to be “fire resistant boxes” surr…