Poetry should be metered, because metered poetry is, quite simply, better than free verse. This is for the same reason that realist art trumps impressionist art and that Baroque music trumps rock and roll and hip-hop. It is because art, in its best state, is not about the experience of the individual, it is about the shared experience of all humanity.
When you read a poem that is understandable and follows the most basic conventions that are accepted in the English-speaking world then it can be widely experienced and appreciated, whether by a young woman in Iowa or an old man in New Delhi.
The same goes for realist art and Baroque music. You may not like the poem, artwork, or music and may not find it particularly stimulating, but at the very least you can generally understand what it is, what some of its goals are, how it defines goodness, and how it strives toward that goodness. It is fairly easy to tell whether it has been executed decently or not.
In the case of a poem, if it maintains a balanced meter and if it relies on the standard conventions of poetry, such as rhyme, alliteration, metaphor, simile, and others, then it is clear what it values as good. Now, whether such a conventional poem is actually good or not will depend on the contemporary message being conveyed and whether or not it is clear, engaging, and worthwhile. The prerequisite, though, is that the poem meet the basic standards for being good otherwise your poem may have a message that is clear, engaging, and worthwhile, but the amount of people it would have the potential to reach would be severely fragmented and diminished.
The poetry, art, and music proliferated today moves further and further toward fragmentation in perspective. If you do not explain to a person why a modern poem, painting, or song is supposedly good, there is a strong chance they will have no idea that it is good at all.
More than Words
This is not merely a philosophical discussion. The shared experience of humanity, either ignored by most modern poetry, music, and art, or embraced by most classical poetry, music, and art, is something with real scientific implications. The most obvious being the Mozart effect whereby plants and children have been scientifically shown to benefit from listening to music by 18th century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Yet, the Mozart effect is really just the tip of the iceberg. British scientist Rupert Sheldrake calls this connection between our fellow men morphic resonance and posits that each person and animal has a morphogenetic field. The morphic resonance and morphogenetic fields operate across time and space with the connection being stronger between organisms and things that are similar.
Sheldrake discusses these concepts in the context of the human genetic code. Modern science poured billions of dollars into the Human Genome Project with the theory being that we could find bad genes that cause diseases passed on, supposedly, in your genes from your parents and could find genes that explain your physical, and potentially mental, characteristics similarly passed on. Indeed, people today say something is “in his genes” or say someone has “bad genes” or “good genes.”
Sheldrake posits this whole approach is wrong. Mainstream science’s obsession with the human body and genes is like someone who, after seeing a television for the first time, takes it apart and wonders how the components create the images on the screen. It is the intangible signal coming in that creates the images. Similarly, it is the intangible morphogenetic fields and morphic resonance that determine what will happen. If your field is very similar to your father’s field and he had heart disease then it may be similarly warped in such a way as to create heart disease in you.
Sheldrake’s theory goes a long way in explaining inexplicable but observable phenomena in human and animal life. The implication for poetry and the arts is also profound. Regardless of what spiritual persuasion, or lack thereof, you may be from, reality as we know it is different from what mainstream science has told us. The intangible has much more power than we realize.
When poetry, art, or music aligns with the time-tested traditions left by millennia of poets, artists, and musicians and is widely accepted by people today, then it could truly have a positive impact on you and society, physically, mentally, and spiritually. It positively activates the scientifically and undeniably real connection between all of us. Call it what you want: morphic resonance, the shared human experience, or simply good poetry.
Evan Mantyk is president of the Society of Classical Poets (classicalpoets.org) as well as a longtime writer and editor for The Epoch Times.
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