Secret Life
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Secret Life Marianne Boruch Line. Of course—the major element in the great divide between poetry and prose, one of those first-glance definitions: a set of lines might well equal a poem, no matter what those lines contain. But this notion misleads. After all, it has been said endlessly that prose “chopped up into lines” isn’t necessarily a poem. And poems do occur without lines. And sometimes even outside of poetry itself, if we are to believe Wallace Stevens on the subject. Still. Still, the presence of line is a key reason poems mime, on the page, what’s true, meaning what complicates, and therefore what resembles things as they really are. For starters, line is an architectural device that suggests what is profoundly interior, bringing up pause, hesitation, the heard and visual sense—oh, I get it—of something coming into being, right now. That interiority works directly against the bright, light, rational feel of the sentence—the very public sentence threaded down the page to make those lines. It’s ironic. The famously secret life of the poem is both revealed and protected by that good-doggy social contract of the complete sentence (oh, hard-working subject, verb, object!), even the ghost of one, via the fragment. Because the line against the larger wealth of the sentence is a rebel thing which undercuts order. With it comes all that can’t be fully controlled: the irrational, the near-deranged, the deeply personal and individual utterance. Thus poetry. And the line—kept almost in line by the commonplace sentence—enacts its own small, large drama in direct cahoots with the strange, the unending. ...


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