Ever since Ezra Pound and the Imagist movement of the early 20th century, American poetry seems to have almost slipped entirely away from the traditional, lyrical forms we see in poets such as Dickinson and Poe. In today’s world (or in America, at any rate), it is modernism in the form of free verse that seems to dominate contemporary poetry- and this to such a degree that it seems that one seldom sees poetry written around the idea of meter or a rhythmic scheme.
So you could imagine how overwhelmingly delighted I was when I came to read Daniel Klawitter’s chapbook, Runaway Muse. This is a book full of lyrically composed poems that have some of the coolest and most creative rhyme schemes that I’ve come across in a long time.
Take, for example, the last stanza of one of his poems, Angelic (which plays off of the last word of the previous stanza, ‘fragrance’). Speaking of angels, Klawitter writes:
From sky to stone
Know that even
Our earthbound bones
Cry out to God
The attention given to composition like this is just incredible. What’s immediately impressive is that the poem itself is very reflective of Anacreontic verse (an ancient form of Greek lyrical verse that almost no one uses anymore).
About the stanza itself? ... remember that from ‘fragrance’ Klawitter writes: "These heavenly vagrants / Who Descend / From sky to stone." By using the rhymes ‘fragrance’ and ‘vagrants’ he strings together the two stanza perfectly, and just when the tempo seems to pause between ‘descend’ and ‘stone’ the reader is thrown into a rhythmic crescendo which is beautifully achieved by using alliteration in line 5 (earthbound bones) and between lines 7 and 8 (praise and poems).
In fact, in a subtle style similar to that of Dickinson’s, Klawitter cleverly develops a rhyme sequence by using words that obliquely rhyme- he starts with stone, then bends the rhythm towards bones, and completes the climatic point with the perfect alliterated word … poems. Stone, bones, poems ... the stanza sounds so nice and fluid, and fun, when read aloud- very good writing.
There are also internal rhythms that our poet effortlessly plays with; rhythms that dedicated Performance poets are very aware of; sonorous, internal rhyme schemes that intentionally contribute to the fluid cohesion of the speech itself- and this without deviating from point or premise.
Take for example the opening lines of Klawitter's poem, The Gospel According To Barabbas ... notice the internal rhythmic weaving and alliteration that holds the poem together without stealing from the message itself (Barabbas' voice):
Why don't you MOVE, man?
Break an arm off the cross
And beat those soldiers silly saying:
How long, O Lord, until you return?
Rumor has it you are Mother Mary’s illegitimate son.
A son on the run
Betrayed by a snitch!
In this particular work, cadence seems secondary to what the poet wants you to really know (and what Barabbas, a ruthless insurgent in the eyes of Caesar, ultimately acknowledges) - that Jesus, seemingly weak and disheveled, is the epitome of Strength and Life, of Resurrection and of Advent. The poem makes you realize a truth, never openly suggesting it at all- and all of it is remarkably accomplished through the latent, albeit, guiding force of the poem's tempo.
In his tribute poem to Miles Davis (Birth Of The Cool) one feels a distinct jazziness throughout. From his liturgical poem against nihilism I personally felt a sharp, cold rebuke- as if I were flirting with nihilist ideologies! Give Me Your Tired provoked in me fresh feelings of rebellion, the audacity to refuse one more day of oppression- a really good poem.
In short, Runaway Muse is a refreshing book in the world of contemporary poetry. Far from the rote mechanicalism one sees in the attempt to mimic classical forms; and far from the banal, abstract articulations many modernist poets have succumbed to, Runaway Muse is a collection of poems that are infused with vitality and freshness, having a lyrical nature that is both inviting and sincere.
I’m grateful, as a reader and writer of poetry, to have had the chance to come across such a sublime and delightful collection of poems. I highly recommend getting a copy, if you haven’t already.
To learn more about our poet and read some of his other works please go to the following link: Daniel Klawitter.
You can also purchase his works, Runaway Muse (mentioned here), and An Epistemology of Flesh (another one of his collections) on Amazon.