The Caesura’s Constantly Shifting Net

Saturday, May 4th

In one of those quirks of a so-called poetic career, I have received in my old age a surprising number of requests to write blurbs for books of poetry. Fortunately, I have enjoyed the work of the poets who have asked me for a back-cover endorsement and have not had to figure out some diplomatic way to turn down the invitation.

Most recently, I have been working on a blurb for a debut volume of superb poetry by Alexandra Umlas, At the Table of the Unknown, which will soon be published by Eric Morago’s Moon Tide Press. Her metrical work is exceptionally skillful, and it tempted me to quip that “If writing in meter was compared to tennis, in Frost’s acerbic remark, then watch out for Umlas’s wicked backhand.”

I ended up not using that conceit in my blurb, but Umlas’s deft use of the caesura led me to reconsider exactly what the “net” of tennis is; a few volleys of thought later, it occurred to me that Frost, with his usual gnomic humor, meant it literally: it is the caesura. If indeed, “rhythm is the total sound of a line’s movement,” then it is the constantly shifting “net” of the caesura that makes the line an encounter with the existential plasticity of language’s essential flux.