To make sense of ""free verse"" in theory or in practice, the study of prosody - the function of rhythm in poetry - must be revised and rethought. In this study, Charles Hartman develops a theory of prosody that includes the most characteristic forms of 20th-century poetry. Hartman examines non-metrical verse, discusses the conventions that have emerged in the absence of meter, and shows how these conventions can work prosodically. By analyzing the work of Williams and Eliot - the prosodic masters among early modernists - Hartman traces their influence on more contemporary poets. In his exploration of the means by which a poet controls the reader's temporal experience of poetry, Hartman presents a treatment of the concept of verse.
Charles O. Hartman is professor of English and Poet in Residence at Connecticut College.
Introduction - the prehistory of free verse; some definitions; accentualism, isochrony and the musical fallacy; free verse and prose; counterpoint; the discovery of form; the discovery of meter; free verse and poetry; some contemporaries; full texts of three quoted poems.