Natural Forms (draft)

Literary forms can be sonic (using rhymes or alliteration), typographic (shape poems), lexical (acrostics), numeric (haiku, syllabics), or depend on content. Some of these are considered more natural to use than others, and some are considered more natural to poetry than to prose. For example, forms that depend on sound are considered more applicable to poetry, and are more natural than acrostics - which are commonly dismissed as gimmickry. Forms can be imposed on language from without (adapted from a music form, for example), or can emerge over time "from within". Mechanisms that come into play when a form evolves include It's common for natural processes to share a basic design and build variants upon it - changing the scale, the parameters, or the low-level details. This saves on genes.

These mechanisms are implicated in the development of the sonnet, which can be considered as an organic form that slowly developed "by committee". It's flexible enough to be used by ee cummings, enduring because it's flexible, bending rather than breaking as fashions change.


Updated July 2000
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Tim Love