Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Colby Access Only)


Colby College. English Dept.


Ira Sadoff


In this paper, I investigate the Expansivist claim that the best poetry is written in fixed meters, and that only by a return to fixed meter and traditional narrative can we invigorate the art. I engage a skeptical interrogation of the underlying ideological, aesthetic, and cultural assumptions that support their agenda. I do so through an interrogation of Expansivist claims that the theory behind the Modernist free verse revolution lack the aesthetic depth necessary to theoretically justify the continual use of free verse in contemporary poetry. I argue that while students of poetry should be knowledgeable of fixed forms as a way to access a wider range of poetic mediums in which to write, and that a return to fixed forms provides some writers with the ability to experiment and develop further in their own work, the Expansivist arguments for a widespread return to fixed metrics fail to convince both theoretically and practically. Free verse as a form does not suffer from exhaustion, nor does the free verse poem necessarily lack musicality or cadence, and Expansivist claims to the contrary often operate on narrow and reductive definitions of musicality and form. To conclude. I examine one Expansivist poem in relation to one 'Language' poem, discussing the relative formal strengths and weaknesses of each.


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expansivist, meter, narrative, modernist, formalist