“Although I know Hayden Carruth
would not approve of dropping a foot
in the first line and letting things get out of hand
from then on, the words seem confident
that they’ll sort themselves out—
at least some mayors
will agree with me. Yours,
Brian." To Hayden Carruth
such references in poems stick out
like an eight-fingered foot.
They are a nonincident
when the poet does not have form in hand.
But the form always has the upper hand.
No one—not even the unacknowledged mayors
of the world—can be as confident
as Hayden Carruth
when varying a foot
or dragging a line out.
Yes, dragging a line out
until its last letter pushes against the margin and looks like it can shake the hand
of the first letter of the next line—"something’s afoot,"
say the mayors,
so easily filled with ruth.
But even they find it difficult to be decadent
in the face of precedent.
And the line again bucks, and buckling, springs, extends, spills its wayward way out
toward the zone deemed prose by Carruth,
who rightly esteems poets who can keep the beat in hand
(and isn’t he one of our greatest mayors?)
while they adhere to the notion of the foot.
But some are tired of the iambic foot
whatever the form, and it’s no accident
when they pursue les mots meilleurs
of the poem at hand,
whatever advice Mayor Carruth
(“Keep to the foot. Be confident,
but not too. May your sestina be real.” —Hayden Carruth)