“Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave”

He thinks about that unholy clandestine way

He met that young man in the fray

Of nightclubs, and deleted apps

That married man is a hapless sap

And he goes home at the end of the day

To lie to his wife in all caps

But morning will come and eventually noon

When you’re a buffoon you’re a buffoon


Musing about twinks twunks and otters

He hides his gaze so not to bother

The eyes that may figure him out

Unaware that he’s been spotted in the crowd

How trivial a life written for a comedian’s fodder

Is this really what it’s all about

But dusk will come and eventually night

And when you’re right you’re right


Oh what a tangled web we weave

When we first practice to deceive

It doesn’t matter where you go

Somehow they always seem to know

Somethings are just easier to believe

And that is how we maintain the status quo

But dawn will come and eventually day

When you’re kept at bay you’re kept at bay


This week, I really wanted to experiment with a stricter form as implemented by the poets of New and Old Formalisms. I also thoroughly enjoyed—although a bit frustrating at times—finding the complimentary rhythms and rhymes throughout my own poem to construct it. I say construct because of the intentionality of this school of poetry. I found R. S. Gwynn’s poem “Anacreontic” the most compelling poem in regards to this return to form and break from previous free verse conventions in earlier modernist schools of poetry.

Overall, I found the school of New and Old Formalisms did not engage in that deeper image or meaning often associated with confessional poets. Instead, this school perfected mastery in form and created complexities within that form. For example, Gwynn’s “Anacreontic” deconstructs the couplet by framing it in AABBABCC. By the time the reader gets to line six, the expectation is a meter and rhyme that will match line 5. However, Gwynn breaks the couplet then introduces a new rhyming pattern following that break.

In my own poem, I follow Gwynn’s AABBABCC form. Christopher Beach speaks about a tension existing between form and content. I tried to harness this tension within my own poem by keeping to a form and writing an ambivalent narrative concerning infidelity, and questions of sexuality. The tension is unresolved because it is unclear whether the “married man” has been found out—and if so, then by who? In my last stanza I borrow the first two lines from Sir Walter Scott’s play “Marmion.” Lines three and four of my last stanza come from Gwynn’s “Anacreontic.” I also echoed Gwynn’s use of repetition in the last line of each stanza.

Delving into New and Old Formalisms presented challenges when trying to carry out that deliberateness of the form. Notwithstanding, that purposefulness to the form allows greater inspection into the poetry I create. I found this school illuminating in how the expertise of each of the poets seemed effortless even though adhering to a form can be quite difficult—especially considering how the meter and foot will configure into the rhyme (if there is one).

2 Responses to “Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave”

  1. Erin Larsen October 5, 2022 at 11:46 pm #

    Harris, I enjoyed this. I think that, in addition to doing a good job of imitating the form of Gwynn’s poem, you also mirrored the tone. Gwynn’s poem has a sort of bleak humor–the language leads readers to a place of existential angst, lines like “But it doesn’t matter what you say / they always seem to call your bluff” exuding a sense of futility and hopelessness. However, the rhyming couplets at the end of each stanza contain tautologies that sound surprisingly simple–“when you’re through, you’re through,” etc. These tautologies take sentiments that could be delicately expressed and render them big and dramatic and showy in a way that turns the whole poem into the kind of thing you might envision hearing performed by drunk guys after work in a bar, rather than within a more refined poetry reading. There’s something self-mocking and wry about the performative way these ideas end up on the page, and I think your rendition of this style does some of the same work. You deliberately call the speaker, talking to himself, a “buffoon” and describe his life as “written for a comedian’s fodder.” But ultimately this tongue-in-cheek tone belies a really sad and poignant sentiment, being unable to reveal a true self to a society in which you’re not fully accepted.

  2. steversonj October 6, 2022 at 2:51 am #

    Hey Carl, I can get behind the rhythm of the Old Formalist poetry. It rhymes, its fun, and its engaging. It is what I am used to, I think. The New Formalisms has appealing properties too. Free verse allows poets to have a natural pattern to their story that is not constrained to rules or tied to a certain structure. I struggle with free verse because I expect a rhyme, I expect a beat. I get self conscious and over think the reading because I am trying to find the rhythm. Sometimes, there isn’t one. But, of course, as I expand my reading, I can only grow to appreciate all forms.

    Your poem is fantastic. There is a lot of tension as you describe the married man’s exploits and his attraction to a young man. I chuckled when you wrote, “To lie to his wife in all caps”. I can read the defensiveness in a text from him denying his wife the truth and probably denying himself of that very same truth. You also write, “It doesn’t matter where you go / Somehow they always seem to know”. This is so true! Intuition is a power many possess and any slight deviations in behavior can trigger suspicions. Your repetitive lines at the ends of your stanzas I thought were really clever. I think you created a successful imitation of a formalist poet. I can see how finding the right rhymes for your poem can be frustrating, but it all came together.

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