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The structure of ‘beauté formol’

Lead Educator Patrick Thom reintroduces one of the poems we looked at last week, and considers how we can talk about the structure of free verse.
The poems we have looked at so far have followed conventional formal patterns in terms of metre and rhyme, but it’s very different when we come to a modern poem such as ‘beauté formol’. A copy of the text may be found in the course materials. We found that it was easy enough to tease out the story through one or two key pieces of vocabulary, but Chloé Savoie-Bernard seems to have rejected all of the conventional formal constraints. There is no uniformity of metre or line length, no rhyme scheme, no use of capital letters or punctuation. How do we start to comment on the form or structure of the poem?

We could start by saying that the very absence of all those formal markers is both generous and democratic. The poet does not attempt to control our understanding of the poem, it is up to us to put things together according to our own understanding. For example, in the very first line, does the ‘deux fois’ go with the ‘réceptionniste’, as we would probably expect, or with the ‘infirmière’? Both would be legitimate readings. Does it actually matter?

Although there are no terminal rhymes, we may pick up internal rhymes such as ‘elles, belle, mademoiselle, ritournelle’, an element that becomes particularly noticeable when the poem is read aloud. Have a go at reading it aloud yourself, and then listen to Justine Coppeaux giving a reading of the poem.

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How to Read French Poetry

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