Merrimack Repertory Theatre Blog

November 15, 2011, 10:12 am
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre


Written by Alison Crane

This Verse Business reminded me of how much I love to read poetry. I’ve preferred verse over prose ever since I was introduced to the former. Unfortunately, poetry is not as marketable as novels about vampires, so it sometimes falls off of my radar. This Verse Business made me dig out my poetry anthologies. Much of the discussion about poetry is either technical to the point of being surgical or overly sentimental. The poetic appreciation in this play falls into the perfect gray area between academic perspective and personal connection. This is the ideal approach to understanding and loving poetry (in my humble opinion), because it allows the reader to have an intimate relationship with the poem that is their very own, while still being alert to the poet’s craft. With the limitations that are inherent in poetry (meter, rhyme scheme, length), a poet has to carefully consider each word; the way a word sounds, the connotations that are layered on top of a definition, etc. etc. “This Verse Business” reminded me of the very deliberate decisions that poets make. The line “I’ve had people say—somebody who ought to know better—quote me as saying in that poem, “the coldest evening of the year.” See. Now that’s getting a thermometer into it,” really verbalized this. One might say that “darkest evening” and “coldest evening” create the same imagery for the reader, but Frost probably considered which word he wanted there and chose “darkest” for a reason. I love the idea that Frost, who wanted this poem to be taken as it is “right between the eyes”, was particular about this. “This Verse Business” made me feel as if Frost and I would have seen eye to eye when it came to…well… this verse business, and the play is certainly the closest I will ever come to discussing it with him.

After the emphasis on poetry in “This Verse Business”, I have been inspired to start committing poems to memory. So far, I have memorized “The Eagle” (Tennyson), “The Lady of Shallott” (Tennyson), “A slumber did my spirit seal” (Wordsworth), “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” (Frost), “Anecdote of the Jar” (Stevens), and “The Tyger” (Blake). I recite them to myself as I wash dishes or walk my dog, much like someone would sing to themselves. I also wrote the piece below.

The Vowels

The tiny vowels sit,
nestled phonetically
in the wet flower beds.

I can hear them chanting
sweetly to hanging heads
and elephant ears.

They say “Aaa, aa, aa, aa.”
And reach for the whispering
weeds, who say “Th, th, th”

Alone, the phrases are
no more than the coos and
the murmurs of posies.

The beats fall to the earth,
green and free from a web
of cadence and rhythm.

The spider flings herself
into the space between words.
Her only life line is

the gossamer thread,
narrative and narrow.
It flutters, then tautens.

The worms marvel at her,
but the ants march on. They
have no ear for poetry.

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