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Gunn's “Meat”: Notations on Craft

Gunn's “Meat”: Notations on Craft

(p.129) Gunn's “Meat”: Notations on Craft
At the Barriers
Joshua Weiner
University of Chicago Press

Reading “Meat” in its early incarnation as free verse against the final, more formal version included in Gunn's book The Man with Night Sweats shows us how a poet gets different effects from different forms, and how those effects change our experience of the poem. The writing in both versions of “Meat” is characteristically chaste and unadorned, the diction terse, the images concise, and the abstractions plainly elegant. About the free-verse version, Gunn says that the poem “was completely finished, no rhyme or suggestion of rhymes.” Indeed, the free verse is so plain it seems quite stripped of sonic figures altogether. The poem catches the reader initially, not through euphony, cacophony, or rhyme, but through its darting, rhythmically quick observation of physical movement. The occasion of “Meat” is that of a social, moral judgment publicly uttered, and as such it seems to have a fuller, more lively embodiment in pentameter couplets.

Keywords:   Meat, free verse, Night Sweats, abstractions, rhymes

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