Poetry is formal. Rhythm and form are closely related. Rhythm is componential. Form is paradigmatic. The qualities of the rhythmic components are the source of formal paradigms. The dominant formal texture of free verse is a product of one of the four rhythmic components, what music theorists call theme. Theme creates relative time. In poetry, relative time has many formal reflexes, but these formal reflexes are not at all “free.” Reading free verse is largely an exercise in responding fully to its rich thematic rhythms and relative forms.

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