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A Matter Of Life And Breath

July 31, 1994

Where did Mary Oliver get the bizarre idea that the iambic pentameter is somehow linked to the regular English breath ("A Poetry Handbook," In Brief, June 12)? Or is the reviewer merely attributing her own ignorance to Ms. Oliver? We breathe in many different ways. It has nothing to do with meter and never did. The iambic line is natural to English, and this is as true for Americans as it is for Australians, Canadians, the Brits and so on.

As for rising early and living simply and honorably, it is certainly fine advice, but what does it have to do with writing good poetry? Some of the greatest poets slept till noon, lived luxuriously and were completely untrustworthy. They also had deplorable politics.

ROBERT MEZEY, CLAREMONT

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