[James] Langer is a poet clearly energized by the present-day Canadian renaissanceof New Formalism in lyric poetry (which is the hot topic in CanPo according to its champions ...and only 25 years behind the Americans who have long since moved on to more interesting discussions).
In Canada, there has been a similar continuity in the writing of metrical poems, even while free verse has been, and continues to be, the predominant mode--and while anthologists have systematically ignored most of the strongest metrical verse being written here. Unlike the US, there has been nothing resembling a movement here to enshrine the practice. Small clusters perhaps, but no magazines, no manifestoes, no CW programs dedicated to it or biased towards it. There was an anthology, In Fine Form, a few years ago, but its editors, while clearly interested in the possibilities of traditional verse structures, can't seriously be considered as "formalists." Also, the anthology is historical and not contemporary, unlike Jarman and Mason's provocatively titled Rebel Angels.
So, if there's no movement, there are also no champions. Presumably alluded to by Paul is Carmine Starnino, since the former recently asserted that the latter is a promulgator of "formalist orthodoxy." So, if Langer is a product of the "New Formalism" "championed" by Carmine, he should be overjoyed about Langer's book, right? Oh, but wait. In the Globe and Mail review of Gun Dogs I linked to and discussed a little while ago, Carmine said that the arrival Langer's very good book is ill-timed because it slots too neatly in with a constellation of other books published in the years preceding it. So much for "fashionable" being favoured by the fashion's "champions."
As for the supposed fashionability of metre and rhyme, these days, I don't really see it, for all the interesting work being produced. As "Murray Citron" points out, as a response to Arc's ads for the Poem of the Year contest, in a recent letter to the editor:
If there's any impression of fashionability, it's because several editors not hostile to metre and rhyme are ensuring that the books get published, despite their continued unfashionability. Most notably, these editors are Starnino, Babstock, Clifford and Ormsby.
There have now been 12 Poem of the Year contests, with three prizes each year. No rhyming poem has won first or second prize. In 2001, a partly rhymed poem took third prize. The rhymes were subdued, and may have escaped notice. Twenty-two poems have been printed with Honourable Mention. One, in 2005, rhymed violion, skin, and within. In 2001 there was a sestina [CLM: almost never a rhyming form]. There have been 78 Editor's Choices. Two, in 2004 and 2009, had rhymes. The rhymes were unconventional. As with the 2001 third prize winner, they may have slipped under the radar. That is 136 poems, four with rhymes, and a sestina. Who says rhyme doesn't pay?
George Elliott Clarke
Peter Van Toorn
Alan R. Wilson