America Unrhymed

Unrhymed verse was nothing new when Robinson Jeffers was a young man, but he’d written nothing but rhymed verse throughout his youth. By the time Jeffers hit thirty, unrhymed verse (in tandem with free verse) was gaining favor among American poets.

Robinson Jeffers was a classicist, much of his education having been in elite European schools. He and his wife Una had wished to move to England in 1914, but the Great War changed their plans. They remained in California, but they also remained steadfast Anglophyles, to say nothing of Una’s love for her Irish heritage.

The Anglo-Irish poet William Butler Yeats had written much in blank verse. Una adored Yeats, and there is little doubt that Yeats’s restoration of Thoor Ballylee inspired Una to inspire her husband’s tower project. Jeffers began his tower project in the very year Yeats’s blank verse masterwork “The Second Coming” was published. Jeffers had briefly played at blank verse ca. 1918, but he didn’t truly abandon rhyme until 1922, after two years of working on his tower.

Selected non-rhyming American verse, 1900 to 1922
Year Poet Poem
1902 E.A. Robinson Isaac and Archibald
1912 Ezra Pound The Return
1913 Ezra Pound The Garden
1915 Ezra Pound The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter
1914 Robert Frost Mending Wall
1914 Robert Frost The Death of the Hired Man
1916 Robert Frost Birches
1914 Amy Lowell Absence
1914 Amy Lowell Fool’s Money Bags
1914 Amy Lowell Vintage
1915 Edgar Lee Masters The Hill
1915 Edgar Lee Masters Cassius Hueffer
1915 Edgar Lee Masters Knowlt Hoheimer
1915 Edgar Lee Masters Elsa Wertman
1915 Edgar Lee Masters Elliott Hawkins
1915 Edgar Lee Masters Jonathan Houghton
1915 Edgar Lee Masters Father Malloy
1915 Edgar Lee Masters Herman Altman
1915 Wallace Stevens Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock
1915+ Wallace Stevens Sunday Morning
1916 H.D. Oread
1916 H.D. Sea Rose
1916 H.D. Heat
1916 Carl Sandburg Chicago
1918 Carl Sandburg Grass
1920 Carl Sandburg Ossawatomie
1919 Wallace Stevens Anecdote of the Jar
1921 Wallace Stevens The Snow Man
1917 William Carlos Williams Tract
1921 William Carlos Williams Queen Anne’s Lace
1921 William Carlos Williams The Widow’s Lament in Springtime
1921 William Carlos Williams The Great Figure
1920 T.S. Eliot Gerontion
1922 T.S. Eliot The Waste Land
1921 Marianne Moore When I Buy Pictures
1921 Marianne Moore Poetry