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I. Introduction Poetry, form of literature, spoken or written, that emphasizes rhythm, other intricate patterns of sound and imagery, and the many possible ways that words can suggest meaning. The word itself derives from a Greek word, poesis, meaning making or creating. Whereas ordinary speech and writing, called prose, are organized in sentences and paragraphs, poetry in its simplest definition is organized in units called lines as well as in sentences, and often in stanzas, which are the paragraphs of poetry. The way a line of poetry is structured can be considered a kind of garment that shapes and clothes the thought within it. The oldest and most longstanding genres for classifying poetry are epic, a long narrative poem centered around a national hero, and lyric, a short poem expressing intense emotion. Throughout its long history poetry has relied on evolving rules about what a poem is, with new kinds of poetry building on earlier kinds to create greater possibilities of expression. In the 20th century poets have increasingly used the language of everyday speech and created new forms that break the usual rules of poetry, such as its organization in line units. Yet to surprise a reader and evoke a response, the new has to be seen in contrast to the old, and thus poetry still depends upon a readers depth of knowledge about the poetic practices of the past for its effectiveness. Though much poetry is in written form, it usually represents a speaking voice that is not the same as the poets. In some lyric poems, this voice seems to speak about individual feelings; in epic poems, the voice seems to speak on behalf of a nation or community. Poetic voices of all kinds confront the unspeakable and push the limits of language and experience. The 20th-century American poet Michael Palmer characterizes this aspect of poetry when he writes playfully, How lovely the unspeakable must be. You have only to say it and it tells a story. At its deepest level, poetry attempts to communicate unspeakable aspects of human experience, through the still evolving traditions of an ancient and passionate art. Poets throughout the ages have defined their art, devised rules for its creation, and written manifestos announcing their radical changes, only to have another poet alter their definition, if not declare just the opposite. Poetry is the purification of the language of the tribe, wrote French poet Stphane Mallarm at the end of the 19th century. But 20th-century American poet William Carlos Williams, just 50 years later, would call for poems written in a language so natural that cats and dogs can understand. Increasingly during the 20th century, poetic language has reflected a response to severe and agonizing circumstances. Romanian-born poet Paul Celan, whose parents were killed in a concentration camp during World War II (1939-1945) and who was himself imprisoned in a work camp, wrote in German, which he viewed as the language of his Nazi tormentors. Much of the difficulty of Celans complex, mysterious poems comes from the tension he felt between poetry as a source of beauty and order, and the meaninglessness and violence of his experience. Writing in the language of his oppressors, he dramatized this tension by using fragments, invented words and puzzling statements. While most poets face circumstances far less extreme than Celan's, other 20th-century writers have also struggled with the many associations language already carries with it. One experimental group, well represented among American and Canadian poets, known as Language poets, seeks to free the word from what they consider to be the constraints of the grammatical sentence, a task they view as a political action against Western culture. While most poets do not criticize language to this extent, many face new challenges in attempting to make the language of poetry reflect the speed, complexity, and confusion of late 20th-century life. II. Extraordinary Language One characteristic that makes poetry different from ordinary language is that it uses many kinds of repetition. One kind, called poetic meter, is essentially the repetition of a regular pattern of beats. In poems organized by lines of syllabic metersin which each syllable has a beatthe number of beats and the number of syllables are both repeated. Accentual poetry refers to poems organized by the recurrence of a set number of accents or stronger beats per line. In poetry written in accentual-syllabic meters, both the number of beats and number of syllables recur in a set pattern (see Versification). The most commonly used accentual-syllabic meter in English language poetry is iambic pentameter, in which unaccented and accented syllables alternate in lines of ten syllables. Other

kinds of repetition in poetry include rhyme, the recurrence of sound clusters; assonance, the echoing of vowels; and consonance, the echoing of consonants. Many early poems included refrains, the repetition of lines or whole phrases. Other older forms of poetry, such as the French villanelle and the Malay pantoum, have prescribed intricate patterns that are formed by the repetition of certain lines and the rhyming of certain lines. The Provenal sestina features a set of six words that end lines (end-words), repeated in a dizzyingly complex pattern. The range of effects created by the poetic line varies tremendously depending on its length, its patterns of repetition, and whether the sentence stops at the end of the line (end-stopped) or carries over the end of the line (enjambed). Many of the earliest examples of Old English poetry feature an accentual line with four equally strong beats, with three of the four stressed words linked by the repetition of sounds, called alliteration, and a strong pause, called a caesura, in the middle of the line. In the following lines from the Old English epic poem Beowulf (written sometime between the 8th century and late 10th century), the words with a strong accent connected by similar sounds are in boldface type. The caesuras are marked with a double slash (//). . . . on the last of his harryings, // Hygelac the Great, as he stood before the standard// astride his plunder, defending his war-haul: //Weird struck him down; in his superb pride //he provoked disaster in the Frisian feud.// This fabled collar the great war-king wore //when he crossed the foaming water. (Beowulf, trans. Michael Alexander) A. Rhythm and Meter Iambic pentameter, the most common metrical pattern in poetry written in English, alternates weak unstressed and strong stressed syllables to make a ten-syllable line (weak strong/weak strong/weak strong/weak strong/weak strong). With its resemblance to the rhythmic pattern of the English language, even a fairly strict iambic pentameter line can result in the surprisingly natural rhythm of these lines by the 19th-century English poet Christina Rossetti: We found her hidden just behind those screens, The mirror gave back all her loveliness. A queen in opal or in ruby dress, A nameless girl in freshest summer-greens, A saint, an angelevery canvas means The same one meaning, neither more nor less. (In an Artist's Studio, 1896) The removal of only two syllables from each line results in the very different feel and pace of the eight-syllable tetrameter line: Old Women in your elbow chairs, Who now will be your fence and shield, When wintry blasts and cutting airs Are busy in both house and field? (William Wordsworth, Elegy, 1815) With two less syllables, the six-syllable trimeter line moves even more quickly: The beach is hot, the fronds of yellow dwarf palms rust, the clouds are close as friends,

the sea has not learned rest . . . (Derek Walcott, Beachhead, 1986) B. Parallelism Not all lines of poetry make a metrical pattern. Taking his cue from the long, looping flow of the poetry of the King James Bible, 19th-century American poet Walt Whitman often crafted his lines to go longer than ten syllables, sometimes creating sentence patterns by repeating word order with slight variation rather than repeating the pattern of syllabic stress or the number of words: Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes, I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it, The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it. (from Song of Myself, 1855) In the first line of this segment, the shelves are crowded with perfumes is a so-called sentence rhyme with Houses and rooms are full of perfumes because the two phrases follow a similar word order. In the next line, and know it rhymes in a similar way with and like it. Whitmans break with regular meter, his repetition of sentence parts, and his longer line greatly influenced other North American poets, as well as Latin Americans, including Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and Peruvian poet Csar Vallejo. The sentence part rhymes are boldfaced below: . . . when the wheat hardens its little hip-joints and lifts its face of a thousand hands, I make my way to the grove where the woman and the man embrace . . . (Pablo Neruda, Being Born in the Woods, 1958; trans. Pablo Neruda and W. S. Merwin, 1973) Why the rope, then, if air is so simple? What is the chain for, if iron exists on its own? Csar Vallejo, the accent with which you love, the language with which you write, the soft wind with which you hear, only know of you through your throat. (Csar Vallejo, Untitled, 1937; trans. Clayton Eshleman and Jose Rubia Barca, 1978) C. Rhyme In addition to creating balanced rhythms or cadence through the use of meter, poets give richness to their language through shadings of sound, orchestrating the musical quality of vowel and consonants through the words they use. Perhaps the most familiar form of sound patterning is end-rhyme, a similarity of sound carried by word endings. It began as an aspect of oral poetry (poetry composed, transmitted, or performed orally rather than through writing), and was probably intended to help people memorize poems. Over centuries written verse forms developed using rhyme in set patterns known as rhyme schemes. In the following typical English ballad unrhymed and end-rhymed lines alternate: O wha is this has done this deed, This ill deed done to me, To send me out this time o' the year, To sail upon the sea? (Anonymous, Sir Patrick Spens, Child, No. 58.A., 1765) In some cases, rather than making use of a full end-rhyme such as me and sea, poets instead employ offrhyme or slant rhyme for a strange unsettling effect, as 19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson does with One and Stone in the example below.

Ive known herfrom an ample nation Choose One Thenclose the Valves of her attention Like Stone (Poem #303, 1890) Wilfred Owen, a 20th-century English poet, expresses the senselessness of war through the use of slant rhymes: Was it for this the clay grew tall? O what made fatuous sunbeams toil To break earth's sleep at all (Futility 1920) Although end-rhyme is the most common form of rhyme, poets such as Gerard Manley Hopkins, Dylan Thomas, and Sylvia Plath intricately crafted their work by embedding additional internal rhymes, full or slant, at various points. . . . In the sun born over and over, I ran my heedless ways My wishes raced through the house-high hay And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows In his tuneful turning. . . (Dylan Thomas, Fern Hill, 1946)

D. Repetition of Words and Refrains Repetition of lines and phrases is a common aspect of oral tradition, as will be seen in examples below. Later written forms also repeat lines for a hypnotic, deeply musical effect. John Ashbery, a 20th-century American poet known for his poems that seem to keep from explaining themselves or coming to a decisive ending, uses the circular form of the pantoum, from Malay folk poetry, to express confusion. The repeated lines are in boldface type. Now, silently, as one mounts a stair we emerge into the open but it is shrouded, veiled: we must have made some ghastly error. To end the standoff that history long ago began Must we thrust ever onward, into perversity? But it is shrouded, veiled: we must have made some ghastly error. You mop your forehead with a rose, recommending its thorns. Must we thrust ever onward, into perversity? (Hotel Lautramont, 1992) In One Art, American poet Elizabeth Bishop varies the French Renaissance villanelle form by estabalishing lines in her opening stanza that will be repeated later in the poem. The art of losing isn't hard to master; So many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

As the poem goes on, her claim that loss does not matter takes on an air of desperateand unconvincing insistence: Lose something every day. Accept the fluster of lost door keys, the hour badly spent. As the speaker repeats the earlier lines they lose their authority. The art of losing isn't hard to master. Then practice losing farther, losing faster places, and names, and where it was you meant to travel. None of these will bring disaster. (One Art, 1976) In the 15th century French poet Franois Villon used repetition to a similarly bitter effect. Writing in strict 14thcentury ballade form (not to be confused with the English ballad), of which he was a master, he offers a string of self-contradicting statements There's no care except hunger No favors but from an enemy Nothing edible but a bale of hay . . . ending with a claim for the cool-headedness of lovers, a group famous for irrationality. This final line repeats in five successive stanzas, reinforcing its irony: . . . No safety but among the frightened No good faith but a disbeliever's Nor any cool heads but lovers (Ballade, 15th century; trans. Galway Kinnell, 1977) E. Metaphor and Simile Among the most important figurative (as opposed to literal or factual) uses of language, metaphor and simile make comparisons as a way of illuminating or developing meaning. Metaphor equates two things that are not the same, while simile says two unlike things are like each other. At their simplest, these figures of speech (underlined below) may be used in a descriptive way to emphasize qualities, as in this Navajo praise poem: . . . my horse whose legs are like quick lightning (simile) whose body is an eagle-plumed arrow . . . (metaphor) (War-Gods Horse Song I, trans. Dave & Mary Roberts Coolidge), 1968) The classical Greek philosopher Aristotle in his Poetics (about 330 BC) declared metaphor one of the highest achievements of poetic style: it is the token of genius. For the right use of metaphor means an eye for resemblances. In the following examples, however, metaphor and simile go beyond physical resemblances to compare complex states of feeling. The metaphors in the first example are not even stated. The speaker compares a time in her life to a baby birds life inside an egg, and then compares the egg to the oval of an ellipse. Still at the Egg-life Chafing the Shell Till you troubled the Ellipse And the Bird fell (Emily Dickinson, Poem #728, 1935)

In the following example both metaphors and similes are used, although sometimes the words for the comparison are implied rather than stated. The use of both stated and unstated metaphors and similes helps communicate unexpressed feelings. Light, like a defect, cut the rain. The legal daylight held Its star-shaped umbrella over me. (Medbh McGuckian, The Cutting-Out Room,1992) The comparison between light and defect is explicit in the word like. There is also an implicit comparison between daylight and something legal (a legal act?) in the second line. In the poem below, a woman is compared to a shot glass of vodka, and a field of poppies, with the word like. But there are also underlying metaphors that are unstated: vodka burns (like fire) in the throat and poppies burn (like fire) because of their red color. Both are intoxicating drugs (like the woman in the poem) that distort reality. She burns like a shot glass of vodka. She burns like a field of poppies at the edge of a rainforest. (Yusef Komunyakaa, You and I Are Disappearing, 1993) Unstated metaphors can have a surprising emotional effect on readers when the poet uses an implied comparison to invent an image, as is the case with these lines by 20th-century Canadian poet and novelist Michael Ondaatje: All day dust covered granite hills and now suddenly the Nile is flesh an arm on a bed (The Hour of Cowdust, 1979) In the 17th century, metaphysical poets, who are called this for their intellectual poetry about truths beyond the physical world, favored extended metaphors, or conceits, that act as links in a descriptive chain. For example, American poet Anne Bradstreets conceit below makes many comparisons between a book and a child. Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain, Who after birth didst by my side remain, Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true, Who thee abroad, exposed to public view, Made thee in rags, halting to th press to trudge, Where errors were not lessened (all may judge), At thy return my blushing was not small, My rambling brat (in print) should mother call, I cast thee by as one unfit for light. The visage was so irksome in my sight; Yet being mine own, at length affection would Thy blemishes amend, if so I could. (The Author to Her Book,1678) Metaphor tends to encompass other poetic devices as well, in particular imagery, the use of descriptive language to create pictures in the readers mind.

III. The First Poetry Poetry is an ancient art, with its origins well before those of recorded history (about 3000 BC). The oldest surviving remnants come from the Near East, dating as far back as 2600 BC. The Assyro-Babylonian, Sumerian, and Egyptian cultures all contributed to this fascinating and fragmentary store of work. The remnants are preserved in cuneiform, an ancient wedge-shaped writing on clay tablets, or on papyrus paper stenciled with hieroglyphs, characters used in picture writing. These early poems included praises of gods and heroes, chants (songs that repeat the same note or words), wisdom literature (lists of advice and truths from elders or other authorities), magic charms, and laments to mourn or inspire pity. All these poems were for the most part religious in nature. One of the chief structural characteristics was the use of recurrent phrases or refrains: Your spiritdo I not know how to please it? Bridegroom, sleep in our house till dawn. Your heartdo I not know how to warm it? Lion, sleep in our house till dawn. (Sumerian, about 2000 BC; trans. Jane Hirshfield, 1994) Evidence suggests that much early poetry was intended to be sung, at times with musical accompaniment. Longer works existed as well. With its earliest portions dating as far back as 1200 BC, the Hebrew Bible, known to Christians as the Old Testament, stands as one of the world's oldest and most influential poetic works. The even older Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (about 2000 BC), contains an account of a flood strikingly similar to that of Genesis in the Bible. The oldest poem attributed to a specific author is the Hymn to Inanna (about 2300 BC) by Enheduanna, a high priestess and daughter of Sumerian king Sargon I. Here she describes the destructive-creative fury of the fertility goddess Inanna in protecting her worshipers: Like a dragon, you poisoned the land When you roared at the earth In your thunder, Nothing green could live. A flood fell from the mountain: You, Inanna, Foremost in Heaven and Earth. Lady riding a beast, You rained fire on the heads of men. These traces suggest the presence of a widespread oral poetry tradition aimed at providing pleasure and offering prayer, as well as fulfilling the important social function of commemorating lives, battles, and historical events. Within the warrior culture that helped shape much early Greek poetry, this final purpose was particularly crucial. In a preliterate world lacking many means of remembering a persons story after death, oral poetry took on great importance as a vehicle for awarding a kind of earthly immortality. Once passed into the fame of words, the hero would live forever in the minds of listeners. Poetry gained power and authority in part because it was felt to be divinely inspired. In the Greek epic tradition, exclusive to male poets as far as we know, the singer called upon the muse, a goddess, to fill him with voice as in the opening of Homers Iliad: Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus' son Achilleus and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians, hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls of heroes . . . (The Iliad, trans. Richmond Lattimore) This summoning of the muse, known as invocation, implied the existence of an imaginative force outside the poet's own mind and body. In the ancient past it was believed that inspirationa Greek word meaning literally

the taking in of breathwas conferred through the generosity of divine beings, linking earthly humans and their brief lives to the eternal spirit of the gods. An important change in this idea of inspiration would come centuries later. With 17th-century metaphysical poets, the center of inspiration moved inward to the soul; still later, with 19th-century romantic poets, to the unconscious mind and the imagination. Scholarly opinion has changed greatly regarding the composition of the Greek epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. For centuries, it was assumed that a poet named Homer composed the epics, memorized them, and repeated them word for word at public festivals and celebrations. In the 20th century, researchers have argued that although a poet by that name may have existed, he was simply the lastand possibly the bestin a series of oral poets giving voice to what was already a traditional story. From 1933 to 1935, classical scholars Milman Parry and Albert B. Lord observed performances by oral epic poets in Yugoslavia, noting that the poets varied their delivery each time. Rather than simply reciting the poem from memory, they embroidered and varied the poem with each repetition, making use of standard passages and phrases to describe certain characters. Scholars speculate that this oral practice may explain Homers repeated lines and sections as well as phrases such as the wine-dark sea, swift-footed Achilles, and grey-eyed Athena. IV. Tradition Poets create literary history and tradition by using and passing on poetic structures and ideas about life and art from generation to generation. Although great poetry is sometimes said to be timeless, poets think of their writing as part of history (including literary history), and they intentionally imitate earlier poets. The idea that a poem should be original is a relatively recent development, dating from English romantic poets of the early 19th century. In fact many avant-garde experimenters of the 20th centurypoets seeking to break with existing conventions of poetryhave turned their attention to ancient poetries or to oral practices that continue today. The word original contains the word originand for the modern poet the search for new poetic forms is often a matter of looking back at the past ones. Prior to the 19th-century emphasis on the original, imitation of earlier models was not only acceptable but was the standard way of learning to write poetry and becoming a poet in other peoples eyes. Even in the New World Canadian (both French and English) and American poetry began with poets asserting their voices by writing in the forms of European and English poetry (see Canadian Literature; American Literature:Poetry). For poets of the English Renaissance, from about 1485 to 1660, the imitation of classical Greek and Roman poets was a way of earning a place in the lineage of that early artistic and philosophical culture that had glorified the human image in art and writing. Finding their roots in this earlier era was a crucial step for the English poets. They wanted to show how their art was different than that of the medieval period that preceded the Renaissance. At that time, the medieval period was viewed as a dark age in which the glorious culture of the ancients had been lost. Over the ages many poets have found writing in traditional forms a means of talking to poets of the past, both to acknowledge what they have learned from them and to add their own voices to the tradition. Among poets continuing this convention in their own ways, the English late19th- and early-20th-century poet A.E. Housman and the 20th-century Canadian experimental poet Anne Carson, both classical scholars, juxtaposed ancient and modern to jolt the reader into seeing the continuities of tradition. Within a given culture a conventional imagean image with a long historyreminds people of thoughts, feelings, and ideas that have collected around that image over time. For example, one of the most common Western images in poetry is the moon. It is also a common image in Eastern poetry but carries different meanings. In Greek and Roman myth, in which Western culture originated, the moon was associated with the goddess Artemis (called Diana by the Romans). This hunter and virgin rejected men, preferring to roam the woods alone or with bands of female followers, all of whom were required to renounce male companionship. This association, along with the moon's shifting shapes, led to a shared understanding of the moon as an image of womens indifference, changeability, elusiveness, and inconstancy. Even when not attached specifically to a particular woman, the image evoked a principle of change and flux that was thought of as essentially feminine. Knowledge of these conventional meanings helps a reader understand their familiar uses as well as cases in which a poem is deliberately questioning or opposing them. The modernist American poet Wallace Stevens voiced his urgent longing to step outside traditional ways of perceiving reality, to see the moon/and not the image of the moon. American Sylvia Plath ends her final poem, Edge (1963), with a frightening reworking of the convention: The

moon has nothing to be sad about/staring from her hood of bone.//She is used to this sort of thing./Her blacks crackle and drag. Here, the moon's traditional changeableness hardens into a cold and uncaring aloofness. Feminist literary critics, who specialize in writing about womens place within and outside of literary traditions, have suggested that Plath's suicide at the age of 30 may have been connected to her struggle to be too many women at oncean independent artist, a support to her poet-husband, a mother, a well-known poet, and a kind of prophet. The harshness of the moon in this poem may reflect Plaths bitter self-condemnation. As a witness, the moon offers not sorrow or sympathy for the woman speaker in the poem, but icy indifference. While familiarity with the conventional image is not necessary to feel the power and emotional violence of this moment when we read the poem, the more we know about the social and cultural context in which it was written, the more we see in the image. The following sections survey some of the ways that a tradition of poetry has evolved by looking at the conventions of particular poetic forms: iambic pentameter verse in English, the English sonnet, the Japanese haiku, the Persian/Arabic ghazal, the Swahili tendi, and Native American Song. A. Iambic Pentameter Iambic pentameter, the most common and important meter in English language poetry, made its gradual entrance into poetic tradition in the 14th century. Before that time, Old and Middle English poems were primarily written in accentual meter with strong alliteration. Iambic pentameter is made up of two-syllable units called iambs, in which an unstressed or weak syllable is followed by a stressed or strong one; the iamb is repeated five times in succession, resulting in ten syllables altogether. Like most metrical forms, iambic pentameter can have various effects. In fact, the mark of a poet's distinctive craft was very often his or her skill in varying the standard pattern by adding or subtracting a stressed syllable for expressive effect. In his Ode on a Grecian Urn, 19th-century English poet John Keats crafted iambic pentameter to imitate his meaning: Thou still unravished bride of quietness, / Thou foster-child of silence and slow time The overall meter is certainly iambic pentameter, but subtle variations in it produce a different emotional effect for the reader. Keatss first line ends with two unstressed or weak syllables instead of the iamb (the etness of quietness), with the effect of thinning, hushing, or quieting sound. At the end of the nex t line, the poet replaces the iamb with two stressed or strong syllables (a spondee), resulting in the heavier, slower impact of slow time. The Irish writer W. B. Yeats in his 1924 poem Leda and the Swan uses variations on the metrical pattern to create a similarly dramatic effect: A sudden blow: the great wings beating still / Above the staggering girl In this Greek myth the god Zeus, taking the form of an enormous swan, descends on a young woman. Yeatss lines emphasize the overwhelming power of the fantastic bird with three strong beats: great wings beating. By contrast, the second line emphasizes Leda's smallness and vulnerability by substituting two weak beats for the iambs weak/strong pattern. As a result of this variation we can almost feel the stumble and fall of the word staggering. English Renaissance poets saw iambic pentameter as having weight and force comparable to the meter of the great Greek and Roman epics, longer poems that glorified classical culture. Eager to write epics for their own age, the English poets crafted iambic pentameter to be spacious and flexible enough to make room for complex thought and large-scale action. Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, is said to have invented blank verse, an unrhymed form of iambic pentameter, for his translations of Virgil's Roman epic, the Aeneid, thus compensating for the fact that there are fewer possible rhymes in English than in Latin. Blank verse may be the most widely known poetic form in America, serving as the basis for all of English playwright William Shakespeare's plays. Freed of end-rhyme, blank verse poets tend to create unpredictable sound textures within lines of verse: . . . and when I have required Some heavenly music (which even now I do) To work mine end upon their senses that

This airy charm is for, I'll break my staff Bury it certain fathoms in the sea, And deeper than did ever plummet sound I'll drown my book. (William Shakespeare, The Tempest, 1611) To convey powerful momentum of thought and action both William Shakespeare and John Milton, who wrote his English epic Paradise Lost in blank verse, used strong enjambments, in which the sentence carries over to the next line. In some of Shakespeare's plays, including Antony and Cleopatra (1606-1607), as well as in some later plays of the Renaissance, the blank verse lines disrupt the iambic pattern so often that the poems verge on free versethat is, lines with neither a metrical pattern or a rhyme scheme. But these metrical experiments came to an abrupt halt as the Renaissance passed into the 18th-century Augustan age, also known as the Age of Enlightenment. Such English poets as Alexander Pope and John Dryden during this time favored regular meter because it reflected the balance and order they sought in their world. B. The Sonnet While the precise origin of the sonnet remains obscure, it is thought to have developed from the Italian canzone (Italian for song) of the 13th century. This early sonnet consisted of an octave (8-line stanza) followed by a sestet (6-line stanza). It could also be divided into two quatrain (4-line) and two tercet (3-line) sections, resulting in 14 lines altogether. The form was also characterized by a volta, a turn in thought occurring between the octave and the sestet. A standard rhyme scheme of abbaabba in the octave developed through the works of Italian poets Dante Aligheri and Petrarch, who wrote in the 13th and 14th centuries. Petrarch imitated Dante's La vita nuova (1292), a story interspersed with sonnets addressed to Dantes ideal love Beatrice, but for Petrarch it is Laura who inspires the speaker of the sonnets to offer praise and to argue about virtue and vice, spirit and body. The developing sonnet tradition thus embraced not only formal rules, but also specific topics, images, and metaphors that quickly became conventions in English poetry. Poets Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard introduced the sonnet to England around 1520 through translations from Petrarchs Canzoniere (Songbook). Wyatt preserved the use of the Italian rhyme scheme in the first eight lines, but varied the Petrarchan model by ending with a closing couplet, two end-rhymed lines. Surreys important formal gift to the sonnet was to change the standard rhyme scheme, adapting to the fact that there are fewer rhyming words in English than in Italian. Surreys new model of abab cdcd efef gg came to be known as the Shakespearean sonnet through its beautiful use by Shakespeare in a sonnet sequence he wrote (the sequence was privately circulated, but not published until 1609). The tradition of writing a sequence of many sonnets, based also on the Petrarchan model, was initiated in English by Sir Philip Sidney in Astrophel and Stella (1580), a prolonged argument by the speaker, Astrophel, aimed at overcoming his mistress's indifference and chastity. Another important sequence of the period, Amoretti (1595) by English writer Edmund Spenser, employs similar arguments, though it ends with the possibility that the lovers will unite and eventually marry. In Shakespeare's extraordinary sequence, the beauteous being addressed is most often a young man, rather than an idealized female, who is alternately praised and blamed by the tormented speaker. Shakespeare adds to and varies the Petrarchan model in other ways as well, introducing themes of death and aging and the undying fame poetry lends to the self and the beloved. He also makes both the young man and the Dark Lady of the later sonnets less than perfect a great departure from the conventional picture of the ideal beloved. And in Sonnet 130, he makes fun of Petrachan images of beauty: My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips' red; If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. Following the popularity of the Shakespearean sonnet, Milton turned back to the Italian pattern of rhyme. This socalled Miltonic sonnet became the accepted form for two centuries, until Keats's use of the Shakespearean sonnet helped revive that form in the early 1800s. English Victorian poets such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti,

Christina Rossetti, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning continued to explore the form. But the most radical innovator in the Victorian era was Gerard Manley Hopkins, who introduced the notion of sprung rhythm, which imitates the strong beats heard in speech rather than following a regular pattern. Hopkins wrote poems of metaphysical celebration and suffering in which the breaking and mending of religious faith were echoed in fractured forms and extremely dense patterns of sound. Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee, Not untwistslack they may bethese last strands of man In me or, most weary, cry I can no more. I can; Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be. But ah, but oh thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? Scan With darksome devouring eyes my bruised bones? and fan, O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee? (Carrion Comfort, 1918) These examples show how a traditional form like the sonnet can move through history both staying the same and changing through the minds and art of poets. Moving into the 20th century, such diverse poets as Edwin Arlington Robinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, E. E. Cummings, John Berryman, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Marilyn Hacker, and Bill Knott have experimented with the possibilities of the sonnet, the poetic form Dante Gabriel Rossetti called a moment's monument. C. The Haiku and the Ghazal Like the traditions of iambic pentameter and the sonnet, set forms such as the Japanese haiku and the Persian ghazal (see Persian Literature), discussed below, say more when placed in their literary and cultural contexts. For example, each is influenced by a religious worldviewhaiku by Buddhism and ghazal by Islamwhich shapes even its descriptions of ordinary life. Each makes use of a highly traditional body of imagery. The ghazal's includes wine, the road, the mirror, and the nightingale, while the haikus include standard images of the seasons, such as spring plum blossoms, summer spiders, the autumn moon, and the winter bush warbler. And each is shaped by a set of rules about form that place limits on the scope of the poem and therefore the poet's way of shaping his (or herthough in these traditions, generally his) response to the forces around him. As with the sonnet, the formal structure of the haiku, as well as the body of imagery and cultural values in the haiku tradition, reflect an underlying philosophy. Haiku is a Japanese form 17 syllables in length. In English translation, it is generally divided into three lines, arranged in a pattern of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, but many poets traditionally wrote haiku as one long line. Given the differences of word order or sound quality between Japanese and English, the poems in Japanese may often be significantly shorter than their English translations. A haiku presents an imagetraditionally, a scene from nature, often related to the seasonswith little or no comment or attempt to interpret on the part of the writer. Informed by Buddhist teachings, it often captures fleeting, momentary sensations on the edge of perception, with an acceptance that the world is passing and changing that is far different from the elegiac mourning for loss characteristic of much Western nature poetry. The form has gained a reputation for being so objective it seems not to represent a particular persons way of sensing the world, though in many valued haikus traces of the poet's voice and sensibility remain in the tone and manner of observation. Haiku evolved gradually from a more elaborate form known as haikai, or renga na haikai. Renga were long poems written by groups, often at parties or other social gatherings. A poet would propose a three-phrase opening known as a hokku, to which another poet would add a two-phrase continuation. Yet another poet would pick up on an image or theme in the preceding lines and add three more of his own. The process continued for as many as 100 verses on casual occasions, and for as many as 10,000 on ceremonial ones. The form involved a complex set of rules requiring the inclusion of certain standard imagessuch as the autumn moon or the changing of seasonsand other elements designed to give the poem a sense of motion and change. A strong opening was an important first step, so writers of particularly striking hokku developed a reputation and were much in demand as

participants. In some cases, master-poets established groups of students who would study the art under their supervision. Over time, hokku came to be published in poetic anthologies and to gain recognition as distinctive and self-contained poetic works. The roots of the haiku were developed and perfected during the Edo Period (1603-1867), But it was not until the 19th century that the poet Masaoka Shiki created the name haiku to distinguish hokku fully as an independent form. Haikai itself began as a lighter, more popular form of renga. The poet responsible for refashioning this lightness to a serious form, reflecting more delicate and unusual perceptions, was Bash. The bones of haikai are plainness and oddness, he wrote. Born in 1644 to a rich family, Bash achieved fame early in his life and became a well-known teacher of haikai. In his mid-30s, he spent years traveling the Japanese countryside visiting Buddhist monasteries and holy places. His later hokku were deeply influenced by the writings of Chinese poets such as Li Bo and Tu Fu, and contain a deep sense of solitude, as in this quiet scene: A field of cotton / as if the moon / had flowered (Trans. Robert Hass). While Bash often used conventional imagery, he felt that hokku should also draw from everyday life. His poems have the rare ability to evoke the immediate experience of a moment while opening out into reflection on universal themes: On this road / where nobody else travels / autumn nightfall (Trans. Makoto Ueda). Another of the great haiku writers, Issa, was born over 100 years after Bash. By that time, Bash's innovations in hokku had themselves become a tradition that profoundly influenced young poets. Issa built on this tradition and took it further, adding to the conventional images a new range of subjects and a wry empathy with the sufferings of the humblest creatures: Fleas in my hut, / it's my fault / you look so skinny (Trans. Robert Hass). The ghazal form has its origins in 12th-century Persia (now called Iran). Like the haiku, it evolved from a longer, more complicated verse-form, the qasida (see Arabic Literature). The qasida, which came to Persia from Arabia, was a poem of praise written to be performed at public festivals and functions. Similar to the movement from hokku to haiku in Japanese literature, the opening portion of the qasida, a kind of introductory love note, eventually achieved an independent form as the ghazal. Unlike the public-oriented qasida, the ghazal is for intimate communications. The word translates from the Arabic as talking to women, and not surprisingly the common subject matters are love, longing, and unrequited passion. Ghazals are written in couplets (two-line stanzas) bound by a recurrent sound pattern that is part rhyme and part refrain. While there is no prescribed length for ghazals, they tend to be brief, rarely exceeding ten stanzas. The opening couplet introduces a rhyme that is repeated in the second line of the following stanzas, aa ba ca da ea, through to the end of the poem. Following the rhyme comes a brief refrain of one to three words. In the poem's final line, the poet signs the poem by including his name. Unlike most Western couplets, the couplets of the ghazal do not follow the same line of thought. Each couplet is a self-contained moment, and could almost stand as a short poem in itself. American 19th-century philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once criticized this aspect of the form, declaring that the ghazal resembled the unstrung beads of a necklace. In fact, this disconnected quality, because it allows gaps and jumps in thought and experience, has appealed to a number of poets including Canadian Phyllis Webb (Water and Light: Ghazals and Anti Ghazals, 1984; Sunday Water: Thirteen Anti Ghazals, 1982) as being strangely appropriate to the 20th century. Traditionally, ghazals address either earthly or spiritual love, in some case intertwining the two in a deliberately unclear manner. Since the Persian language does not mark gender, the sex of the beloved in the poem also remains a mystery. Two of the best known Persian ghazal writers are Jalal al-din Rumi, who wrote in the 13th century about ecstatic spiritual experience, and Hafiz of Shiraz, who in the 14th century combined the spiritual and secular kinds of ghazal with creativity and power: Dear friends, there's a Friend inside the night. Remember. **** As you sit down to take command,

remember Hafiz' face and the way of kindness. As the empty threshold does, remember. (Hafiz, 14th century; trans. Coleman Barks, 1993) Another important branch of the ghazal tradition exists in Urdu, a language similar to Hindi but written in Arabic script. The ghazal spread to India along with Islamic influences, when the Persians brought their own cultural practices to bear on the native language and population beginning in the 13th century. One of the first Indian practitioners was Amir Khosrow (1253-1325), who wrote in both Persian and Urdu, a near-mythic figure who inspired legends and folk tales. Mirza Ghalib, who wrote in the 19th century, was one of the most outstanding practitioners, an Indian poet of great moral complexity whose ghazals reflected the upheavals and uncertainty of a culture threatened by encroaching colonialism. In the 20th century, the Pakistani Faiz Ahmed Faiz added a new strain of longing in poems written during a long imprisonment as a political dissident. The contemporary Kashmri poet Aga Shahid Ali, who has lived in America for many years, has written English language ghazals in which the rich musical pattern, often lost in translation, stands fully revealed: Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell tonight before you agonize him in farewell tonight? **** Those Fabrics of Cashmere to make Me beautifulTrinketto gemMe to adornHowtelltonight? I beg for haven: Prisons, let open your gates A refugee from Belief seeks a cell tonight. (Ghazal 1997) A Muslim and an Urdu speaker, Ali draws on the lyric poetry tradition of the ghazal while joining it with Western poetic influences, including the sounds and rhythms of the English language and a quotation from Dickinson in the third stanza. His range of conventions, covering two very different poetic traditions, is truly multicultural. D. Tendi Strongly influenced by Arabic models, poetry in Swahili, an African language written in Arabic script, dates back to the 18th century (see African Literature). Among the Swahili people, poetry is the principle mode for recording historical events, with woman enjoying a leading position as keepers of oral tradition and gifted reciters. A principle form is the utendi (tendi in the plural), a narrative poem, sometimes intended to teach, that recounts history, lives, and legends. Tendi consist of four phrase units; the first three units rhyme, while the fourth introduces a different rhyme echoed in the final syllable of each stanza (aaab). With its words typically ending on a vowel sound, the Swahili language is a rich source of rhyme, lending itself to intensely musical patterns. One of the best known tendi is the Utendi of Mwana Kupona, a 19th-century woman, whose poem gives advice to her daughter: Take this amulet that I give you fasten it carefully upon a cord regard it as a precious thing that you may cherish it with care. Let me string for you a necklace of pearls and red coral let me adorn you as a beautiful woman

when it shines upon your neck. (Trans. Ali Ahmed Jahadmy, 1975) E. Native American Song The oral traditions of Native American cultures cannot be traced in the same ways as written poetry, but their widespread presence and cultural importance among different groups can hardly be overestimated. Praise poems, chants, curses, and remedies existed in many Native American cultures, with song regarded as a powerful spiritual instrument. Arranged in the right way, language was and is believed to be a source of magical strength, drawing upon good or deflecting evil forces. This Apache song was employed in rituals involving masked dancers, or Gan, who represented divine beings: When my songs first were, they made my songs with words of jet. Earth when it was made Sky when it was made Earth to the end Sky to the end Black dancer, black thunder, when they came toward each other All the bad things that used to be vanished. The bad wishes that were in the world all vanished. (Songs of the Masked Dancers, trans. Pliny Earl Goddard, 1968) A Navajo farm-song ritually fulfills the growth of the staple foods corn, white beans, and squash, willing the cycle to completion by appeal to the House-God: Now in the east the white bean and the great squash are tied with the rainbow Listen! the rain's drawing near! The voice of the bluebird is heard. From the top of the great corn-plant the water foams, I hear it. Around the roots the water foams, I hear it. Around the roots of the plants it foams, I hear it. From their tops the water foams, I hear it. (Songs in the Garden of the House God, trans. Washington Matthews, 1968) In their repetitions and refrains, these songs belong to oral traditions reaching back to the oldest poetic forms. V. Traditions of Modernism and the 20th Century While much early poetry dealt with the lives of heroes and gods in an elevated style, poets have also turned to the flawed lives of ordinary people, in particular bawdy or sexual scenes, since very early times. Fragments of poems by the Greek poet Archilocus speak graphically of erotic mishaps, the Romans Catullus and Propertius plumbed the depths of their decadent empire with frankness, the French criminal-poet Franois Villon heaped abuse on his enemies and jailers, while the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer recorded the lusty adventures of less-than-pious pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales. Poetry in the last few centuries has turned increasingly to ordinary, dayto-day concerns, with a corresponding interest in bringing literary language closer to natural speech. English poet William Wordsworth, in his 1802 preface to the Lyrical Ballads, railed against artificial poetic diction and declared his intention to write in a selection of language really used by men. In part, he was reacting against the excessivel y stylized poems of 18th14

century Augustan writers such as John Dryden and Alexander Pope. In his well-known A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal (1800), one of the Lucy poems, Wordsworth uses simple language to express his grief at the loss of a beloved young woman: No motion has she now, no force; She neither hears nor sees, Rolled round in earth's diurnal course With rocks, and stones, and trees! Similarly, in the 20th century, the celebration of the ordinary came in part from a reaction against outdated forms of expression. Early in the century, poets of the movement known as imagismincluding Americans Ezra Pound, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), Amy Lowell, and William Carlos Williamsturned from ideas to things, and the impersonal description of objects in the world, a style which could actually produce a profound emotional response in the reader. Williams went so far as to declare, No ideas but in things. Deeply influenced by Chinese and Japanese poets, he wrote poems in which the presence of an object took central place. In Chile, Pablo Neruda launched a related campaign; his series of Elemental Odes (1954) sing the praises of tomatoes, celery, and a watch. More recently, American poet Charles Simic began his career in the 1960s with a number of thing poems, including explorations of the mysterious lives of the knife, spoon, and fork. In a different take on the idea of the ordinary, American poets of the 1950s such as Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, and Anne Sexton, sometimes referred to as confessional poets, began to write openly of domestic problems, mental illness, divorce, and family strife. Canadian poets W.E.E. Ross and A.J.M. Smith used the lens of imagist techniques to look at the wilderness as if for the first time. A. Open Form Open form is a concept developed by American poet Charles Olson in 1950. Opposing it to such so-called closed forms as the sonnet, Olson proposed a new poetry that gave itself over to momentary sensations and associations, in which the process of the poem's composition, rather than being concealed beneath an ordered, finished surface, made itself felt through shifts, leaps, hesitations, and fragmentation: the thing you're after may lie around the bend of the nest (second, time slain, the bird! the bird! And there (strong) thrust, the mast! Flight (of the bird o kylix, o Antony of Padua sweep low, o bless the roofs, the old ones, the gentle steep ones on whose ridge-poles the gulls sit, from which they depart . . . (I, Maximus of Gloucester, to You, 1953) Central to the success of open-form poetry was the concept of the poetic line as a breath rather than a specific number of syllables or accents. This structure was reflected in the poem's appearance on the page, the varying line lengths and white space forced a reader's eye to keep pace with abrupt transitions of perception and thought. Referred to as the Black Mountain School after the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina where Olson taught, poets who embraced the new method included Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov and Robert Duncan. Canadians Margaret Avison, George Bowering, and Frank Davey were among a group of poets in Vancouver, British Columbia, who were also influenced by the Black Mountain poets, and in particular the effort to capture the effects of a speaking voice on the page. Though not strictly associated with the Black Mountain

School, American poets John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuylerthemselves often labeled the New York Schoolwere influenced by Olson's writings, particularly the notion of the poem as a record of its own making.

B. Women Poets and Tradition This democratization of poetry during the 20th century extends not only to subject matter, but to the writers of poems themselves. While there have been great women poets from early timesEnheduanna and Greek poet Sappho being prime exampleslimitations on womens education, financial constraints, and the burdens of childrearing and tending a household seriously inhibited any widespread tradition of womens writing. Those poets who did succeed in creating time and space to write often had extraordinary circumstances in their favor, such as an independent income or an unusually enlightened environment in which to develop their talents. In the wake of pioneering poets of the 19th century such as Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the 20th century has been rich in innovative and exciting poetry from women. Early in the century, Russian poets Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetayeva wrote strikingly original lyrics. Among the modernists, Americans such as Gertrude Stein profoundly expanded the possibilities of poetic experiment, while Marianne Moore crafted complex collage poems, drawing on the vocabularies of zoology and botany. Canadian poet P.K. Page brought the lives of ordinary people burdened by the social conditions of the post-war world into view. In Chile, Gabriela Mistral wrote passionate lyrics exploring personal and national identity; she went on to become the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize. Closer to the present, Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, and Adrienne Rich have made crucial contributions to the development of a womans poetic tradition, exploring and challenging the centrality of conventional poetic subjects such as fame and the idealized beloved. Canadian poet Margaret Atwood examined both psyche and society through metaphors of encountering the wilderness. Contemporary poets including Americans Louise Glck, Jorie Graham, Ann Lauterbach, Jane Miller, Lucie Brock-Broido, C. D. Wright, Thylias Moss, Joy Harjo, and Canadian Anne Carson, continue to extend poetic possibilities in their work. While some of these poets resist being labeled feminists and feel that emphasizing that they are women writers lessens their impact, others readily embrace feminist ideals and the creation of a poetic style that reflects what they see as women's distinctive ways of being. C. Ethnic Poets In recent years, American poetry has been greatly charged by the increased presence of poets from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. African Americans made their voices heard as far back as the 18th century, with poet Phillis Wheatly, but they assumed a more distinctive presence with the arrival of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s. Poets associated with this influential group included Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Jean Toomer, and Sterling Brown. While Cullen preferred to write in traditional forms, Hughes and others worked to craft new forms reflecting African American voices and experience, taking inspiration from slang and inflection, blues songs, and African chants. Later poets such as Amiri Baraka, Etheridge Knight, Lucille Clifton, Ishmael Reed, Quincy Troupe, and contemporary spoken-word poets took inspiration from these early efforts, while Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Hayden, and Melvin Tolson adhered more closely to established forms. Latino voices such as Gary Soto, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Martin Espada, Sandra Cisneros, and Jimmy Santiago Baca have also sought to express diverse cultural experience in their poems, as have Native Americans Linda Hogan, Sherman Alexie, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Joy Harjo. Among Asian Americans, the vastly different writings of Kimiko Hahn, LiYoung Lee, Arthur Sze, Michael Harper, Toi Derricotte, and John Yau show the artistic breadth of cross-cultural influence. In recent decades, the dramatic increase of work in translation and its widespread distribution have made poetry more than ever an international art, informed by a broad range of traditions (see American Literature). North American immigrants and Native Americans claimed a literary voice in Canada during the 1990s. Lola Lemire represents the confusion of identity familiar in a plural culture like Canadas, further complicated by the culture of the 20th century. Trinidad-born Dionne Brand, African-Canadian George Elliot Clarke Daniel, and


David Moses, a writer of Delaware Indian heritage, are among Canadas contemporary ethnic writers expressing the diversity within Canadas historical plurality.

D. Poetry and Protest Poetry has also served as a form of protest, resistance, and witness to oppressive political and social systems across the world. The French-language ngritude movement was launched in the 1930s by poets Aim Csaire of Martinique and Lopold Sdar Senghor of what was then French West Africa, and became a rallying point for West African and Caribbean nations challenging French colonial rule. Senghor would subsequently become president of the newly independent country of Senegal. South African poets Es'kia Mphahlele, Dennis Brutus, and Breyten Breytenbach directed their protests against the racist practices of apartheid. Chileans Nicanor Parra and Ariel Dorfman, Nicaraguan Claribel Alegria, and Cuban Herberto Padilla were among those opposing dictatorships and human rights violations in their respective Latin American countries. In Eastern bloc countries poetry was engaged in more subtle forms of resistance. In Poland, Zbigniew Herbert and Wisawa Szymborska composed muted, ironic portraits addressing the struggle to hold onto moral independence within a repressive regime, while in the former Yugoslavia, Tomaz Salamun hurled his aggressive and surreal imagery in the face of his would-be censors. In the Soviet Union, Joseph Brodsky and Irina Ratushinskaya were imprisoned for poems that by their independent spirit alone appeared subversive to the Communist regime. These poets sometimes published through the medium of samizdat, self-published works circulated secretly or smuggled abroad. Dorothy Livesay and Earle Birney were among the Canadian poets who published in left-leaning journals as well as elsewhere, and remained important in Canadian poetry through the 1970s. In the United States, Langston Hughes and Amiri Baraka, among many others, added their voices to the struggle for civil rights. Daniel Berrigan, W. S. Merwin, Galway Kinnell, and Muriel Rukeyser were among a number of poets using their work to protest, overtly or subtly, American involvement in the Vietnam War (1959-1975). E. Poetry in Colleges and Universities With the spread of creative writing programs in universities and colleges, as well as the increase in noncredit and community workshops, poetry now reaches a wider audience than ever before. The 20th-century American poet Carolyn Forch once noted that a startling percentage of major American poets of the generations before the postWorld War II baby boom had attended Ivy League colleges such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, (and their female counterparts Radcliffe, Smith, or Bryn Mawr). In the last 50 years, the existence of writing programs at many public universities has greatly broadened opportunities for those wishing to engage in the study and practice of poetry, rendering it a less privileged and exclusive domain than before. At present largely a phenomena in the United States and Canada, the teaching of creative writing is gradually gaining popularity in England and Australia. Similarly, the spread of small, independent literary journals has helped provide a more diverse forum for varied voices, broadening the literary scenes of different countries beyond such traditional cultural centers as New York, Boston, London, and Paris.

Contributed By: Karen Volkman, B.A., M. A..

Instructor in Poetry at New York University, The New School, and Teachers and Writers Collaborative. Author of Crashs Law. National Poetry Award recipient. National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry recipient.
"Poetry," Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2009 1997-2009 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved. 1993-2009 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.