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date: 15 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

When what a poet hopes to communicate is an unaccustomed pleasure through his experimental poems, he cannot rely on straightforward strategies of communication. He must instead deliberately disappoint his readers’ expectations and hope that instead of condemning him out of hand they will try to figure out what he is doing. Wordsworth’s Preface to Lyrical Ballads declares this strategy, and his poems in the two volumes of that collection enact it through discursive rhetorical devices like epitrope, hyperbole, circumlocution, shifting narrative points of view, and enigmatic ‘morals’. To counter long-standing reading habits reinforced by Coleridge’s long-authoritative declaration of the experiments’ failure, a critic may make fruitful recourse to the rhetorical theories of Wayne Booth and Mikhail Bakhtin. This essay illustrates this rhetorical approach through brief inquiries into ‘Simon Lee’, ‘Goody Blake and Harry Gill’, ‘Anecdote for Fathers’, ‘We Are Seven’, ‘Hart-Leap Well’, and ‘Michael’.

Keywords: experimental poems, rhetorical devices, Wayne Booth, Mikhail Bakhtin, Simon Lee, Anecdote for Fathers, We Are Seven, Hart-Leap Well, and Michael

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