Gunn's “Meat”: Notations on Craft

Joshua Weiner

in At the Barriers

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780226890432
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226890371 | DOI:
Gunn's “Meat”: Notations on Craft

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  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)


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Reading “Meat” in its early incarnation as free verse against the final, more formal version included in Gunn's book The Man with Night Sweats shows us how a poet gets different effects from different forms, and how those effects change our experience of the poem. The writing in both versions of “Meat” is characteristically chaste and unadorned, the diction terse, the images concise, and the abstractions plainly elegant. About the free-verse version, Gunn says that the poem “was completely finished, no rhyme or suggestion of rhymes.” Indeed, the free verse is so plain it seems quite stripped of sonic figures altogether. The poem catches the reader initially, not through euphony, cacophony, or rhyme, but through its darting, rhythmically quick observation of physical movement. The occasion of “Meat” is that of a social, moral judgment publicly uttered, and as such it seems to have a fuller, more lively embodiment in pentameter couplets.

Keywords: Meat; free verse; Night Sweats; abstractions; rhymes

Chapter.  1276 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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