A Formal Feeling Comes: Poems in Form by Contemporary Women, Edited by Annie Finch

We are proud to reissue Annie Finch's landmark anthology of women's formal poetry, A Formal Feeling Comes.

The definition of formal poetry developed for the editing of this book--that formal poems are "structured by the conspicuous repetition of any language element"-- encompasses blues forms and sonnets, sapphics and chants, and the book includes poets from Rita Dove and Marilyn Hacker to Sonia Sanchez, May Sarton, and Anne Waldman. Each of the 60 poets introduces her poems with a brief essay on the role of form in her work.

"Halfway through the book, I drank a glass of good Oregon pinot noir, and suddenly the poems themselves began to open to me. Poems that had seemed a prison for words now became houses with doors leading in and out. I understood again how much the mind craves form. The archetypes that command the way we think and behave are not invented by the mind but are extracted by the mind from the perfect or nearly perfect forms in nature." -- Alice Evans in The Eugene Weekly

"Part of what is valuable about A Formal Feeling Comes is the way it reveals that hidden strand of formal women's poetry which persisted even while Pound, Williams, Joyce and other male modernists wanted to end the 'idea of poetry for ladies.'"--Sue Standing in The Boston Review

Annie Finch: Introduction
Elizabeth Alexander A Multiplicity of Forms

Kevin of the N.E. Crew


Who I Think You Are


Nell Altizer A Different Spin

Sonnet 2 from "Love Letters Written to Her Who Lives (Alas!) Away"

Sonnet 5 from "Love Letters Written to Her Who Lives (Alas!) Away"

Julia Alvarez Housekeeping Cages

How I Learned to Sweep

Sonnet 1 from "33"

Sonnet 42 from "33"

Bilingual Sestina

Judith Barrington Scaffolding

Villanelle VI

Debra Bruce Ultrasound

Two Couples

Sonnet 2 from "The Light They Make"

Sonnet 4 from "The Light They Make"

Julia Budenz Alluring Pleasure

Poeta Fui

Melissa Cannon Essentials

The Sisters

Kelly Cherry A Flashlight or Map


The Raiment We Put On

The Bride of Quietness

Reading, Dreaming, Hiding

The Pines Without Peer

Sandra Cisneros Spoken Forms

Muddy Kid Comes Home

The Poet Reflects on Her Solitary Fate

Cheryl Clarke Thoughts on form and formalism and my uses of them

What Goes Around Comes Around

Tortoise and Badger


Rita Dove An Intact World

Persephone Underground



"Blown apart by loss"

Suzanne J. Doyle When the Ballerina Doesn't Point Her Toes

This Shade

Some Girls

Hell to Pay

Rhina P. Espaillat Why I Like to Dance in a Box


Julie Fay A Kind of Survival

Dear Marilyn, Think of This


Annie Finch Illicit Communion


Chain of Women

Sapphics for Patience

A Reply From His Coy Mistress

Joan Austin Geier On Writing Formal Poetry

On Your Twenty-First Birthday

Sarah Gorham A Dancing Floor

The White Tiger Leaps

Princess Parade

The Empress Receives the Head of a Taiping Rebel

Jane Greer Art is Made

Rodin's "Gates of Hell"

Emily Grosholz Art and Science


The Last of the Courtyard


Marilyn Hacker Meditating Formally

Eight Days in April

Ballad of Ladies Lost and Found

Dusk: July

Rachel Hadas The Skills of the Stow-away

The House Beside the Sea

The Lair

Winged Words

Josephine Jacobsen Basic Rhythms

Only Alice

The Limbo Dancer

Lenore Keeshig Tobias An Ancient Technique

I Grew Up

Mother With Child

Dolores Kendrick The Craft of Poems

Solo: the good blues

Gethsemane A.D.

We Are the Writing on the Wall

Mary Kinzie Some Thoughts on the Threshold of Form and the Level of Words

Sun and Moon


Sound Waves


Ringing Words

Carolyn Kizer A Defense of Breathing

On a Line From Valery

from Pro Femina (Sections 2 and 3)

A Muse of Water

Phyllis Koestenbaum A Brief, Habitual Transcription

Sonnet xxxi from "Criminal Sonnets"

Maxine Kumin Paradoxical Freedom

The Nuns of Childhood: Two Views


Phillis Levin Embracing Fate

Citizens & Sky

Dark Horse

Planting Roses

Janet Lewis A Kind of Celebration

Time and Music

Vassar Miller A Worthwhile Task

Light Reading How Far?

Dirge in Jazz Time

Leslie Monsour Notes on Contemporary Formalism

Emily's Words


A Dream of Dying

Honor Moore The Walls of the Room

First Time: 1950

A Green Place

Molly Peacock One Green, One Blue: One Point About Formal Verse Writing and Another About Women Writing Formal Verse



How I Had to Act

Anger Sweetened

Good Girl

The Spell

Helen Pinkerton True Recovery

On Dorothea Lange's Photograph "Migrant Mother" (1936)

On Vermeer's "Young Women With a Water Jug" (1658) in the Metropolitan Museum

Mary Jo Salter A Beautiful Surface


What Do Women Want?

The Rebirth of Venus

Young Girl Peeling Apples

Sonia Sanchez Form and Responsibility

Two Haiku

Song No. 3

Song No. 2

Father and Daughter

May Sarton Where the Greatest Mystery Lies

Small Joys

The Tortured

Maureen Seaton Honoring the Sonnet

Fear of Subways

Fear of Shoplifting


Leslie Simon On "Street Bleats"

Hattie goes to Market

Nellie gives into Blanche

Bernice got next to Isis

Elizabeth Spires Some Notes on Form

The Comb and the Mirror


Interrogations of the Sparrow

Patricia Storace A Singular Presence

The Archaelogy of Divorce

Wedding Song

King Lear Bewildered

Mona Van Duyn Out-of-Body Concentration


The Vision Test

Sonnet for Minimalists

  Alma Luz Villanueva The Wind and Light

Peace #3

Even the Eagles Must Gather

Anne Waldman Shifting Contexts

Baby's Pantoum

Marilyn Nelson Waniek Sense of Discovery

Diverne's Waltz



Daughters, 1900

The Ballad of Aunt Geneva

A Canticle for Abba Jacob

Kathleene West E.B. and Me

On Track

Mildred Weston To Be Clearly Heard

Primitive Place


Carolyn Beard Whitlow Standards to Break

Book of Routh

Rockin' A Man, Stone Blind

Poem for the Children

Nancy Willard The Gift of A Poem

The Ballad of Biddy Early

The Cat's Second Song

The Speckled Hen's Morning Song to Biddy Early

Nellie Wong When Form Flowers


Grandmothers' Song

Appendix 1: Formal Key to Poems

Appendix 2: Index of Forms

Notes on Contributors


ISBN: 978-1933456959, 332 pages, $25.00

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