Clive James did not overestimate the value of writing poetry within formal restrictions. By writing within these restrictions, a poet can show the reader how awful his ex-wife was, say, in just two stanzas instead of telling that reader in a ten-thousand-word essay. The essay has its place, to be sure, but the real work is done in compressing the poet’s story and still being able to communicate it. James was very thorough. I don’t know if Stephen Edgar’s “Man on the Moon” is perfect, but it certainly is very good. However, James may have missed the poet’s main device: the use of duality. Edgar has taken an event known and important to nearly everyone and cited it in his poem to convey the importance of an event known only to himself.
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