In Russian lore, college students are always poor, hungry and drunk. A student from one popular joke reads the menu in a university canteen from the right to the left: his first concern is the price.

A lot of Russian poets still use, for various reasons, traditional meters and rhyming. Once you declare, by the structure of the opening lines, that you’re going to stick, say, to the good old pentameter, and nothing below indicates departure, — I expect you to deliver so I won’t tolerate bad rhymes unless I know you had a good reason for that. Sometimes I run a preliminary quality check on the poem that includes a rhyme test — i.e., I’m in a bad habit of scanning lines from the right to the left, quite like that student.

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