Eratosphere Forums - Metrical Poetry, Free Verse, Fiction, Art, Critique, Discussions Able Muse - a review of poetry, prose and art

Forum Left Top

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 07-17-2017, 09:47 AM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2016
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Posts: 809
Default Repetends

What makes a good repetend?

Clearly, it isn't just any good line. It has to be a line that's improved by repetition. Some of this will depend on how the context of the poem shapes and builds on the line's inherent meaning. But are there properties of the individual line that give it greater or lesser potential as a repetend?

I have no general theory, and the rest of this post doesn't build to anything. I'm just going to look at a couple examples and see what thoughts emerge.

One repetend that I find extremely effective is Dunbar's "Timor mortis conturbat me." It's simple, not flashy. It doesn't work because of any surprise factor, which suits it to repetition (since surprise wears off with each repetition). Instead, it builds on itself, each new instance hammering home the inevitability of the death that's coming for Dunbar as for all the poets before him.

Grammatical ambiguity also helps, as in Thomas' "Do not go gentle into that good night," where both repetends can function both as commands (if standing alone) or as descriptions of actions (if joined to a larger context). Thomas plays with that, starting with the command form in the abstract, then moving through descriptions for the main body of the villanelle, and finally returning to the command form at the end, now in a deeply personal context.

But grammatical ambiguity works precisely by making the repetitions imperfect repetitions: the words are the same and appear in the same order, but their function changes. This is very different from the Dunbar, where the words gain force but do not change sense.

Ok, that's enough reflection from me. What say y'all?
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 07-17-2017, 10:59 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: New York
Posts: 13,795
Default

I don't have a theory either, but one thing I suspect is that many repetends work because with each verse/stanza the claim/emotion of the repetend becomes more fleshed out, its truth morphing from a casual observation into something of vital, earned importance. The first time you hear the (soon to be) repetend, it sounds plausible and interesting enough, but then you hear it again in the context of the words/lyrics that intervened and now you have a better sense of why you were told it in the first place, and so it deepens. You don't say, "Why are you telling me that again?" but "Oh, now I see why you told me that in the first place."
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 07-17-2017, 11:01 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 7,110
Default

Contemporary repeating forms often tend to play with the repetitions more than past examples did. Having lines that can be broken in one or more places by means of punctuation, so that parts of them can be hooked up to preceding or following lines to change the rhythm and meaning, can be one of the qualities that make very effective repetends.

Susan
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 07-17-2017, 11:03 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2013
Location: England, UK
Posts: 2,178
Default

Here's a link to the Dunbar poem, which is called "Lament by the Makers", for those uncultured people who, like me, had not heard of it, or him.

Very interesting topic Aaron. Thanks for starting it. I look forward to reading others' reflections.

Matt
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 07-17-2017, 11:16 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: New York
Posts: 13,795
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Susan McLean View Post
Having lines that can be broken in one or more places by means of punctuation, so that parts of them can be hooked up to preceding or following lines to change the rhythm and meaning, can be one of the qualities that make very effective repetends.

Susan
I don't disagree that it "can" be effective, but in a way it almost feels like cheating sometimes. Why bother having a repetend if you're going to chop it up and disguise it? It almost feels like a trick to avoid the form's constraints, and we end up cheering the author's resourcefulness more than the expressiveness of the chosen form.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 07-17-2017, 11:26 AM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2016
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Posts: 809
Default

I don't necessarily think it's cheating, but that does touch on part of what I had in mind with the Dunbar/Thomas contrast. There's a sense in which the Dunbar is a truer repetend: it really is the same thing, repeated. Whereas Thomas is repeating the lines exactly, but in a sense not exactly repeating them. The words are the same, but not the sense. And what Susan is talking about is the next step away from a "true" repetition: the words stay in the same order, but the punctuation changes how they get broken up. There are still further steps away one can take: I've seen villanelles that play with homophony to interesting effect (though not so interesting that I remember their names, apparently). And so forth.

By "truer" I of course do not mean "better," in the sense that truer repetition will lead to a better poem. All of them can lead to good poems, well-handled. But I do find the distinction between types of repetition interesting, and I suspect that lines will need different properties to function well when repeated in these different ways. I mean this beyond the obvious grammatical properties require to do what Thomas did, or what Susan is talking about. What about semantic and other non-grammatical properties. Are there any that seem especially well-suited to particular forms of repetition?
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 07-17-2017, 11:48 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2013
Location: England, UK
Posts: 2,178
Default

On the subject of "true" repetition: one of things I like about is Ashberry's sestina "The Painter" is that he doesn't use end-word variation/wordplay to reduce the repetition constraints. The end-words remain unchanged throughout: "brush" never becomes "brushes" or "brash". There are also no grammatical shifts -- from noun form to verb form, say. But it seems even tighter than this: "subject" always means the artistic subject, "brush" is always the artist's paintbrush, the "buildings" are always the same buildings and so on. "self-portrait" is the closest we come to a variation, but even there's no shift in meaning of the word "portrait": it still refers to a painting on the canvas.

I realise I've gone slightly off-topic by bringing sestinas in, so apologies for that.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 07-17-2017, 11:50 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 7,110
Default

Ranking different kinds of repetition is very far from my intention in contributing to this discussion. I think the point should be to expand our understanding of all the different ways that repetition can work in a poem. Repeating poems can be laments, but they can also be witty or joyful or any number of things. I am delighted when I see repetition used in new and surprising ways.

Susan
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 07-17-2017, 06:52 PM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2016
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Posts: 809
Default

Yes, I hope this thread will not turn into ranking. I really did mean "truer" in a value-neutral sense. Maybe "stricter" would be more neutral.

I am interested in whether lines need to have different properties to serve as stricter vs. looser repetends. (Beyond the grammatical and other properties that make looser repetends possible in the first place.)
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 07-17-2017, 07:34 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: New York
Posts: 13,795
Default

I didn't mean to be "ranking" lines that mix things up in surprising ways by varying the punctuation, only to be pointing out the danger to be watchful for when you do such a thing. I think what all repetends have in common is that we want to find ways to make them sound different as the poem progresses, and there are different approaches to bringing that about.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



Forum Right Top
Forum Left Bottom Forum Right Bottom
 
Right Left
Member Login
Forgot password?
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Statistics:
Forum Members: 7,842
Total Threads: 18,818
Total Posts: 243,024
There are 158 users
currently browsing forums.
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Sponsor:
Donate & Support Able Muse / Eratosphere
Forum LeftForum Right
Right Right
Right Bottom Left Right Bottom Right

Hosted by ApplauZ Online