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Old 04-18-2001, 06:52 PM
MacArthur MacArthur is offline
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I heard you say in a some other thread that you have been writing almost exclusively in three and four foot lines for some years now (I assume mostly iambic). The comment intrigued me, because different poets clearly have different preferences in lengths of line-- and obviously, how quickly the end of a line is reached, in Metrical verse, will greatly effect rhythm, rhyme, phrasing and metrical freedom. For example, reversing the second foot has drastic consequences in Iambic Pentameter, but appears to be a fairly common substitution in Iambic Tetrameter.

Anyway, am interested to hear your thoughts around these Formal choices. (Was intending to send you a PM...then saw this new column.)
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Old 04-18-2001, 09:01 PM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Mac, In the mid 70's I wrote long pentameter narratives about gay historical figures because I was too young to have a life of my own to write about. Wilbur chided me: "Just because you're addressing the themes of Constantine Cavafy doesn't excuse you from the task of sufficiently charging your language." I'd grown up a folk singer, so ballad came naturally. When I got into farming and hunting in a big way, I started to write trimeter, figuring that if my rhymes came every six syllables (or four in dimeter), my lines would be so musical they wouldn't "lack charge." Of course I still write pentameter (see The Cook Fire a few pages back in Metrical 1.) And I put trochees in the second foot of any length line when they work--which ain't often. Alan of course calls my meter Iambic Timeter and contrasts it to Tim Steele's Iambic penTimeter.
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Old 04-19-2001, 07:59 AM
Alan Sullivan Alan Sullivan is offline
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Mac, one of the side effects of writing in short line is the need to enjamb on phrases. It is much more difficult to accomplish true enjambment at short intervals. Tim and I make a virtue of this necessity by promoting the notion that line and stanza ought to comprise units of meaning analogous to sentence and paragraph. Some formalists prefer to disguise form by rhyming on articles and prepositions, so that a formal poem looks like an accident rather than an artifact. There are also quasi-formalists writing free verse in stanzas that look like artifacts rather than accidents. Go figure!

Alan Sullivan
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Old 04-19-2001, 01:45 PM
MacArthur MacArthur is offline
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Yeah...this is what I was thinking about-- the consequences. A sestina in Tetra- versus a Pentameter-- 1 Foot x 39 lines-- that's more than six full hexameters! A villanelle-- 19 x 1 Foot-- almost five extra pentameter lines. Believe me, you can tell the difference when you read these things at open-mics. I write almost all these repeating-type forms in Tetrameter these days.

Some famous poet-pairs: Jonathon Swift and Alexander Pope...the former mostly tetrameter-- the latter almost excusively pentameter. Simlarly, Andrew Marvell and Milton.

Long as were here...Timothy on Metrical II wanted to know what you call a line in two metrical feet...Bimeter, Dimeter, Dynamic TIMeter?
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Old 04-21-2001, 07:11 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Dimeter, and it's not for everyone. I wanted to add, Mac, that although I wanted to write in short lines from age 18 on, I rigorously confined myself to pentameter between 25 and 30, figuring I had to get our great measure down first. The long line gives you space to learn rhyming and room to develop a a real sense of lineation, a sense that corresponds with phrase, with breath and heartbeat. That done, though, I wanted to sound like nobody I'd ever read. For all the influence of Frost and Yeats and Hardy, no one would mistake Hunting Time, for instance, as the work of anybody but Murphy.
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Old 04-21-2001, 08:56 AM
Jan D. Hodge Jan D. Hodge is offline
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On a closely related point: a student several years ago asked me if there were such a thing as tetrameter blank verse. Technically, of course, no, since BV by definition is pentameter. And it seemed to me, that point aside, that such a thing wouldn't or shouldn't work, though I'm not sure why.

Then I ran across a couple of poems by Mary Oliver which look and read very much like "tetrameter blank verse" despite some random rhyming and what seems to be a pattern of near-rhyming (along with several other musical effects): "The House" and "A Letter from Home" [from NEW AND SELECTED, 1992]. The latter reads:

She sends me news of bluejays, frost,
Of stars and now the harvest moon
That rides above the stricken hills.
Lightly, she speaks of cold, of pain,
And lists what is already lost.
Here where my life seems hard and slow,
I read of glowing melons piled
Beside the door, and baskets filled
With fennel, rosemary and dill,
While all she could not gather in
Or hide in leaves, grows black and falls.
Here where my life seems hard and strange,
I hear her wild excitement when
Stars climb, frost comes, and bluejays sing.
The broken year will make no change
Upon her wise and whirling heart;--
She knows how people always plan
To live their lives, and never do.
She will not tell me if she cries.

I touch the crosses by her name;
I fold the pages as I rise,
And tip the envelope, from which
Drift scraps of borage, woodbine, rue.

How much of the poem's effect depends on the presence of the rhyming? Would the short lines work as "blank verse" in its absence? Any thoughts on this?

Jan

[This message has been edited by Jan D. Hodge (edited April 21, 2001).]
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Old 04-21-2001, 04:39 PM
MacArthur MacArthur is offline
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A poem which, although it has undergraduate flaws, I very much admire, by Joe Bolton...now dead.

In unrhymed tetrameter (w/ lots of Trimeters)-- I have heard it called BV Tetrameter.

Departure

for Tonya

Because it was a weekend morning,
You lounged awhile in the dustlight
Of your small room on 14th Street,
In that house like an old movie set.

I think maybe you sipped capuccino
And smoked one ginseng cigarette,
Watching the neon of the liquor store
Lose itself under increasing sun

And raising the window to let the reluctant
Spring breeze bother your camisole,
You danced a moment to no apparent
Music--that city already strange.

And already your dozen or so friends
Seemed strangers. In one cruel week
We'd turned away from you, as if
To lose you before you were gone.

Left utterly alone, there is nothing
The heart can invent to numb itself.
All around you on the hardwood floor,
Your old life darkened in cardboard boxes.

I think, now, of those twenty black hats,
Black haloes your face paled under;
Jewelry, photographs, a few precious books;
Little shoes in which to make your exit.

If love is an awkward, scriptless scene
To be played out between two people,
I cannot write it: I am a pattern
Of breath and sleep that city will outlive.

And if poetry is a bond between
Two hearts, it is a bond too frail:
That night words failed, I too, was lost--
To whiskey, memory, a photograph.

East of that city, the green fields
Are winding away beneath your gaze,
And here, west of that city, there is
No water deep enough to let me forget.

If I could look forward, I could see us
In Houston, in Atlanta--that South
No train will take us to, that South
We lost ourselves in so long ago.

And those cities, so far removed
In distance and time--can our small stars
Survive those bright lights? Our language
Be heard above the din of the million?

Tonight, a hundred miles away,
Our city, made of circles and squares,
Must be much the same as it was:
The bars, the buildings, the streets empty of lovers.

It is a city we can never
Return to--a dream, a green light,
An unfound door closed upon the past.
Our words echo through it and fade.




[This message has been edited by MacArthur (edited April 21, 2001).]
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Old 04-21-2001, 06:02 PM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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The Mary Oliver is quite good, especially for a free verser. The Joe Bolton is by no stretch of the imagination metrical, much less tetrameter.
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Old 04-21-2001, 07:13 PM
Julie Julie is offline
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Jan, I don't really have any comments on the topic, I just wanted to thank you for posting that lovely poem.

Julie
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Old 04-23-2001, 07:31 PM
Alan Sullivan Alan Sullivan is offline
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Mary Oliver's poem is very fine. I cannot imagine it working so well without the rhymes, and I think the mingling of full and slant is handled beautifully.

Richard Wakefield has written unrhymed tetrameter and posted some on the metrical board.

Alan Sullivan

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