poems, mostly metrical, and rants and raves on poets, poetry, and the po-biz (with 8-string stuff)
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Blasts from the Past

With one exception, the boards I sometimes visit to get and give advice on fledgling poems are not not helpful with meter. In fact, it’s hard to get advice on meter anywhere, since it’s so badly taught — when it’s taught at all — even at the graduate level.

The most common confusion, between speech stress, metrical stress, and rhythm, leads too many to believe that “correctly” handled meter is metronomic (thank you so much uncle Ezra!) and that “free verse” is free from that boring tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock …

It’s a dreadful, pernicious error, and one I’ve from time to time tried to address here at the Sonnetarium. October of 2003 was one of those times, and, in particular, I made an arbitrary mini-collection of the opening 2 lines of the first 12 iambic pentameter poems by 12 different poets in the New Formalist anthology Rebel Angels. The point was to demonstrate, using poets widely misunderstood to be rhythmically unadventurous, just how wildly the rhythm of clearly pentametric lines can vary through exploiting ordinary speech syntax and a few fairly standard metrical substitutions. That post is here; the whole month is here.

Note: The first 6 years of this blog were not done in WordPress and were not originally hosted at this domain, but it’s all been moved. It looks a lot different, but I think all the internal links are good. One day I really am going to get that long blogroll moved here.

Another Note: Ezra Pound, whatever else he may have done or known, seriously misunderstood both meter and the musical line.

Update: The old radio blog linked above will soon be down for about half an hour, but should be back up by 22:30 EDT at the latest.

Update: It’s back!

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3 comments

1 MAS { 01.11.09 at 5:32 pm }

“seriously misunderstood both meter and the musical line.”

If he had just shut up about them and done what he was good at, it would have all worked out in the end.

2 Patrick Gillespie { 01.13.09 at 8:57 pm }

I saw your link to Able Muse. I spent some time there. Twice. Both times I had to leave. I found some of the self-anointed pomposity to be insufferable – mainly because their egos were only rivaled by their mediocrity. “A triton among minnows” is how Shakespeare would have referred to each one of them.

When Ezra Pound invited Frost to one of his poetry parties Frost averred: “I don’t write poetry by committee,” he answered. Pound would have *adored* Able Muse.

3 Mike { 01.14.09 at 8:55 am }

Patrick, there certainly were such “tritons among minnows.” But the guests at Lariat are often wonderful — Sam Gwynn, Richard Wiblur, Robert Mezey, and others — and there have been some very reliable critters. Things are sometimes too precious there, but there’s a core that knows meter.

David Mason and Alicia Stallings also post there these days, and I’m always glad to see what they have to say.

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