More Broken Lines
So what happens when you do write a long narrative in verse and someone else tries to read it?
The key question, it seems to me, is what happens at the line breaks. If you looked a little at the miscellany at the bottom of yesterday’s post, you’ll know I think line breaks in free verse must be acknowledged by a pause when reading, while line breaks in metrical verse shouldn’t be.
In free verse, the line break is either a purely visual artifact to organize a silent reading (viewing?), or else it’s a rhythmic marker to organize a performance. In either case, it forces the reader to experience language differently than in prose: the rhythm of the sentence is broken; the forward thrust of argument and narrative are diminished. That’s not a bad thing, at least in lyric verse. It may and I think does allow and encourage sideways epiphany and even glimpses of mystery, and it can be very beautiful.
It’s very hard to take in 200 page doses.
But meter makes the line part of the forward thrust of the poem, and, as A E Stallings noted in her “Presto Manifesto,” rhyme allows even verse without fixed line lengths (whether het-met or free verse) to be heard as lines. In this mode, however, it’s the line which is backgrounded, a pulse at the edge of awareness instead of a directive the reader must choose either to ignore or to obey.
You won’t be surprised to read that I’ve chosen to tell my ghost story murder mystery in rhymed metrical verse. But in what form? I’ve previously podcast terza rima versions of the “Invocation” and an opening fragment of “Canto I,” and I did rewrite a fragment of that fragment into ottava rima. Today, I’ve podcast the latter, as well — why not give a listen and tell me what you think?
It’s OK to think I’m crazy and tell me that, too.