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Stress, Feet

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SeamusBryan
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since 01-30-2008
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0 posted 01-30-2008 12:13 PM       View Profile for SeamusBryan   Email SeamusBryan   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for SeamusBryan

In my ignorance, Iíve just started trying to learn about poetry more formally.  Just finished Metre, Rhythm and Verse Form, by P. Hobsbaum, really insightful and made very clear how much I have to learn.

But what I really donít understand is stress:  How do you determine - whatís criteria for a syllable being heavy or lightly stressed?

I was wondering if anyone could show me ways in which to become more familiar with recognizing how stressed a syllable is, ways to identify?

Any help would be so greatly appreciated, thank you.

Essorant
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since 08-10-2002
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1 posted 02-11-2008 01:09 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Heavy stress / stress is the main stress of a word.   Light stress / unstress is any stress that is not the main stress.

Here is how you may determine if the stress is generally a main stress or not:

1.  If a word is one syllable distinguish whether it is a Function Word or not.   If it is not a function word then it has main stress.  If it is a function word it doesn't.

2.  If a word is more than one syllable, only one syllable in the word always has the main stress.  Pronounce the word carefully and listen for the syllable that has more pressure in pronunciation than all the others.  In horror the first syllable has the main stress (HORror). Sometimes pronouncing the word incorrectly may help find out where the stress is.  Pronouncing horror as horROR, putting most force on the second syllable, sounds incorrect to the ear, and thereby one may be the more sure that the stress must be on first syllable.  If you are unsure of the correct pronunciation , then usually the dictionary may help.  For example, at dictionary.com the pronunciation is given in brackets with the syllable that has the main stress in bold type: "Horror [hawr-er, hor-]"


[This message has been edited by Essorant (02-11-2008 02:06 PM).]

Balladeer
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2 posted 02-11-2008 03:28 PM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

If a word is more than one syllable, only one syllable in the word always has the main stress.

Are you sure about that, Essorant?
Balladeer
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3 posted 02-11-2008 03:32 PM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

Seamus, allow me to introduce you to an excellent submission by Kit McCallum, one of our best poets with regards to rhyme, meter, stress and feet.
http://piptalk.com/pip/Forum22/HTML/000518.html
Bob K
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4 posted 02-11-2008 04:50 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K


Dear SeamusBtyan,
      
          Try

Poetic Meter and Poetic Form by Paul Fussell

Or, especially,

A Prosody Handbook by Katl Shapiro and Robert Beum

     Shapio won a Pulitzer after WWII and was later an Editor of Poetry Magazine for a number or years.  He also wrote a poem on verse, but that's not for now.  This book is short, crisp as a good carrot and understandable. It's one of the standards in the field.

     Paul Fussell is a critic, but his writing is fine and he has a clear point of view.  He knows his stuff and presents it well.

     Both books are going to give you solid grounding in metrics in a systematic way.  Wikipedia seems to like the Shapiro and Beum book as an authority.  Good luck to you.  


Essorant
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since 08-10-2002
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5 posted 02-12-2008 01:03 AM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Balladeer

I never say something in these forums unless I feel fairly certain about it.  

Mind you I am speaking from the point of view of a given dialect (in this case Standard Modern English).  Within a given dialect, the stress is always fixed on a specific syllable (as HOR of HORror).  But even from one English dialect to another the stress still usually remains on the same syllable.  There is no dialect I know of that pronounces horror as horROR.  

Be careful to make the distinction between "stress" and "beat" as well.  I am talking about word-stress here not rhythmic "beat".  Often the mainstresses correspond with the rhythmic "beats" of the poem, but not always, because even though the main mainstresses predominatly establish the beats, unmainstresses may be modified to maintain "beats" too sometimes.  

Does that put my statement in a clearer context?

Balladeer
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6 posted 02-12-2008 09:30 AM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

Have to say I'm not sure...and not to be argumentative. Yes, that works for horror and I fought with a local fellow who insisted that "show" and "widow" was a good rhyme.

How about overflow....or Martinique...or syllable? I can think of many words where equal amounts of stress are equally shared.  How about a word created by a  spondee?

In poetry, a spondee is a metrical foot consisting of two long syllables, as determined by syllable weight in classical meters, or two stressed syllables, as determined by stress in modern meters.
Wikipedia

How about monsoon, for example?
Essorant
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7 posted 02-12-2008 11:33 AM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

In the words SYLLable and martinIQUE and Oferflow (noun) the syllables other than SYLL and IQUE and O are unmainstressed syllables that alternate with another unmainstressed syllable.  Even though they are unmainstressed syllables, they still have an alternating manner of stress (more stress/less stress/more stress/less stress).  Therefore you do still notice that there is more stress on -ble and mar- and -flow than on -a- and -in- and -fer-, but they are not equal to the main stress that is on SYLL- and -IQUE and O-.   These things make certain syllables that don't have main stress more flexible in the meter.  For within a poem they often may get away better as a "beat" (B), even though they don't have a main stress.  Mainstresses are used most as beats, but other syllables, such as have this flexibility  may be used sometimes as beats too.


SYLLable      martinIQUE    Overflow
B      B       B     B      B     B


Not sure what you mean by monSOON.  The mainstress cannot be removed from the second syllable (-SOON) unless you force an unnatural pronunciation on it.  


Balladeer
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8 posted 02-12-2008 12:54 PM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

Ok, then..I suppose it is a matter of personal pronounciation. I can find no difference in stress between mon and soon or syl and ble, nor would I be able to sense any difference in "racecar" so it must rely on the individual's pronounciation. I have read more articles and books and poetry than i care to count and I simply have never seen in any of them where there is ALWAYS one main stress syllable in every word, thus my question. If you can cite any reference to that I would appreciate it.
Bob K
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9 posted 02-12-2008 01:43 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K

Dear Balladeer and Essorant,

     If all you can remember of the poem was the rhyme between "show" and "widow," the poem must have been pretty forgettable.  In which case the argument was pretty much beside the point anyway.  Both of you are probably more right than not about scansion.  Lord knows it can be done nine ways from Tuesday.  I'm uncertain what the disagreement is about.  Both of you more than know what you're doing, you just do it differently and very competently.

     What's that line from Lear?  I always get the "howls" wrong.

Howl Howl Howl Howl!  O Ye are Men of Stones.

Sometimes I think there are five howls, sometimes four, and I never look it up because I always think I should already know it.  I've always thought this a wonderful line.  I think it points up the difference between actual speech, in which each Howl gets its own stress, as does each other word in the line, to varying degrees.  Some are given a full stress, some a partial stress simply by their place in the sentence; and of course each individual word gets its own stress, simply because it's impossible to have a word in isolation without one.  Level 1, individual word stress.  Level two, stress from the natural pace and inflection of an English sentence.  Level three differs for prose and poetry.  Poetry imposes caesurae and line breaks to alter the balance and flow of each individual line, and to make each line a unit in itself with sub-units balanced off against each other and the against grammatical and periodic units of English grammar that both poetry and prose must deal with.  While grammatical and periodic units of english are something prose needs to deal with, it does not have to deal with caesurae and lineation as part of the intention of the writer as he builds his piece.  Level four has to do with the actual metrics of the poem.

     While Lear howls, he freights the line with all the stresses anybody with a heart would feel in carrying the body of thel daughter he has with his own folly helped to murder across the moor in the middle of a titanic thunderstorm. His own mind is flying apart.  We will will stand aside from this long enough to notice two things.  One, that this fragmentation is reflected in the total number of heavy stresses in the words.  The words in this line are monosyllabic and are saturated with stresses.   Depending on how you count them, there are at least seven.

HOWL HOWL HOWL HOWL!  oh YE are MEN of STONES.

     That's if you want to count each word as having a stress, of course. . .  What Shakespeare likely intended, though, was a regular iambic pentameter line:

howl HOWL/ howl HOWL/ o YE/are MEN/of STONES

     And he jammed that line as chock full of stresses as he possibly could without having the thing fly apart on him.  He is playing off the actual english prose sentence rhythm against the metrics against the rhetorical urgency of the line to produce one of the best single lines of English poetry.  And any single way of scanning it, even the way I've suggested here falls very far short indeed of what the actual thing is in itself.

     Though I admit the show and widow rhyme story did have me giggling.  That poem must have been pretty painful; otherwise, I'd expect you'd be telling us about this incredible poem you'd read with this flaw you couldn't quite remember.  Or you'd have skipped over the issue in the first place, knowing that not everybody feels that rhyming a two syllable and a single syllable word, as long as they have the same ending, is a flaw.  It's not as if there's a single source to which one might appeal for a definitive answer to such questions, although Bridges would come close for metrics.  It's custom built over a few thousand years.

     I figure helping Mr. Bryan rather than making his head spin would probably be helpful.  I'm afraid we make it sound impossible to write poetry when we go on this way.  If Mr. Bryan is still out there, there's a wonderful book of exercises called THE PRACTICE of POETRY edited by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell loaded with exercises that turn into poems remarkably rapidly.

    



  
SeamusBryan
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since 01-30-2008
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10 posted 02-20-2008 12:12 PM       View Profile for SeamusBryan   Email SeamusBryan   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for SeamusBryan

Thank you all so much.  Iíve been reading An Introduction to English Poetry, by James Fenton, which a bit more lighthearted than the first book.

I will give a look over these books, thanks again:

Poetic Meter and Poetic Form by Paul Fussell
A Prosody Handbook by Katl Shapiro and Robert Beum
THE PRACTICE of POETRY edited by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell

The debate between Balladeer and Essorant actually addressed my difficulty in grasping stress specifically: that sometimes Iím confused - whether or not I pronounce words corresponding with the proper (the queenís?).
Sunshine
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Listening to every heart


11 posted 02-20-2008 10:57 PM       View Profile for Sunshine   Email Sunshine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Sunshine's Home Page   View IP for Sunshine

Seamus,

I'm always confused by meter, beat, and everything else, although I've given a good many forms a try...

so I use some "internal" rhyme in free verse. Not to put anything of the above lightly, sometimes I just have to float my own boat.

Don't forget, however, about slant rhyme. In this case, "show" and "widow" might have been by the author a "slant rhyme".

But, you ARE listening to some of the best here at PiP, them being Kit and Balladeer. As an aside, though, I might mention that if you wish to actually listen to some more poetry being spoken, you might do well with this link

http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/donne/

As you go through this site, you may well find other authors who have been spoken for, so to speak, so that you might find your own voice.

Sometimes, I only write and read with my own heartbeat, and it has been diagnosed as "irregular" at best.

So I'll never be a Kit or Balladeer, or some of our other fine contemporary poets here at PiP...

but I do give it all my heart.

 
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