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Passions in Poetry

Free verse or meter?

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Jason Lyle
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0 posted 05-05-2003 07:48 AM       View Profile for Jason Lyle   Email Jason Lyle   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Jason Lyle

Just a question on everyones opinion on the never ending debate on free verse.Is it poetry? I personally say of course it is, and the majority of poets here write free verse, I write in this form myself at times. But me being me, could not resist stirring the pot a little.


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"I, myself, as I said before, don't like it [free verse] for myself. I do not write free verse; I write blank verse. I must have the pulse beat of rhythm, I like to hear it beating under the things I write." --Robert Frost, in Robert Frost Poetry & Prose, p. 296

"For my pleasure I had as soon write free verse as play tennis with the net down." --Robert Frost, in Robert Frost Poetry & Prose, p. 415

Iraqi poet and critic, one of the most important Arab women writers. Al-Mala'ika was a major advocate of the free verse movement in the late 1940s with Badr Shakir al-Sayyab. Her poetry is characterized by its terseness of language, eloquence, original use of imagery, and delicate ear for the music of verse.

"Stay as you are, a secret world
Not such thing as a soul discerns
Spinner of poems, the last muse
In a world whose mirrors are dimmed
What song did not flow with honey
If you were to smile your praise upon it?"
(from 'Song for the Moon')


poetry "free" of rhyme and meter? — free of being any discernible form? — poetry professors debate this term endlessly — what's your definition?

Mattoid: Could we start, Tom, by discussing the genre of the prose poem? There seems perhaps a contradiction of terms here. Poetry and prose are separate matters, how can you put them together and expect them to be a 'real' form? What do you think a prose poem can do that either a poem or prose can't do?
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I of course, think it is a powerful form of writing, but could not resist the post.I know many writers here would never, ever write in meter.I know some who would never write in free verse, and some who write both.The easy answer is that its all poetry, but thats the easy answer.
Jason

[This message has been edited by Jason Lyle (05-06-2003 12:05 AM).]

Sunshine
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1 posted 05-05-2003 09:54 AM       View Profile for Sunshine   Email Sunshine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Sunshine's Home Page   View IP for Sunshine

Simply put, I've been told not to write in meter.  Although heaven knows I'm ornery enough to try it now and again.  So I stick to free verse, which seems to be my forte.  I think it's an individual decision - and when people write with their strengths, the depth can sometimes be unfathomable...

It all comes down to being an individual decision.  What's good for one simply won't work for another.  But sometimes you'll find a vast audience when you, yourself, are accepting of both, and more.
Janet Marie
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2 posted 05-05-2003 10:34 AM       View Profile for Janet Marie   Email Janet Marie   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Janet Marie

I choose to respond to this as a reader of poetry ...

Rhyme or free verse?
Simply put--when either form is done well, when its written by someone who compliments the form ... its all pure poetry.
Local Parasite
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3 posted 05-05-2003 11:37 AM       View Profile for Local Parasite   Email Local Parasite   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Local Parasite's Home Page   View IP for Local Parasite

It really depends on your definition of poetry.  Many poets (myself included) almost couldn't imagine writing free verse... I for one simply don't think I could make it work.  I love having a definite (or indefinite) structure with which to compose my work, and I rarely write without meter or rhyme being very seriously taken into account...

It doesn't mean that I loathe all forms of free verse.  Perhaps you've read bad free verse, which is painfully common... I hate to say it (but this is the alley after all), but most of the poets here who write in free verse don't know what they're doing... although there are a handful of stunning free versists whose work I try not to miss the opportunity to read.

Poetry is, to me, a craft... it is the craft concerned with the manipulation of words in such a way that they compose a complex thought, provoke thinking... to take something and extract its beauty as you see it, that the whole world might see it as you do...

Concerning poets who take their work seriously... the only difference between free verse and meter is individual style.

Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.

~Percy Bysshe Shelley

Marge Tindal
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4 posted 05-05-2003 01:30 PM       View Profile for Marge Tindal   Email Marge Tindal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Marge Tindal's Home Page   View IP for Marge Tindal


Well - now don't I just think that Local Parasite said it PERFECTLY ?
quote:
to take something and extract its beauty as you see it
YES, I do !!!:clap:
*Huglets*
~*Marge*~

~*The pen of the poet never runs out of ink, as long as we breathe.*~
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Cpat Hair
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5 posted 05-05-2003 02:19 PM       View Profile for Cpat Hair   Email Cpat Hair   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Cpat Hair

ah..we all know there is no poetry except rhyme and meter..all the other stuff well.. it is just that..stuff, and the people who write it... not poets..  
Sunshine
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6 posted 05-05-2003 03:09 PM       View Profile for Sunshine   Email Sunshine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Sunshine's Home Page   View IP for Sunshine

HEY!
davidmerriman
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7 posted 05-05-2003 05:10 PM       View Profile for davidmerriman   Email davidmerriman   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit davidmerriman's Home Page   View IP for davidmerriman

...yes...it is...

but it better be good. :-)

Sylvia Plath is GOOD free verse, i see alot of bad free verse as well. it IS poetry in my oppinion.
Ringo
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8 posted 05-05-2003 05:57 PM       View Profile for Ringo   Email Ringo   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Ringo

Just my attempt at humor, but how can you tell if an Iraqi is rhyming???
I, myself, prefer free-form as rhyming and a set meter, and such as that feel too fake, and too forced. I have read many on here that do it well, however, I have also read those that only did (in my opinion) an average job at it.

When the morning cries and you don't know why...

Brad
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9 posted 05-05-2003 07:14 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

If you don't have to worry about the rhythm, then why do people keep the line break?
JP
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10 posted 05-05-2003 08:59 PM       View Profile for JP   Email JP   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit JP's Home Page   View IP for JP

IMNSHO:

Poetry is a craft, as was already stated.  Rhyme, meter, all a tool of that craft and when properly employed can create works of beauty.

In free verse, the craft invoves the line breaks, punctuation, physical arrangement of lines and phrasing, all used to guide the reader, to lead someone to the right emphasis, draw them away at a specific moment, to regulate their pace, all to convey the meaning the poet intended.

In all forms of poetry, the use of language, the unique coupling of words, the search for the anit-cliche, that is a skill not easily mastered.

As for me... I try my best and sometimes I am happy with what I get (although I am aching to know if I'm on LP's list of poets who don't know what they are doing.)

Yesterday is ash, tomorrow is smoke; only today does the fire burn.
Nil Desperandum, Fata viem invenient

Janet Marie
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11 posted 05-05-2003 09:59 PM       View Profile for Janet Marie   Email Janet Marie   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Janet Marie

Anyone who has studied free verse either by the book or by reading the poets who do it so well, know that there actually is a meter and rhythm to it...and the line breaks help create that...as does using assonance and choosing words and phrases that resonate with one another, not in same sound rhyme but in a way that establishes the pace of the poem. Free verse allows a poet to create imagery and emote with less restrictions than rhyming poetry... but it takes more than just stringing words together in verses with line breaks to make free verse successful.
Read Martie...Read Kari, Read Green Eyes,
Read Capt Ron, RS Wells,  to name a just a few of the ones who do free verse so well...we can learn a lot here just by reading one another. Then there is Nan's teaching forums that is full of lessons and examples of what makes poetry work.
OK..the moth is shutting up now...
I need some of Duncans succinctity lessons
Jason Lyle
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12 posted 05-06-2003 12:04 AM       View Profile for Jason Lyle   Email Jason Lyle   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Jason Lyle

I think a few may have misunderstood me.I do like free verse, and consider it poetry.
The quotes about not liking free verse were written by Robert Frost.I did not do a very good job seperating my post from quotes I added on the subject.
I have seen this debate on many poetry sites, it is an old debate.Often poets divide into two camps, and argue fiercly about it.
I write both metric and free verse, though I am quite the amatuer at both.Metric is harder for me, but more satisfying if I get it right.I also agree that bad metric poetry feels forced.As to free verse, I only recently tried it, and well...I am my worst critic.

quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
to take something and extract its beauty as you see it
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

LP I love this quote.

Ron, that is definatly not what I meant.

Sunshine, just curious...who told you not to write metric poetry, and why?

Some great feedback from all

Jason
Sudhir Iyer
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13 posted 05-06-2003 03:56 AM       View Profile for Sudhir Iyer   Email Sudhir Iyer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Sudhir Iyer

free verse or meter?

probably free verse, because it is FREE nobody said "meter" was for free ... ask the taxi drivers if their meter can be for free

.....

sorry for even trying to

Cpat Hair
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14 posted 05-06-2003 08:25 AM       View Profile for Cpat Hair   Email Cpat Hair   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Cpat Hair

(chuckling) Jason... I knew that is not what you meant.

It is an old argument as you state and one that rages with intensity at times. I always have to ask myself why... why does it matter to people so much whether it is free verse or meter... it is to me as if one would argue whether the sky is blue or cornflower blue... that as with poetry is so often a matter of subjective observation not a matter of objective discussion or measurement.

good or bad... long or short..rhymed or free.. if it speaks to the soul or comes from teh soul, who am I to say it is or is not poetry and that it is or is not well done?

Now... I'll save everyone some time... what I write is not poetry and I am not a poet..so what the heck do I know.. LOL

Sunshine
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15 posted 05-06-2003 10:07 AM       View Profile for Sunshine   Email Sunshine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Sunshine's Home Page   View IP for Sunshine

Jason,
quote:
Sunshine, just curious...who told you not to write metric poetry, and why?

A very good and astute poet who has meter and rhythm down very well.  I tend, in my mind, to almost "sing" my thoughts and hold a count longer than it ought to be held, thereby [in my mind] stretch it to fit.  My meter sometimes rambles all OVER the place.  When I see others do it, and do it well [take Sy, for a good example] I can "fall into" their rhythm and while I have it right in front of me, can sometimes respond "in time and in kind".  But when I'm off by my self and trying to opt for rhythm and meter?  My feet both become lefties and I trip, easily.

Other good free versers among as are as JM stated [thank you dear, ] but read Corinne's work, if you want stand alone phrasing [each line is often a poem unto itself]; read Severn, Christopher, Martie, Cpat, Serenity, Brian Sites, Wranx for some indepth FV.  They take one's mind, noodle it, add sauce, and serve some fine spaghetti.  You read enough of them, and you find yourself full, and quite content.

Now, much to the beforementioned poet's chagrin, I still work at meter and rhyme.  I really do.  But I to the Masters among us [and there are a number of them] of metered poetry.  Look at Nan!  She's spectacular and I understand why she's the mistress of the Poetry Workshop!  

But never, ever fail to recognize that while some of us may never be the masters the rest of you are?  We are still writing from the heart, and God love us, we're going to keep working on our writing, probably until we breathe our last.

  I know I am!

Jason Lyle
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16 posted 05-06-2003 10:37 AM       View Profile for Jason Lyle   Email Jason Lyle   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Jason Lyle

Sunshine, I understand your reply now, and I agree, it was Wranx and Aenimal that got me to try free verse, they are masters of it, as well as all the  poets that Janet Marie mentioned.to the other side, LP and LighthouseBob masters of the metric.Again I say it is all poetry, and I very much enjoy yours.

Jason

[This message has been edited by Jason Lyle (05-06-2003 10:38 AM).]

Sunshine
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17 posted 05-06-2003 10:49 AM       View Profile for Sunshine   Email Sunshine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Sunshine's Home Page   View IP for Sunshine

There are so many poets here that I enjoy so much, Jason, I almost hesitated to mention any for fear of leaving others out...Aenimal among them...as are still many others.  One of these days I'm going to compile a list, but I think I would be reinventing the wheel - that list is already on The Wiz' computers...

So I'm just going to enjoy ALL of you for all that you bring to Passions...

Ron
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18 posted 05-06-2003 04:46 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

pros·o·dy  n. pl. pros·o·dies
1.The study of the metrical structure of verse.
2.A particular system of versification.


Hi, my name is Ron, and I'm a prosodist.

( HELLO, RON! )

My sad story, I'm sure, is little different than anyone else in PP (Prosidists Pseudonymous). Like many, my addiction to prosody began in childhood, with a child's all too common fascination with rhyme. My first lover, I think, was Mary and her stupid little lamb. My initial poetic attempts were a reflection of that fascination, in that they rhymed and did very little else. Much later, in high school, I think, a dealer in the guise of an English teacher introduced me to my first taste of the hard stuff.

Yea, I'm talking about meter. I was addicted almost immediately, of course, though I didn't realize at the time that my dealer, even then, was still holding back on me. What she called meter was more accurately syllable-stress meter, a system of counting both syllables and the accents within those syllables. This is the most common system in English, and for several years I would dream in iambic pentameter, with frequent nightmares in trochaic tetrameter. Life was hard, and I often found myself standing apart, ostracized from normal human society. But I survived.

Then, in college, I sank yet deeper into the quagmire of prosody.

I discovered that meter, my old friend that always seemed so mathematical and scientific, often wore far more nebulous masks. French and Japanese poetry, for example, was measured using only syllables and, increasingly, I saw much twentieth century English and American poetry doing the same. I stumbled across Anglo-Saxon strong stress meter, which counted only beats or stresses, and soon realized that many of the nursery rhymes that had hooked me as a child followed the same convention. Meter, it suddenly seemed, wasn't always so simple as I first thought.

Confused and weakened, I began exploring the darker side of poetry. Quantitative meter, I found, was based on the duration of vowels and consonants. A "beat" was longer than a "bet" because it took longer to pronounce, which seemed simple enough at first. Wasn't it just long and short vowels? Nope, because the consonants surrounding the vowels also counted, making "stretch" also longer than "bet," even though they shared the same e sound. And this was the meter virtually all Greek and Latin poetry followed? Oh, my!

Suddenly, I found myself facing a terrible truth, one that would dominate my life for decades to come. Any method of counting a regular pattern in the lines of a poem qualifies as meter. And poets, being the imaginative creatures they are, had invented many such systems. Robert Francis, for example, counted words. James Laughlin used typewriter spacing (in any couplet, the second line had to be within two typewriter spaces of the line preceding it). W.D. Snodgrass went further still, using graph paper to keep the margins straight up and down, turning every stanza into a perfect rectangle. My addiction to meter apparently was without limits.

Facing despair, I ignored the cautions my pleading unconscious whispered to me, delving yet deeper into the darkness. And then, when all seemed lost, I discovered what I felt certain would be my salvation.

Free verse, called vers libre by its earliest practitioners, was to be my Calvary. This relatively new form of poetry, first introduced to me by T.S. Eliot, didn't count syllables or words or accents or anything else. It was free of all meter, devoid of that accursed addiction called prosody. It did not measure by the sentence, like prose, nor by the foot, like metered poetry, but served instead as an intermediary, measuring only by the line.

With free verse, the poet's main concern is how to move from one line to the next. Where does one end and another begin? You can end-stop or enjamb at will, with precedents but no rules. Louis Simpson contends that poets create line breaks according to personal impulse, while Allen Ginsberg insists breath is the main factor. Marvin Bell criticizes "enjambing out of anxiety." Charles Wright scanned his free verse to make sure no adjacent lines have the same count of syllables or stresses. Mark Strand, in his earliest poetry, tried to make the lines come out fairly even, but later tried to vary the line lengths more to create a ragged appearance. Walt Whitman kept his lines very long, often with rhetorical devices like anaphora, creating rolling cadences as in his "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd." William Carlos Williams preferred very short lines, usually heavily enjambed. Robert Duncan perfected the Open Field composition, with varying lines and free indentations and even snippets of prose. As with meter, the way of lines and line breaks was limited only by the poet's imagination (which seemingly had no limit).

It didn't take long to realize I was still counting. It was just line breaks now, instead of accents and syllables. More, free verse had to compensate for its lack of standard meter, and to do that it used things like assonance, consonance, internal and slant rhymes, ruptured syntax, and inventive line breaks when least expected. Rhythm and voice still very much mattered. Robert Frost compared free verse to playing tennis with the net down, but neglected to mention that it's not impossible to play a good game of tennis without the net. It's just a whole lot harder. The freedom of free verse was never free, and the cost it entailed was a high one.

There is very little beauty in chaos, and even less meaning. Poetry stripped entirely of structure become a hopeless jumble of words. At the lowest level, we provide structure by ordering the words into meaning. At the other end of the spectrum, poetic forms like sonnets and villanelles impose much of the structure for us, determining syllable-stress meter, line lengths, and even the shape of our stanzas. In between these extremes lie an infinite progression of varying structure, each point adding its own beauty and its own meaning, each appropriate for its own unique message. Poets can work their magic by measuring syllables or accents or lines, or by balancing rhyme and rhythm and sound, but in the end, all of the tools they use are simply building beauty and truth into a recognizable structure.

In short, no matter the form my words may choose to take, whether adhering to the constraints of traditional meter or the not-so-free free verse, I remain a recovering prosodist. Still looking for a cure where I suspect none ever existed.


Sudhir Iyer
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19 posted 05-06-2003 05:03 PM       View Profile for Sudhir Iyer   Email Sudhir Iyer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Sudhir Iyer

what Ron said... Thanks Ron...

regards,
sudhir
Jason Lyle
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20 posted 05-06-2003 05:19 PM       View Profile for Jason Lyle   Email Jason Lyle   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Jason Lyle

Wow! Ron, you may have just killed this discussion.I can't imagine adding anything to that.Nicely said.That was quite the lesson.

Jason
Cpat Hair
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21 posted 05-06-2003 06:53 PM       View Profile for Cpat Hair   Email Cpat Hair   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Cpat Hair

(chuckling) Ron... did you count the meter in this or was this free form?

Sunshine
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22 posted 05-06-2003 07:23 PM       View Profile for Sunshine   Email Sunshine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Sunshine's Home Page   View IP for Sunshine


morefiah
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23 posted 05-07-2003 10:20 AM       View Profile for morefiah   Email morefiah   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for morefiah

Nothing can be added to Ron's 'treatise' on the subject, but I would like to say a bit about my own addiction to poetry just to give another perspective.

I have been reading all my life. Read my first novel at the age of six and never looked back. I am an admitted addict to reading with absolutely no regrets. Of course, I discovered poetry and I have read quite a bit of it. My first attempt at poetry was simply because I wanted to know if I could do with the English language what these masters (Shelley, R.L. Stevenson, Walter Delamere, Shakespeare, our own Claude Mckay, and so many others) did so very well.

So I challenged myself. All my initial attempts were structured (straight-jacketed?) in rhyme. And this continued for years. But as someone said earlier in the thread, at times it felt false and restrictive. I then tried to emulate some of the free verse that I had read and found that in free verse, I was able to express a lot more of my thoughts in poetic form.

I have dabbled in writing poems combining both forms, and have not done too badly if do say so myself. The point is that there is very beautiful poetry in both forms, and in fact some of the most beautiful poems, I am sure we will all agree, would not be as moving in any form other than as written. Metric or free verse.

Having said all that, I do declare that I have attempted in the past to learn the science of poetic forms (metric, iambic, whatever) I never really got it. Failed miserably in truth (glaring at Ron, green with envy ) I realised then that what I do comes from the soul. I could never tell how scientifically correct a rhyme is; I just instinctively know... and in free verse, I just as instinctively know when the words are not right (at least to me) I have written poems that moved others but which I still think of as work in progress for the simple reason that it just does not feel right.

I am an amateur, in the sense that I have no formal training in writing poetry. However, I firmly believe that what I do in whatever form it takes, is poetry. The fact that it sometimes feels like it is torn out of my very soul makes it so, and I do believe that this applies to all of us. I continue to write in both forms and continue to love both.

Oh, and Karilea, I am quite sure that no one here would consider you anything less than an awesome poet. Even if they do not really like free verse.

Garfield

Ron
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24 posted 05-07-2003 12:40 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

morefiah said:
quote:
I realised then that what I do comes from the soul. I could never tell how scientifically correct a rhyme is; I just instinctively know...

If souls knew anything useful about literature, then we could all write equally well in Greek and Chinese as well as English. Everything we know and do comes, not from the soul, but from experience. T.S. Elliot claimed he knew nothing of the nomenclature of poetry, but he was nonetheless a recognized master of meter. Terminology is useful for talking "about" poetry, not for creating it. We learn how to use meter by reading and mimicking, both preferably in great abundance.

Which takes us to Karilea's comment:
quote:
When I see others do it, and do it well [take Sy, for a good example] I can "fall into" their rhythm and while I have it right in front of me, can sometimes respond "in time and in kind".

In that case, Karilea, you were given very bad advice. If you can "fall into" a rhythm, you don't lack an ear for meter, you simply lack experience.

My street number is 33371. Now, close your eyes and repeat that number. Did you successfully remember it? What do you think the chances are that you'll remember that number a week from now? The human mind is divided into short- and long-term memory. The human ear, I think, works in a similar fashion. When you "fall into" a rhythm because it's in front of you, you are exercising short-term memory. Do that often enough, and frequently enough, and it may eventually become committed to long-term memory.

When I write in meter, it's usually iambic and the only thing I need to do is recite a little Shakespeare from memory to fall into the pattern almost immediately. But I DO recite the Shakespeare every single time, maybe from habit, maybe as a security blanket, because that's the way I learned iambic meter. If I want to write in ANY other meter, I have to first read and recite something in that meter before I can "fall into" the rhythm. The more foreign the meter is to me, the more I have to read to become comfortable. For trochaic, the only other meter I use frequently, I turn to William Blake's Tiger" or Poe's classic Raven." Several months ago, there was a thread in one of the Open forums where several people were responding with limericks, and I instinctively knew they didn't quite have the meter (compound anapestic) right. But before I could add my own ditty, I HAD to go read from Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense.

For me, at least, meter isn't something easily committed to long-term memory, possibly because I don't write in strict meter often enough. So, I continue to rely heavily on short-term memory, and that means refreshing my ear before I write.

I strongly suggest, Karilea, that you not give up on meter (and I know you haven't, yet). Just get in the habit, as I do, of refreshing your ear before picking up the pen.

quote:
Ron, you may have just killed this discussion. I can't imagine adding anything to that.

We have only begun to scratch the surface, my friend.
 
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