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Passions in Poetry

Meter in poetry to help establish mood

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jbouder
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since 09-18-99
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Whole Sort Of Genl Mish Mash


0 posted 12-17-1999 04:19 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

I was very, very late to participate in Brad's lecturette on meter in The Alley and, at Brad's direction to anyone who had further question on meter, I am posting this thread.

I would appreciate any insights into a question about meter that, perhaps, was not addressed:  

How can different metrical types be choosen to help communicate a particular mood?

I've been reading Poe, lately, and couldn't help but notice his metrical genius, particularly on how he uses it to re-enforce a specific mood (see "The Raven", "The Bells", and "Annabel Lee", all by Poe, for some examples of what I am talking about).  

Any insights from the collective genius of Passions?




 Jim

"If I rest, I rust." - Martin Luther

Brad
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since 08-20-99
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1 posted 12-19-1999 09:09 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Before I offer my opinions here, I thought I'd give some background.


The six rules for scanning a poem are the following:
1. In every word of the English language of two or more syllables, at least one syllable will take a stress. If one cannot at first hear the stressing, then one may consult a pronouncing dictionary.

2. Important single-syllable words, particularly verbs and nouns, generally take strong stresses.

3. Unimportant single-syllable words in the sentence, such as articles, prepositions, and pronouns (except demonstrative pronouns) do not take strong stresses, though they may take secondary stresses through promotion or demotion, depending on their position in the sentence or the line of verse.

4. In any series of three unstressed syllables in a line of verse, one of them, generally the middle syllable, will take a secondary stress through promotion and will be counted as a stressed syllable.

5. In any series of three stressed syllables in a line of verse, one of them, generally the middle syllable, will take a secondary stress through demotion and will be counted as an unstressed syllable.

6. Any syllable may be rhetorically stressed by means of italics or some other typographical play.
Brad
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since 08-20-99
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Jejudo, South Korea


2 posted 12-19-1999 09:20 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

The above rules are from Lewis Turco and the explanation below is from Nan (hope she doesn't mind).  I'll be back later to give my views on this.  


Poetic meter is not just a matter of syllable count - A poem that is written with a rhyme scheme, but still sounds "forced" is most likely not in proper meter - Conversely, a poem that "sings" to you will most likely be written with both intact - "rhyme and meter"

So, how to assess your meter? Here's a brief synopsis:
There are two elements to proper meter - the number of "feet" per line, and the pattern of stressed syllables (ergo the syllable count thingy).

Let's start with the pattern of stressed syllables - It's much more than just counting to make sure you have an equal number on each line. The patterns are?

...iambic - (short/long) - (e.g. - re-PLY')
...trochaic - (long/short) - (e.g. - REA'-son)
...anapestic - (short/short/long) - (e.g. - in-ter-FERE')
...dactylic - (long/short/short) - (e.g. - SYL'-la-ble)
...spondaic - (long/long) - (e.g. - HEART'BEAT')
...pyrrhic - (short/short) - (e.g. - darned if I know, this one's tough)

So, combine a rhythm of iambic, trochaic, or the like - with a specified number of "feet" (repetitions of stressed pattern) and you have a poetic rhapsody.

...monometer -
....One foot per line - (e.g. - "Be-HOLD!" - iambic monometer)
...dimeter -
....Two feet per line - (e.g. - "Re-FLEC-tions FOUND" - iambic dimeter)
...trimeter -
....Three feet per line - (e.g. - "Yes, it AL-ways takes TWO side by SIDE" -
......anapestic trimeter)
...tetrameter -
....Four feet per line - (e.g. - "TWIN-kle, TWIN-kle, LIT-tle STAR" - trochaic tetrameter)
......one syllable shy - btw -
...pentameter -
....Five feet per line - (e.g. - "Our VI-sion NOW be-STOWS the BLIND with SIGHT" -
......iambic pentameter) This format is used for any properly written sonnet
......(along with a specified rhyme scheme in 14 line format)
...hexameter = six feet
...heptameter = seven feet
...octameter = eight feet......
Nan
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3 posted 12-21-1999 06:34 PM       View Profile for Nan   Email Nan   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Nan's Home Page   View IP for Nan

LOL.... Thanks, Brad - You just saved me some work...hehe.... We can keep recycling this thing forever, can't we???.....
jbouder
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since 09-18-99
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4 posted 12-23-1999 10:57 AM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

I'm sorry if I didn't make my question clear.  I am interested in knowing how to select a particular type of metrical rhythm to evoke a specific mood or response.

The limerick's humor, for example, is complimented by its anapestic meter.  Iambic meter seems pretty versatile.

But what if I want to convey a certain sense of urgency, or dread, or excitement?  What moods are complimented by trochaic, dactylic, spondaic and pyrrhic meters?


 Jim

"If I rest, I rust." - Martin Luther

TomMark
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5 posted 01-10-2008 02:30 PM       View Profile for TomMark   Email TomMark   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for TomMark

I want to learn the answer too.
Huan Yi
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since 10-12-2004
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6 posted 01-11-2008 08:33 PM       View Profile for Huan Yi   Email Huan Yi   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Huan Yi

.

Don't undervalue
the the value of an
extended pause--


.
jbouder
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since 09-18-99
Posts 2641
Whole Sort Of Genl Mish Mash


7 posted 01-12-2008 02:36 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

But an eight year pause ... geeze.

Wow.  This was probably one of my earliest posts at PIP.  I guess since I posted this question, I've formed the opinion that meter is analygous to the rhythm of a song.  While I think strong arguments can be made that many good poems (including freeverse) are generally iambic, the form should never be so rigid as too impair the overall artistry of the poem.  At times, and in the right place, variations actually enhance the poem.

I still think it is good for new poets to learn to right in strongly iambic verse forms.  This forces one to pay close attention to the rhythm, and to develop an ear for hearing variations in accent.

At least this one wasn't too embarrassing.

Jim
Bob K
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8 posted 01-16-2008 07:22 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



Dear Jb,

     Let me take a shot at talking on use of meter to affect the reader's mood.  

     I think it'ss a more general issue of craft.  Not, I think with meter alone.  But with Voice, vowel sound, groupings of stresses, alliteration and velocity, you can do a lot.  Much of it depends, though, I think, on Voice, by which I suppose the nature of the person you're using as the speaker in the poem, and and Stance, by which I mean the tack that character is taking as he or she makes his or her way through the path of the poem.  The poet really needs some sense of these things because the mood is created out of the address the poet makes using Voice though the chosen Stance to that audience.  That the best I can do for now, I think.  

Sententiously yours, BobK.
     If anybody's interested, I wrote the following half-baked Stuff, and I use the word delicately here, in an attempt to reply to some material about strictness in meter that I occasionally get a bee in my bonnet about.  There may be some useful stuff in it, probably not, but I'm including it here as an illustration  for somebody I was talking with today of how the process of writing-up-to sometimes happens to other people as well.

     I thought I'd leave this warty example of over-writing as an illustration of one of my better looking pieces of pease porridge.  I beg people's pardon in advance, and advise all and sundry to ignore anything beyond this point.

[About meter]

     Two things are being confused here.  The Latin derived romance languages tend to deny the existance of stresses in their languages.  As in Latin, they talk about the length of the vowel when they construct their lines.  Thus a syllable is either long or short depending on how the vowel is supposed to be voiced.  These things have been clear to Thousands of Years of Greek and Latin scholars, and to all the Portugese and Spanish and French and Romanian folk who were convinced they were speaking Latin before they realized they were talking Portugese and Spanish and French and Romanian.  Robert Pinsky, former Poet Laureat and very fine critic as well, wrote a book on poetic technique in which he almost made the applicability of this to English poetry clear to me, and I regard the fault to be mine rather than his.  The majority of poets, however, do not feel that that quantity, which is how folks talk about that style of verse, really works terribly well in English.  And that's the long and the short of it.  I worked hard to make that pun.

     Among other reasons for rejections of Quantity as a method of dealing with English verse is that it includes a number of feet which W.H.Auden claims to be able to identify in English, but which otherwise seem to run contrary to all reason.  One of them, if I recall correctly, is a monster with two short syllables followed by two long syllables.  If you recall from Brad's posting, this runs against the most people think English works.  Auden, however, in some circles, is whom the Cabots speak to, and we must be cautious.

     These prior paragraphs are being confused with what is generally thought of as English poetic meter.  You'd think the word "poetic" here would be an unnecessary addition, but Robert Bridges, who was the English Poet Laureat who introduced us to Gerard Manly Hopkins and wrote The Book on English Poetic Meter also wrote The Book on English Prose Meter, thus complicating things for everybody.

     English, being a germanic kind of language, kicks its words in the ass regularly mainly because its fun.  Before the English realized they were English, they decided that they'd pretty much do that about four times every line.  That's not the whole truth, but the guys at the front door will let you in the club if you tell them that and whisper, "Swordfish."

     I'm getting carried away here.  The guys on the other side of the channel always counted syllables because they needed to count the number of long and short syllables anyway.  An 18 syllable line better have 18 syllables, that was part of the way the game was played.  You always had to have the 18 syllables.  They were always set up in groups of three.

     When folks got bored, they still had to have 18 syllables.  They still had to have groups of three.  They were allowed to move a couple of long and short syllables around inside the groups of three and that changed the music of the lines.

     You see, all that business about long and short, and groups of three, gathered around groups of six was not just for the purpose of being Strict.  The English Germanic types knew about being STRICT as well, but that's a different story, isn't it?  It was about learning how to ply music with vowels, and, though I don't speak Latin or Greek, reports are that some of the music over there is pretty fine indeed, if you love music.  There are all sorts of variations over there that I don't know about and that I don't want to go into here.

     Over here, in England and now in America, since our language has all those funny accents that get in the way of all those nice pure and easily measured long and short vowel sounds, we discovered drums.  Not real drums, simply the fact that that regular kick in the can had it's own kind of music to it as well, though if it got too regular it gave you a headache.  English has always played around with variations in its rhythms.  Often, some of the best poets have used extra unaccented syllables to put  dactyls and anapests in the middle of their otherwise regular lines.    Other seriously first class poets have used tetrameter lines with seven syllables.  There is magic in those drums, people; sheer magic.

Earth receive an honored guest
William Yeats is laid to rest

     seven syllable tetrameter from auden, who borrowed it from Blake and his Tyger.

     Try some of Thomas Wyatt's sonnets for formal mayhem sometime, all pentameter, but frequently only slightly iambic.

     You can't play music like that in Latin.  It simply isn't done.  (You also can't compress as well in English, from what I've been told, but lets pretend I didn't say that; nor can you rhyme as easily.)  The vowel music can be worked in by repetition and variation of the vowels, same as in all those romance languages.

     In English, if you're counting feet, you don't have to count syllables unless you chose to subscribe to that limitation.  You're counting feet.  A pentameter line is five FEET.  An iambic pentameter line is a line where the regularity established is iambic, but in which variations are permitted.  If you're counting syllables, you're counting syllables.  Don't let people tell you the game you're playing; make your own decision, then play fairly by your rules, always with the best interests of the poem at heart.

     The criterion is always, does it serve the poem well? Not, does it serve the poet well? or does it serve the rule well?  The rules doesn't care.  And in the end, if the poem shines, the poet will learn to live with looking like an idiot for a while.

     Far worse is when a poem give a poet a blast of light, flame and fame, and then holds him or her up as a dork for the next hundred years.  Mr Joyce Kilmer anybody?  Add your own, and pray your own name doesn't get tacked on in neon at the end.  If it serves the poem well, you've done a decent day's work.
Dear Jb,


     Let me take a shot at talking on use of meter to affect the reader's mood.  

     I think it'ss a more general issue of craft.  Not, I think with meter alone.  But with Voice, vowel sound, groupings of stresses, alliteration and velocity, you can do a lot.  Much of it depends, though, I think, on Voice, by which I suppose the nature of the person you're using as the speaker in the poem, and and Stance, by which I mean the tack that character is taking as he or she makes his or her way through the path of the poem.  The poet really needs some sense of these things because the mood is created out of the address the poet makes using Voice though the chosen Stance to that audience.  

Sententiously yours, BobK.

        
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