Vol. 2, No. 10            An Online Chapter of Missouri State Poetry Society        1 October 2003


When we see a picture of the sea, such as Jean Even's photo taken at Del Mar Beach, California, we often are reminded of poems such as Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar," Whitman's "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking," or John Masefield's "Sea-Fever."  Two of these poems have strong, regular, rhythmic (metrical) elements--the waves of the sea seem to demand them--and even Whitman's free-verse poem starts with two regular dactyllic feet.  Sea or no sea, many free-verse poets complain about the sing-song quality of metrical verse, and it true that many rhymed verse or blank verse poems establish a rhythm early and adhere to it religiously, allowing no variations.  However, a study of anthologized formal poems--the ones everyone knows--will reveal that almost all of them contain irregular feet.  We have often heard it said that the iambic foot matches our heartbeat (duh DUM duh DUM) and has been the most popular rhythmic device employed throughout English literary history.  But from the beginning, variations were used to break up the monotony of sing-song iambic verse, and at the same time to allow poets greater flexibility.  Five of these irregular  patterns account for over 90% of the variations in English metrical verse. It is amazing, I think, that the variations in a work by Chaucer match variations used by contemporary poets.  In this column the next few months, I will introduce the variant patterns that poets have used to irregulate rhythm.  The first variation is the anapestic foot (duh duh DUM) where an extra unaccented syllable is added to the line. Read the line aloud and note the galloping effect of the anapest.  We will make a game of it.  Tell me who wrote these lines and the name of the poem.  See how many you can get.  Winner and answers will be in next month's column. The anapests are underlined.

     1.  "Here once the embattled farmers stood / And fired the shot heard round the world."

     2.  "And I will love thee still, my dear, / While the sands o' life shall run ."

     3. "And sorry I could not travel both / And be one traveler, long I stood"

     4. "The smith a mighty man was he / With large and sinewy hands"
     5. "We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon" (two anapests)
     6. "And this was the reason that, long ago / In this kingdom by the sea" (three anapests)

     7. "So we'll go no more aroving / So late into the night"
                                                                                                                                 --Tom Padgett, Editor


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Remember to read Spare Mule Online and Strophes Online by clicking on the CONTENTS menu. You can keep up with members who get newsletters by mail by remembering to read them on the Net. The October 1 issue of Spare Mule Online and the October 1 issue of Strophes Online will be up soon..  I will remind you by memo when they are.


Our poet of the month is Linda Pastan, a wonderful free-verse poet.  Follow these steps to meet her, hear her read one of her poems, and read several on your own.  You will be glad you met her.

Meet her at The Academy of American Poets site:
Along with a brief biography and her poem "The Cossacks" there are links to a half-dozen more poems.
Be sure to link to "Prosody 101" and hear her read in RealAudio.

Eight more poems can be found at Norton poets online at

And for a whopping seventeen poems (repeating a few of those above) visit

I think you will like her a great deal.  She is in a way a later Emily Dickinson, a miniaturist catching a lot in a little net of verse.  If you enjoy her work as much as I do, you may want to buy one of her books available at


Welcome to two new members:
Phyllis Moutray and Mark Tappmeyer

Phyllis Moutray

In flowing silk and high-heeled sandals,
they dug in the dirt
for a share of hostas
with white-bordered leaves,
the cream bearded irises,
and pink peonies.
Enjoying the sun, the heat,
the varying blue hues of cloudless sky
on this pretty spring day,
they began on the hill|
and sauntered down the valley,
carrying their mother lode
of phlox and spiderwort
with bobbing blue blooms.
Reluctantly they hurried back to work,|
late from their version
of the three-martini lunch.

Pat Laster

Strange air--
Near morning moon,
contrails enclose short ribs
of clouds. A leaf spins by itself.
All Saints.


(Inspired by the photo above)
Jean Even

Sunlight dancing across the waves
Like diamonds sparkling in a cave.
The sun sets low across the sphere,|

Mimics waves rippling to coastal shores,
Washing back in shimmering luminosity.
The sunís light disappears from the sky

Throwing shadows on the evening tide.
Sky and sea meet on the horizon
Forever reaching in sweet possession,

|But never touching with an embrace.
Like forbidden love in sweet affection,
Painting a picture in sunset obsession.

Light dancing on waves sparkles in play,
Harmony in perfection to end the day.
Sunís light gives way to twinkling stars.

Ebbing waves withdraws from shining shores,
Enduring perfection of heavenly stores,
Leaves only the sound of outgoing tide.

Luring lovers to embrace in starry night,
Touching in sweet passion to embrace
In the shimmering hope of another day.

Bev Conklin

I now have a cat named Ms. Minnie.
Don't ask! The story's too long.
She's pure joy to watch--liquid motion in action
that sometimes spills over.
She's so silky and graceful when stretching
to pull down a towel, unroll tissue.
Sleek and agile, her jumps are amazing
to the top of the refrigerator and cupboards.
In an instant, she can become furious,
a feral ball of fur terrorizing her toys
knocking over the plant pots in the process.
Washing herself from head to toe,
she's prissy, prim, and proper
except when doing her tummy.
Yes, there are days I seriously wonder
why I took this roommate in
and then there are days that I know.
Irritating, irreverent imp, companion
who answers and checks on me,
I wonder how I lived without you--
much too set in my ways, and too much alone!

Wesley Willis

We wish them both
True love in life.
Upon his oath
John takes his wife
Stephanie, meek,|
Mild as a dove,|
And for her seeks
Happiness, love.
There hand in hand
The two are one.|
Just as she planned.|
His heart she won--
Now lives adorned
With all the best,
Together borne
On wings God blessed.

Judy Young

My baby is dead,
To whom I sang
Cooing and smiling,
Bouncing happily in my arms.
And my toddler.
And my grade-schooler, too.
All dead, living on
Now only in photographs
And memories.
But who is this tall girl,
Nearly grown,
Who walks past me
In the living room
Humming the song
I sang
Years ago to
My baby?

Velvet Fackeldey

you say
be happy
and be thankful
and I really try
to think about good things
like my family and friends
but overwhelming loneliness
sometimes pushes all the good away
and I just get drained, always pushing back.


Mark Tappmeyer

You're thinking|
when you find these lines left stray
in some backwater place away
they don't deserve
a second thought.
But framed within a different spot,
a New York mag or press that's got|
a run of verse of top-drawer rank,
these lines, you'd think
a robust work. Especially
if a critic spent the time
to spit and call them crime,|
or, best, to pat their backs and say
they're worthy rhyme,
not Byron, no,
nonetheless a happy find.

Harding Stedler

Soon, rivers will fill
to overflowing, red,
and carrion will line the shores.
Children too young to understand why,
mothers too helpless to fight,
and fathers too old to bear arms.
Innocents all, they will be incinerated
by nuclear warheads and megabombs
as the horrors of war unfold.
But those who fire the missiles
and drop the bombs
will be casualties, too,
unable to sleep at night,
nagged by conscience for life.
Nobody wins in war.
Even the victors lose--
their pride, their self-respect,
their dignity.|
Until mankind learns the lessons
of history, war will remain
the big boys' game
where soldiers costume for the stage
and the rest of the world
looks helplessly on.

Todd Sukany

an incisor's sheath
an amber window
of all life
on the way
to Gullet.
a maize thing.

Gwen Eisenmann

They said they'd buy our house with all its land
That we must sell because we've grown beyond
The fixing of its fences, and its grand
Design of stairways, and its garden pond.
How will we tell them of the legacy
Of love that built this house upon a hill
With heart and soul, creating sanctuary?
On second thought, I guess we never will.
The eagle will return in winter sun,
The flowers in the garden bloom anew,
The deer will come and gaze at anyone,
The hills will stay, and seasons paint the view.
We're ready. We have had the best of it.
We'll keep the ache, but give the rest of it.

Tania Gray

I washed our pillows, hung them in the sun.
They smelled of sweaty nights and body heat,
of cats who nap there in the daylight hours,
of dog with painful hip we lift aboard
to snore beside the snoring married pair.

I washed our socks and pegged them two by two
beside the lace-less canvas shoes held up
by tongues clipped to the line. I washed
and hung them, all the things that needed air.

My life is dangling by two pins. My guts
are spilling out. My under layers show
for all the world to see. At least they're clean.

Darwyne Tessier

Small hands, small feet,
a step behind.
I'll soon be big--
never you mind!

Look I have grown|
this much this year.
Still not enough
but getting near.

I've learned to live
with facts they've known--
but still wanting
to find my own.

Yet in their eyes
they'll always be
waiting, looking
behind for me.

Tom Padgett

Our speech like economic maps displays
the products of the places we have lived:
we give and take our words like goods in trade.
Our sojourn in the Texas piney woods
enriched us with a term for "more than yes."
We left off our "Indeed!" and "I should say!"
to emphasize consent with their "I mean!"

A black man fishing in the Gulf taught us
how we now speak of those full of conceit.|
He yanked and stretched his bobbing line to scare
a fish he said he did not want to catch:
"Why's he so proud? That's just an old blowfish.
That's what he is, and yet he thinks that all
these waves were made for him to swim between."

We demonstrate the truth by word of mouth
that when you leave, you take away the South.