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.
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"
7. "So we'll go no more aroving / So
late into the night"
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POEMS BY MEMBERS
Welcome to two new members:
HARMONY IN PERFECTION
Sunlight dancing across the waves
ODE TO MS. MINNIE
I washed our pillows, hung them in
I washed our socks and pegged them
two by two
My life is dangling by two pins. My
Small hands, small feet,
Look I have grown|
I've learned to live
Yet in their eyes
Our speech like economic maps
A black man fishing in the Gulf
We demonstrate the truth by word of
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