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  1. #21
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is loss of meter in poetry "decay"?

    You certainly sound like you know what you are talking about, and I am very happy to accept that.

    In the more modern examples, though, how many of them are narrative?

    I think I should have limited my subject earlier to "narrative verse". That is my greater concern because it is so appropriate to what I am undertaking with my students.

    I have written some 6 or 8 Shakespearian-style sonnets in my life, and I think that the strict form has been productive (at least for me), but that experience is so different from actually telling a story in verse. The latter, it seems to me, uses the beat to sustain the spell and the magic of the story. It is hard to imagine a shaman without a drum.

  2. #22
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is loss of meter in poetry "decay"?

    Before I abandon this thread, I would love to have some feedback on my present attempt to compose, along with my students, a very long narrative poem in epic style.

    There are clearly some powerful minds and very well educated people on this forum. I would LOVE to have some input from them about what I am attempting to do.

    Should I start a new thread about my effort -- and, if so, on what part of the forum?

  3. #23
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Is loss of meter in poetry "decay"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Antonson View Post
    In the more modern examples, though, how many of them are narrative?

    I think I should have limited my subject earlier to "narrative verse". That is my greater concern because it is so appropriate to what I am undertaking with my students.
    That's a fair point. Among the 20th century poets, you can find shorter narratives in metre in Kipling, Masefield, Hardy, Graves, Frost, and Ransom; but the longer narratives tend to be in free verse, e.g. Williams' Paterson, Pound's Cantos.

    (I should have said: the longer narratives that still attract significant attention. E.A. Robinson produced several lengthy metrical Arthurian poems, for example, but I don't think they are much read these days.)

    Best wishes,

    MrP
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  4. #24
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is loss of meter in poetry "decay"?

    Thanks,

    I actually think that somewhere I have Robinson's work, but I have never read it.

  5. #25
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Is loss of meter in poetry "decay"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Antonson View Post
    Before I abandon this thread, I would love to have some feedback on my present attempt to compose, along with my students, a very long narrative poem in epic style.
    I thought the stutter was a very good idea. I don't know if it would suit a very long poem, though; and it seemed to step back after a while.

    I was interested in the changing styles of the poem. I wasn't sure whether this reflected a growing familiarity of the students with different forms of verse, or whether there was a deliberate attempt to embody the development of English metrical verse itself (cf. the passage in Joyce's Ulysses where the narrative moves through different styles of English prose, from Anglo-Saxon to the present day).

    I wondered if the poem lost a little momentum, at the point where the metre changed into a version of Burns' ABABCCCB form, and then a kind of Skeltonic. Do you find that the search for rhymes distracts the students from the narrative?
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  6. #26
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is loss of meter in poetry "decay"?

    Mr. Pedantic,

    I can't tell you how much I appreciate your thoughts!!!

    I am sort of feeling my way through this. True, I have done something like this many years ago, using Spenserian stanzas. I myself chose those 9-line stanzas because, back in 1977, when I went to write a long narrative poem of my own, I asked myself what was the best precedent that there was. I chose John Keats' "Eve of St. Agnes" and modeled my work on that -- right down to the number of stanzas. The older students that I had at earlier times proved able to use that verse form for over 1000 lines. Now I am working with younger students, and I chose common verse to start with because it is easy and also because I thought it might reflect the character of the young girl.

    By the changes in meter and rhythm I meant to show the little girl's development, thanks to a supportive teacher. However, it has become apparent to me that we can produce a pedagogical tool with this poem, pointing toward great narrative works.

    Bryn's indulging in rhyme for a little while was my attempt to show how easy rhyme is and how it should not be glorified as the maker of poetry.

    I would LOVE to have more of your thoughts -- and even your guidance as I proceed.

    Oh, one other thing. In reaching for a rhyme, I suspect that my students of now, like my former students, will find themselves exploring dimensions of language that they would not otherwise explore. Did you ever hear Robert Frost's quote, to the effect that writing free verse would be like playing tennis with the nets down?

    I intend to severely edit the students' work and not allow anything that might be considered what I call "cheap rhyme". In fact, I am thinking of having some of the poem in blank verse as it might better relate to the changing tone.

  7. #27
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is loss of meter in poetry "decay"?

    MrPedantic,

    I showed your comments to some of my students. Again, thank you.

    I should explain that within the poem itself we are working "on the backs" of some famous poems that you MIGHT not know about. "Casey at the Bat" is one of America's best-loved poems, but it is about baseball.

    "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream" we are using because I wanted that rhythm and didn't know of any other really famous poem with it. I think it is called "tertius peaen" or something like that -- four beats with the third one stressed.

    What you recognized as Robert Burns (for which I thank you, what poem?) I got from one of (is it?) Alfred Burt's Christmas carols.

  8. #28
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is loss of meter in poetry "decay"?

    I seem to have unintentionally re-discovered the usefulness and pleasure of the epic component of "catalog", as in the Iliad's catalog of ships. In working with my students, I found that it was useful and fun to produce a mini-catalog of the eight parts of speech and one of the common academic abbreviations. We are also preparing a catalog of farm animals with associated famous names. Then I realized that earlier in the "epic" we had written in a catalog of kinds of metric feet. The presence of a beat seems to do wonders for a list that would otherwise be tedious.

    These "catalogs" can be seen at somd.webs.com, but as the site is now, one would have to become a member to see the part of the work that is not yet completed.

  9. #29
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Is loss of meter in poetry "decay"?

    Hello Frank, I'm sorry about the delay in replying - I haven't been much around.

    The choice of Spenserian stanzas is unusual. I would be interested to know whether you used a concluding alexandrine, and if the form impeded the narrative in any way. It seems usually to encourage description (as in the FQ itself).

    The attempt to reflect development of character by the changing verse forms must present difficulties in terms of managing the pace. The ballad metre can hide weaknesses because it moves so quickly, for instance; whereas with passages in blank verse, I should think the narrative will have to carry itself. I think the point in your poem where you leave the speedier ballad form does create a little stress in the structure.

    Burns - I was thinking of the 'Duncan Gray' stanza in particular. (Burns seems to use the 3 rhyming lines to whip up the speed.)

    Dylan - That explains it. I was wondering about the reference to Captain Arab (i.e. not Ahab). I'll have to reread the passage with that in mind.

    The "catalogue of ships" idea is intriguing. I should think that would be one of the most-skipped episodes in all schoolroom experiences of Homer. To encourage students to dwell on it has an air of the revolutionary. I'm reminded of the passage in one of Auden's Oxford lectures, where he suggests some pertinent questions for literary critics:

    Do you like, and by like I mean really like:
    1. Long lists of proper names, such as Old Testament genealogies and the Catalogue of Ships in the Iliad?
    2. Riddles and other ways of not calling a spade a spade?
    3. Complex verse forms of great technical difficulty, such as englyns, sestinas, etc., even when the content is trivial?
    All the best!

    MrP
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  10. #30
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is loss of meter in poetry "decay"?

    MrP,

    Thanks! You are SO helpful, and I so much appreciate that you have taken the time to look at our work.

    Yes, the Spenserian stanzas had the Alexandrine at the end (you mean the 6-beat line, right?).

    Those were in earlier works by myself, 15-year-olds, and 18-year-olds. So far I have only been asking for common verse from my 14-year-olds.

    We have gained a little, though, since you probably last checked. The second canto starts with a rewrite of the Prelude to Longfellow's "Evangeline". THAT was hard to do with its hexameter, but the kids had great ideas. That part is not finished yet and I hope to move through an allusion to "Five miles meandering in a mazy motion" and to both Poe's "Raven" and Poe's "tintinnabulation of the bells..." before we settle back into common verse.

    The idea of using catalogs was a bit of a surprise. I don't want to use it just to be revolutionary -- only if it is effective. Writing an epic with 14-year-olds is quite revolutionary enough.

    I hope for your continued interest.

    Frank

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