View Full Version : I just want to write 3

Olly Buckle
December 12th, 2012, 08:53 PM
If you read the first parts of this you know there has been a good bit of information; introducing the concepts of feet and rhythm, stressed and unstressed syllables, iambs, trochees, anapaests, pentameters, all sorts of stuff. I used some of it looking at a Wordsworth poem in part two, but I have not laid it out in a very ordered fashion, and there are bits missing. I am not writing a text book.

There is, however. some methodology in my random insanity, I aim to be read. It could be argued this is dilettante stuff, but I would rather err on the side of the casual than be terribly intense, erudite, more impenetrable than the poems I am talking about, and unread except by those who already have the information. If people want more information (And I hope they do), it is there.

A word of warning, I am self taught. It is common for self taught people to have gaps in their knowledge, and I see no reason why I should be an exception, my omissions may not all be deliberate.

In this part rather than looking at the work of others I wanted to look at some things those who ‘Just want to write’ might consider in their own work.

Poetry is usually split into lines, this is not done casually, where they end and where they begin matter. Nor should lines be only a vehicle for progressing from the line before them to the line after them. They often do that, of course, but they should have intrinsic reasons for being as well.

Making a line break will affect the sound of the poem, and often it will also affect the meaning. Enjambment is a term used to describe breaking a phrase or an idea so that it carries on from one line to the next, straddling the two. This can have a connective quality, and can also emphasise the meaning of one or the other (or both) halves, consider,

“Where he was born and bred: the churchyard hangs
Upon a slope above the village-school;”

And the way ‘hangs’ is left hanging, the emphasis is not there, the ideas of hanging and being on a slope are not separated, without the enjambment.

Wordsworth’s ‘quiet’ pentameters also get a lot of their pace and flow from enjambment, you should easily find other examples in the poem at the beginning of ‘Just write, section 2’, there is a reason for all of them.

When you finish a sentence or a phrase as you finish a line the line is called ‘end stopped’. This is the norm for a line, of course poetry does not stick to the established norms, but if it is any good when it deviates it does so for a reason. Apart from anything else it is indistinguishable from arbitrarily divided prose otherwise.

Other breaks occur within the line, some sorts of line have a natural pause, called a Caesura, You hear it around the middle of iambic pentameters a lot,

“Where he was born and bred:// the churchyard hangs
Upon a slope// above the village-school”

In a well crafted poem the ideas fit in with these breaks. That can happen in various ways, consider the crashing single syllables of the first line of,

Break break break
On thy cold grey rocks O sea.

and the monotonous regularity of wave on shore.

“In the olden days poems always used to rhyme, but we don’t do that any more, I just write.”
The poem at the beginning of ‘just write 2’ does not rhyme at the end of lines either, that was Wordsworth, late 1700’s early 1800’s. The poet of the Revolution, 1600’s, Milton, wrote ‘Paradise lost’ without rhyming the lines, and if you go back further not only did Shakespeare and Chaucer write in that same ‘blank verse’ but the very idea of rhyme is a Norman import, the Anglo Saxons did not use it at all.

What they all do have is form, structure and rhythm. Blank verse is written in iambic pentameters, that is to say many of the lines and the form behind the whole poem is the iambic pentameter. The man saying,
“To be or not to be, that is the question”
is questioning his very existence, the inversion of the fourth iamb makes ‘that’ the emphatic question.

The man plotting to kill his liege lord and King here,
“If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly: if the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success; that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all here,
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,”
has almost lost the plot. His iambs lose their definite beat and the enjambments hurry him along, until he fetches up on the ‘bank and shoal’ of the present, but he keeps his syllable count.

So what should you be using and what should you be losing? Well, of course there are no hard and fast rules, if you try and force a rhyme at the end of every line you will probably sound forced, and it is usually better to lose your metre than add pointless words to make it regular. But not every poem has to be a virtuoso presentation piece, some can be written for practice, and I promise you, rhyming becomes easier, rhythm starts to flow naturally, and you will find your own poems more pleasing to your ear in time. It can be worth writing those awkward poems with forced rhymes if they are a stage in the development of your ear for language, go for it, just write something different from your usual.

Squalid Glass
January 2nd, 2013, 10:50 PM
Something that I always keep in mind is to let my content dictate the rhyme, not the other way around. Rhyme can be used for a number of purposes - not just for pure sound. Also, it is important to understand the power of the slant rhyme and assonance. Sometimes a perfect rhyme is just too obvious and can distract from content. A lot of times a slant rhyme can hide the rhyme while keeping the sweet sound of a rhyme. Dickinson was a master at this.

Olly - great post - keep them up!

Olly Buckle
January 3rd, 2013, 07:06 AM
Thanks, I was thinking of moving on to assonance and consonance. Ordering and writing it down like this is actually a great way to internalise the information.