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Lake

Driving in the Windy Snow

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(I am indebted to Tinker's generous help with my fist villanelle. In my fist attempt, I only managed to get the number of lines and rhymes right but failed in the meters which I thought was impossible for me to do. But Tinker showed me examples of how to work on meters and ironed out the choppiness of the piece. She further suggested that the workshop is a good place to get more crits since there are quite a few members who are experienced in form poetry. So here it is for your critiques. )

 

Driving in the Windy Snow

 

White snowflakes swirling wildly in the air

Behind the wheel dread eyes adjust to snow

A hunk of steel still drives without despair

 

A raging blizzard sweeps the cold ground bare

Sand salt is sprinkled, ancient snowplows groan

White snowflakes swirling wildly in the air

 

If there is anything which to compare

It's in the fog of London, fears will grow

A hunk of steel still drives without despair

 

The music turned up loud to keep aware

With "Dreams of Flying", tangled musings flow

White snowflakes swirling wildly in the air

 

A girl asleep in back without a care

As cold outside drops down to ten below

A hunk of steel still drives without despair

 

I sing to stay awake, through tears I stare

With achy shoulders, stiff neck, frozen toes

White snowflakes swirling wildly in the air

A hunk of steel still drives without despair

 

 

(And I promise I'll come back and give my two cents to other's works. But hopefully, they do not have to be as long as an essay. )

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Hi Lake,

 

As I've never tried a villanelle, I'm not sure that I can give you any technical feedback on how this poem works. However, from what little I know of the form, it occurs to my inexperienced eye that you've used your core repeated lines quite well to complement the images in the poem and link these to convey a sense and image of the hazards of driving in a snow storm.

 

I wondered if you could extend the central metaphor of your villanelle to embrace mental turmoil. Where you do allude to anxiety and fear, I feel (perhaps wrongly) that these references are literal.

 

I stumbled in a couple of places:

 

"If there is anything which to compare

It's in the fog of London..."

 

The use of simile here seems a little too direct and the shift in thought and emotion shows little progress or twist, as I understand the villanelle requires in the progressive repetition of the core couplets.

 

I wondered if the lack of "the" here was to adhere to the beat /meter of this form?

 

"A girl asleep in back without a care"

 

But I must emphasize that these points are only my opinion and other readers might have no problems with the issues I've raised.

One of your principal motifs is wonderfully rendered and you capture that indestructible power and presence of this man made contraption of our times:

 

"A hunk of steel still drives without despair".

 

You've also managed to use a good series of rhymes to match the core repeated lines in the villanelle and this makes the poem flow well.

 

 

goldenlangur

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Hello Lake,

 

I just wanted to let you know that this poem has caught my attention. Unfortunately, my stupid day job got in the way today, and it will tommorrow, too, but I will come back to this for a close read and critique by tomorrow night or Saturday. I'm impressed that you have taken on the villanelle; I myself have never written one.

 

Tony

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Than you very much Golden for your detailed critique. The questions you raised made me think over the night.

 

I wondered if you could extend the central metaphor of your villanelle to embrace mental turmoil. Where you do allude to anxiety and fear, I feel (perhaps wrongly) that these references are literal.

 

I felt that way too. I should go further to explore the ways to express mental turmoil. As some readers responded it sounded like a song, though the form does come from a French form, a song (am I right?), apparently it was not very successful in creating a terrifying atmosphere.

 

I stumbled in a couple of places:

 

"If there is anything which to compare

It's in the fog of London..."

 

The use of simile here seems a little too direct and the shift in thought and emotion shows little progress or twist, as I understand the villanelle requires in the progressive repetition of the core couplets.

 

Good point. I'll see how I can rewrite this stanza. Sometimes, it is the rhyme that restrains.

 

I wondered if the lack of "the" here was to adhere to the beat /meter of this form?

 

"A girl asleep in back without a care"

 

I guess so. Could 'the' be omitted here? But if the lack of 'the' sounds unnatural, I have to think of another expression.

 

One of your principal motifs is wonderfully rendered and you capture that indestructible power and presence of this man made contraption of our times:

 

"A hunk of steel still drives without despair".

 

The credit should go to Tinker. In my original, I used 'car'.

 

As for the rhyme, I noticed that 'groan' and 'toes' are not full rhymes, but rather imperfect rhymes.

 

Thanks again Golden for letting me know the issues you have with this poem. Much appreciation!

 

Lake

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Hi Tony,

 

Looking forward to your comments. I'll go and read your post in 'Scansion'.

 

Thanks,

Lake

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I applaud your first attempt at this form Lake. I don't have any expertise with form or verse, but admire those that develop their craft in this tradition.

 

White snowflakes swirling wildly in the air

Behind the wheel dread eyes adjust to snow

A hunk of steel still drives without despair

 

 

I thought your repetitive lines kept the momentum and did not become stale. The animation of the snow and the indifference of the steel created a tension that drove the poem along. The individual seemed trapped between two forces.

 

One technique I use in writing is to memorise a poem and in this way absorb the 'music' of a particular poet: this may help you absorb the rhythms of meter. Sometimes I felt the poem had a lot of stressed words compared to unstressed words - cold ground/sand salt/stiff neck/snowflakes/snowplows - but that could just be my ear icon_biggrin.png

 

 

If there is anything which to compare

It's in the fog of London,

 

I agree with gl here. I did wonder if 'archy' was a word and I wasn't sure how 'groan' and 'toes' fitted into your rhyme scheme. However, most of the lines worked for me, especially the key repetitive lines.

 

all the best

 

badge

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I just thought Lake. It may be a thought to post this in Scansion. Detail where you feel the stresses lie and see if there is a consensus with your scanning.

 

badge icon_biggrin.png

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I worked with Lake on this and I may be too close to this to add objective commentary. But I see some areas questioned that I set up so I think I should clarify. In helping Lake understand iambic pentameter, I was trying to keep the original words and just help expand them and/ or rearrange them to meet the criteria.

 

A girl asleep in back without a care"

 

It doesn't need "the" before "back", but this probably should read,

 

The girl asleep in back, without a care

 

or maybe better

 

In back, the girl asleep without a care,

 

Then there is achy not archy. It is in the dictionary as suffering from aches.(I did contribute that word. It is very common to say my shoulders are achy. The original word was stiff but the meter needed an unstressed syllable, and I suggested substituting achy.)

 

I think this poem is a wonderful first try at a metered verse form. The scansion is still rough that is why I suggested it be brought here for others to comment. Maybe it should have been placed in Scansion rather than the Workshop. But I think the comments here have been great and Lake can use them however they best fit the original intent of the poem.

 

~~Tink

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Hello Lake,

 

I have never written a villanelle, and I had to refer to Tinker's Verse Forms section (Thank you, Tinker! icon_smile.gif )to read about the form. First let me say, I love winter imagery (probably my favorite imagery is that of cold/winter), and it seems your poem satisfies the "pastoral" element usually associated with the form. On a side note, I am a railfan, and my favorite railroad is the DMIR. I have a book that depicts these trains in their movements around Duluth and the Missabe Iron Range surrounded by wonderful winter imagery, and my favorite movie is "Fargo." icon_lol.gif So, yes ... your poem strikes my fancy on several levels. Others have already given some useful thoughts about the content and form of the poem, but I will add to them with a few thoughts of my own, which I hope will also be helpful.

 

Although normal punctuation is not an absolute neccessity in poetry, in my opinion it usually benefits a poem. The punctuation is sparse in this poem. I offer some suggestions for punctuation and capitalization with a few minor word changes that I hope will help with clarity:

 

 

White snowflakes swirling wildly in the air --

Behind the wheel, dread eyes adjust to snow.

A hunk of steel still drives without despair.

 

A raging blizzard sweeps the cold ground -- bare.

Sand-salt is sprinkled. Ancient snowplows groan.

White snowflakes swirling wildly in the air ...

 

If there is anything with which to compare

It's in the fog of London; fears will grow.

A hunk of steel still drives without despair.

 

The music turned up loud to keep aware

With "Dreams of Flying." Tangled musings flow.

White snowflakes swirling wildly in the air ...

 

A girl asleep in back without a care,

As cold outside drops down to ten below.

A hunk of steel still drives without despair.

 

I sing to stay awake. Through tears I stare

With achy shoulders, stiff neck, frozen toes.

White snowflakes swirling wildly in the air.

A hunk of steel still drives without despair.

 

 

Okay, here's how I scan this version. icon_biggrin.png

 

 

WHITE SNOW/flakes SWIR/ling WILD/ly IN/the AIR --/

spondee/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb

 

beHIND/the WHEEL,/DREAD EYES/aDJUST/to SNOW./

iamb/iamb/spondee/iamb/iamb/

 

a HUNK/of STEEL/still DRIVES/withOUT/deSPAIR./

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/

 

a RA/ging BLIZ/zard SWEEPS/the COLD/GROUND -- BARE./

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/spondee/

(It seems that bare is here to modify cold ground and ostensibly to satisfy the rhyme scheme. That's why I think the hyphen could be used to help the rhyme appear planned and not forced.)

 

SAND-salt/is SPRIN/kled. AN/cient SNOW/plows GROAN./

trochee/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb

(Again, the hyphen helps, IMO.)

 

WHITE SNOW/flakes SWIR/ling WILD/ly IN/the AIR .../

spondee/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb

 

If THERE/is A/nyTHING/with WHICH/to comPARE/

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/anapest/

(I think this line needs the word with before which in order for it to make sense. This would also slightly alter the scansion of the line, but it would still in my opinion be proper IP. I love the enjambment here, btw.)

 

It's IN/the FOG/of LON/don; FEARS/will GROW./

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/

 

a HUNK/of STEEL/still DRIVES/withOUT/deSPAIR./

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/

 

The MU/sic TURNED/up LOUD/to KEEP/aWARE/

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/

 

With "DREAMS/of FLY/ing." TAN/gled MU/sings FLOW./

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/

 

WHITE SNOW/flakes SWIR/ling WILD/ly IN/the AIR .../

spondee/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb

 

A GIRL/aSLEEP/in BACK/withOUT/a CARE,/

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/

 

As COLD/outSIDE/drops DOWN/to TEN/beLOW./

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/

 

a HUNK/of STEEL/still DRIVES/withOUT/deSPAIR./

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/

 

i SING/to STAY/aWAKE./Through TEARS/i STARE./

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb

 

With A/chy SHOUL/ders, STIFF/NECK, FRO/zen TOES./

iamb/iamb/iamb/sponde/iamb/

 

WHITE SNOW/flakes SWIR/ling WILD/ly IN/the AIR./

spondee/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb

 

a HUNK/of STEEL/still DRIVES/withOUT/deSPAIR./

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/

 

 

I don't know if my capitalization/punctuation suggestions are in line with the spirit of a villanelle -- perhaps Tinker can comment on that -- but I hope they give you some ideas. This is an enjoyable poem for me, Lake, even as it stands.

 

 

Tony

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Thank you badger for your encouragement.

 

Thank you also for sharing with me your experience of memorizing a poem to absorb the music of a particular poet. It is a very good idea.

Sometimes I felt the poem had a lot of stressed words compared to unstressed words - cold ground/sand salt/stiff neck/snowflakes/snowplows

 

That's why it needs a scansion as both you and Tinker suggested and I saw Tony has done that for me downstairs. Actually, I remembered that Tinker edited the line as:

 

With achy shoulders, stiffened frozen toes

 

Is it a perfect iambic pentameter? I kept "stiff neck" for fear that there are too many modifiers before "toes". Apparently it breaks the meter.

 

As for the rhyme, I wonder if "blow" can be used to replace "groan".

 

Many thanks, badger!

 

Lake

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Hi Tinker,

 

Thanks again for your positives.

 

Sometimes, I struggle with "articles". If "the" is not needed in "in back", I like this version better:

 

In back, the girl asleep without a care

 

I have to come back to respond to Tony's crit since I need time to read and digest.

 

Much appreciation.

 

Lake

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Lake wrote:

 

That's why it needs a scansion as both you and Tinker suggested and I saw Tony has done that for me downstairs. Actually, I remembered that Tinker edited the line as:

 

With
a
chy
shoul
ders,
stif
fened
fro
zen
toes

 

Is it a perfect iambic pentameter? I kept "stiff neck" for fear that there are too many modifiers before "toes". Apparently it breaks the meter.

Both are correct iambic pentameter, Lake. Tinker's version is straight IP; mine is IP with an acceptable substitution in the fourth foot -- a spondee.

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tonyv wrote:

 

Hello Lake,

 

Although normal punctuation is not an absolute neccessity in poetry, in my opinion it usually benefits a poem. The punctuation is sparse in this poem. I offer some suggestions for punctuation and capitalization with a few minor word changes that I hope will help with clarity:

 

 

White snowflakes swirling wildly in the air --

Behind the wheel, dread eyes adjust to snow.

A hunk of steel still drives without despair.

 

A raging blizzard sweeps the cold ground -- bare.

Sand-salt is sprinkled. Ancient snowplows groan.

White snowflakes swirling wildly in the air ...

 

If there is anything with which to compare

It's in the fog of London; fears will grow.

A hunk of steel still drives without despair.

 

The music turned up loud to keep aware

With "Dreams of Flying." Tangled musings flow.

White snowflakes swirling wildly in the air ...

 

A girl asleep in back without a care,

As cold outside drops down to ten below.

A hunk of steel still drives without despair.

 

I sing to stay awake. Through tears I stare

With achy shoulders, stiff neck, frozen toes.

White snowflakes swirling wildly in the air.

A hunk of steel still drives without despair.

 

Hi Tony,

 

First off, thank you very much for your comprehensive review. I like your suggestions of punctuation and capitalization, which does clarify the meaning of the poem. Points well taken.

 

 

tonyv wrote:

 

Okay, here's how I scan this version.
icon_biggrin.png

 

 

WHITE SNOW/flakes SWIR/ling WILD/ly IN/the AIR --/

spondee/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb

 

beHIND/the WHEEL,/DREAD EYES/aDJUST/to SNOW./

iamb/iamb/spondee/iamb/iamb/

 

a HUNK/of STEEL/still DRIVES/withOUT/deSPAIR./

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/

 

a RA/ging BLIZ/zard SWEEPS/the COLD/GROUND -- BARE./

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/spondee/

(It seems that
bare
is here to modify
cold ground
and ostensibly to satisfy the rhyme scheme. That's why I think the hyphen could be used to help the rhyme appear planned and not forced.)

 

Yes, bare is to modify the cold ground. It's interesting to see the difference between "planned" and "forced" by using a hyphen. Reminded me of what Tinker said "Long fog" is a cliché, while "in the fog of London" is not. See, a little change makes a big difference. Now I see the use of punctuation adds color to the poem, more agile than monotone.

 

SAND-salt/is SPRIN/kled. AN/cient SNOW/plows GROAN./

trochee/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb

(Again, the hyphen helps, IMO.)

 

WHITE SNOW/flakes SWIR/ling WILD/ly IN/the AIR .../

spondee/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb

 

If THERE/is A/nyTHING/with WHICH/to comPARE/

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/anapest/

(I think this line needs the word
with
before
which
in order for it to make sense. This would also slightly alter the scansion of the line, but it would still in my opinion be proper IP. I love the enjambment here, btw.)

 

I agree with the addition of "with". And I thought to rewrite it as :

 

If there's anything with which to compare

 

Then it's not going to be IP. I'll think it over.

It's IN/the FOG/of LON/don; FEARS/will GROW./

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/

 

a HUNK/of STEEL/still DRIVES/withOUT/deSPAIR./

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/

 

The MU/sic TURNED/up LOUD/to KEEP/aWARE/

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/

 

With "DREAMS/of FLY/ing." TAN/gled MU/sings FLOW./

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/

 

WHITE SNOW/flakes SWIR/ling WILD/ly IN/the AIR .../

spondee/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb

 

A GIRL/aSLEEP/in BACK/withOUT/a CARE,/

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/

 

As COLD/outSIDE/drops DOWN/to TEN/beLOW./

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/

 

a HUNK/of STEEL/still DRIVES/withOUT/deSPAIR./

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/

 

i SING/to STAY/aWAKE./Through TEARS/i STARE./

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb

 

With A/chy SHOUL/ders, STIFF/NECK, FRO/zen TOES./

iamb/iamb/iamb/sponde/iamb/

 

WHITE SNOW/flakes SWIR/ling WILD/ly IN/the AIR./

spondee/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb

 

a HUNK/of STEEL/still DRIVES/withOUT/deSPAIR./

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/

 

 

I don't know if my capitalization/punctuation suggestions are in line with the spirit of a villanelle -- perhaps Tinker can comment on that -- but I hope they give you some ideas. This is an enjoyable poem for me, Lake, even as it stands.

 

 

Tony

 

Tony, I think my problem with counting the stressed and unstressed syllables is that sometimes the words are counted differently than what they show in the dictionary. For example, "in" I usually unstress it while in this example it is counted as stressed, so is the "down"; while I normally stress "drop", but in here is the opposite. I guess it depends on how the writer reads it, when to stress a word, when not to. Right?

 

According to your scansion, it looks like the majority of the foot is iambic with a few exceptions of "spondee", and one "anapest". So does it qualify IP?

 

Thanks much for taking the time scanning.

 

Lake

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Lake wrote:

 

That's why it needs a scansion as both you and Tinker suggested and I saw Tony has done that for me downstairs. Actually, I remembered that Tinker edited the line as:

 

With
a
chy
shoul
ders,
stif
fened
fro
zen
toes

 

Is it a perfect iambic pentameter? I kept "stiff neck" for fear that there are too many modifiers before "toes". Apparently it breaks the meter.

Both are correct iambic pentameter, Lake. Tinker's version is straight IP; mine is IP with an acceptable substitution in the fourth foot -- a spondee.

 

Tony, here is another question - how much flexibility a poem can have in counting meters?

 

Even for this line of the famous poem by Dylan Thomas I would scan it as this:

 

Rage, rage against the dying of the light

spondee/iamb/iamb/??/iamb

 

What's the fourth foot? Do you stress "of" so to make it "iamb"?

 

Sorry for my questions. But if I don't have a clear idea, I am afraid I dare not go further into meters.

 

Many thanks,

 

Lake

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tonyv wrote:

 

a RA/ging BLIZ/zard SWEEPS/the COLD/GROUND -- BARE./

iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/spondee/

(It seems that
bare
is here to modify
cold ground
and ostensibly to satisfy the rhyme scheme. That's why I think the hyphen could be used to help the rhyme appear planned and not forced.)

Lake wrote:

 

Yes, bare is to modify the cold ground. It's interesting to see the difference between "planned" and "forced" by using a hyphen. Reminded me of what Tinker said "Long fog" is a cliché, while "in the fog of London" is not. See, a little change makes a big difference. Now I see the use of punctuation adds color to the poem, more agile than monotone.

It's clearly forced without the hyphen, because normal syntax is reversed to satisfy the rhyme scheme. Normal syntax for this sentence would be "A raging blizzard sweeps the cold, bare ground." (or bare, cold ground) Whether or not it is forced when the em-dash is employed is a matter of opinion. In my opinion, it is not, because the punctuation serves a grammatical purpose (I think).

Lake wrote:

 

Tony, I think my problem with counting the stressed and unstressed syllables is that sometimes the words are counted differently than what they show in the dictionary. For example, "in" I usually unstress it while in this example it is counted as stressed, so is the "down"; while I normally stress "drop", but in here is the opposite. I guess it depends on how the writer reads it, when to stress a word, when not to. Right?

Multi-syllable words should never be stressed differently than the dictionary shows. One-syllable words like the ones you mention could be stressed or unstressed depending on where they fall within the IP line.

Lake wrote:

 

According to your scansion, it looks like the majority of the foot is iambic with a few exceptions of "spondee", and one "anapest". So does it qualify IP?

Lake, as far as I can tell, your poem is written in iambic pentameter. There are certain metrical feet that are considered acceptable substitutions within iambic pentameter lines. Here are two links (to another site) that I have found to be very useful for understanding iambic pentameter. The first is a thread on "Standard Substitutions in Strict Iambic Pentameter", and the second is a "Guide to Iambic Pentameter."

 

Tony

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Lake wrote:

 

Tony, here is another question - how much flexibility a poem can have in counting meters?

That question is best answered in the two links I provided in my reply right above this one. In my opinion, there is plenty of flexibility even in strict IP with the generally acceptable substitutions.

Lake wrote:

 

Even for this line of the famous poem by Dylan Thomas I would scan it as this:

 

Rage
,
rage
a
gainst
the
dy
ing of the
light

spondee/iamb/iamb/??/iamb

 

What's the fourth foot? Do you stress "of" so to make it "iamb"?

RAGE, RAGE/aGAINST/the DY/ing OF/the LIGHT./

spondee/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/

 

Yes. Of is stressed within this line. In standard iambic pentameter, there shouldn't be three unstressed syllables in a row. As you can also see, the first foot is a spondee. This (according to the link) is perfectly acceptable even in strict iambic pentameter.

 

It's exciting that you are delving into prosody. Though I'm still learning about it, too, I'm pleased to help as much as I can. I think I can back up most of what I have said so far with sources, but if someone spots an error in my understanding of any of this, please point it out. If I know that I don't know an answer to any of this, I will certainly say so.

 

Tony

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Hi Tony,

 

The links you provided are very helpful, which answered most of my questions. I once took a poetry writing class but stuck at meters because I found my scansion was different than others. And I couldn't figure out why. Now I've realized other feet are used (counted) as acceptable substitutions.

 

Also thank you for answering my other question on stressed and unstressed words. These are the things I never learned from attending a class.

 

Much appreciation,

 

Lake

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Very informative, interesting and helpful Tony.

 

badge

 

I'm glad you like it, Badge! icon_biggrin.png

 

Lake, I also posted some more detailed information which addresses your question about stressing one-syllable (and other) words in THIS thread. Even thought the author whose work I'm referencing says that prepositions are not stressed as a rule, I still believe that in the scansion of the Dylan Thomas line you presented, of is stressed. What does "as a rule" mean in this case? To me it means "necessarily" or "all the time."

 

Tony

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