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Headless Iambic


badger11
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This response to a question I posed interested me so I'll share:

 

 

I think the issue of establishing meter before substituting only holds sway if your meter is departing from natural speech patterns, if you need to count on a reader's metrical efforts to make the music work. But if one can just read the lines naturally, and the meter emerges, I don't think it matters if you start with some 'irregularity'. If the meter is to be a conscious effort, then perhaps one needs to give initial directives; but if the meter just happens, as it seem to me to do in this poem, then its direction is inherent in the language. I didn't stumble here at all—but then when I read a poem I don't start by trying to identify the meter: I just read and let the meter find me. I find that too much initial analysis kind of defeats the point of the music of meter, which is to carry one along, not to be carried by one.

 

Taken from this thread:

 

http://www.ablemuse.com/erato/showthread.php?p=379015#post379015

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This response to a question I posed interested me so I'll share:

 

 

I think the issue of establishing meter before substituting only holds sway if your meter is departing from natural speech patterns, if you need to count on a reader's metrical efforts to make the music work. But if one can just read the lines naturally, and the meter emerges, I don't think it matters if you start with some 'irregularity'. If the meter is to be a conscious effort, then perhaps one needs to give initial directives; but if the meter just happens, as it seem to me to do in this poem, then its direction is inherent in the language. I didn't stumble here at all—but then when I read a poem I don't start by trying to identify the meter: I just read and let the meter find me. I find that too much initial analysis kind of defeats the point of the music of meter, which is to carry one along, not to be carried by one.

 

Taken from this thread:

 

http://www.ablemuse.com/erato/showthread.php?p=379015#post379015

 

I don't think any line which contains the customary substitutions that we've discussed in topics re iambic pentameter on this site is irregular, though I personally don't care a whole lot for anapests which occur in IP that Frost characterized as "loose." I prefer strict IP which can contain trochees, double iambs (a pyrrhic followed by a spondee which counts as two iambs), and spondees (which count as iambs) anywhere in the line. A trochee does not count as an iamb, and substitutions like trochees and/or anapests should not outnumber iambs in any iambic pentameter. Therefore, there should be no more than two trochees, two anapests, or any combinations of these substitutions in a line of IP. Trochees and anapests are substitutions. A double iamb (which counts as two iambs) isn't a substitution in the same sense as are a trochee or an anapest, nor is a spondee, by itself, because it counts as an iamb when scanning a line.

 

I do adhere strictly to the practice of not having any substitutions in any line which begins with a headless iamb. In my opinion, the meter in a line would be flawed if it contained a headless iamb followed by anything other than four iambs. For the purpose of adhering to this rule, anything other than an iamb would be a substitution. That goes for spondees and double iambs, too. Headless iamb in a line of IP:

 

^ / iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb /

(There should be no substitutions ever in my opinion.)

 

English is an iambic language. Any iambic pentameter which conforms with the "rules" will yield natural speech patterns. One can alter the musicality of a line or a poem by playing around with speech patterns. Sometimes the metronome effect mentioned in your referenced topic can be desirable. I'll scan one of my own as an example:

 

 

Ukraina Hotel

 

Fresh Federation snow on the hoods, trunks,

and window glass of cars in a half-filled lot.

Her legs, with the bass between and kick-drum on

the beats, took me a long, hard way from Pravda.

The inside of her Volvo was still warm.

 

 

/ FRESH FE / de RA / tion SNOW / on the / HOODS TRUNKS /

/ spondee / iamb / iamb / {pyrrhic/spondee = double iamb}

 

/ and WIN / dow GLASS / of CARS / in a HALF / filled LOT /

/ iamb / iamb / iamb / anapest / iamb /

 

/ her LEGS / with the BASS / beTWEEN / and KICK / drum ON /

/ iamb / anapest / iamb / iamb / iamb /

 

/ the BEATS / TOOK me / a LONG / HARD WAY / from PRAV / da

/ iamb / trochee / iamb / spondee / iamb / ^ (feminine ending)

 

/ the IN / side OF / her VOL / vo was / STILL WARM /

/ iamb / iamb / iamb / {pyrrhic/spondee = double iamb}

 

 

In L3 and L4, am I leading the reader with the anapest followed by three iambs with a stress on "on" in the last foot of L3? Yes, I want to. I'm going for the techno beat. Although metronomic, I don't think these or any other lines in this poem depart from natural speech patterns. No word within a line is stressed differently than dictionary, and no stresses are employed that cannot occur in natural speech. The enjambment from L3F3 to L4F1 serves a purpose. I'm not saying I do this all the time, but this is one example when I can suggest that my meter actually serves a purpose. Did I mention I don't care a whole lot for anapests? I use two in this short poem.

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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hi Tony.

 

Always a pleasure to read one of your succinct poems and this is no exception. Especially enjoyed the Pravda/Volvo - the open vowel of the latter conveying a sense of release.

 

 

A double iamb (which counts as two iambs) isn't a substitution in the same sense as are a trochee or an anapest, nor is a spondee, by itself, because it counts as an iamb when scanning a line.

 

That makes perfect sense in my view.

 

 

I do adhere strictly to the practice of not having any substitutions in any line which begins with a headless iamb. In my opinion, the meter in a line would be flawed if it contained a headless iamb followed by anything other than four iambs. For the purpose of adhering to this rule, anything other than an iamb would be a substitution. That goes for spondees and double iambs, too. Headless iamb in a line of IP:

 

^ / iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb /

(There should be no substitutions ever in my opinion.)

 

English is an iambic language. Any iambic pentameter which conforms with the "rules" will yield natural speech patterns.

 

I'm presuming that 'severe' rule is a product of achieving natural speech patterns. I do get confused if a poet uses substitutions in a headless iamb line. I'm unhappy when a headless iamb line has a feminine ending because the impulse is to scan a trochaic line. Therefore your viewpoint makes sense to me.

 

 

/ FRESH FED / er/ A / tion SNOW / on the / HOODS TRUNKS /

/ spondee / iamb / iamb / {pyrrhic/spondee = double iamb}

 

Same scan, just splitting the syllables slightly differently.

 

Once again thank you for sharing your knowledge. Always illuminating.

 

Is there a particular book you could recommend in regard to spondee/pyrrhic scansion of iambic lines?

 

best

 

Phil

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