A study of Metrical Writing, Part 4: Self-restriction.

Published by OJB in the blog OJB's blog. Views: 277

Welcome to part 4 of this study, and today we will be discussing the importance of self-restriction in terms of Meter.

In the last post, we discussed the variations and substitutions that can be used with Iambic Pentameter. I'd like to now introduce the idea of 'Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should.'

I have no doubt what I am about to say will 'upset' a few people, but this statement is true no matter what form or creative writing you do: True artistic achievement comes from when a writer places restrictions on themselves and writes the story within those restrictions.

When writing in Metrical form, you risk destroying the Rhythm of the writing when you over-use Substitutions.

So when should you use each Substitution? That is not for me to answer. You as a writer will have to develop your own rules and abide by them, but here is my main point, don't use Substitutions to get yourself out of a tough spot. It might be tempting to use a Trochee in order to keep a line, but every Substitution should be used for a reason and effect that you are trying to create.

Being new to Metrical writing, I only have a few rules so far in terms of Metrical writing.

1. I only use Trochees to begin a sentence, phrase, or clause.
2. Every line I write must be either a complete sentence, phrase, clause, subject or Predicate.

No doubt as I continue to practice and experiment, these rules will grow and evolve. My last post in this Blog series will be a look at my own rule, restrictions, and style in terms of Metrical writing.

I'd like to end today with another poem. This obeys the second rule I have for myself, so I thought her poem would be a good one to study. On top of my usual marks, I'll place the phrase/clause part in a []

Light Reading, by Vassar Miller.

Spies whisper through my air condition units.
My drainpipes crawl with wraiths of Jack the Ripper.
A time bomb in my oven ticks off minutes,
Imperiling beans and porkchops for my dinner.
An ex-con feeds my watchdogs poisoned candy
And saws my burglar bars in half. My Lodgers
are little men from Mars named Rick and Randy
Cloned from the brave Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers.
Bats breed inside my breakfast room and kitchen.
Where paranoid pygmies plot their crimes.
My hundred-watt bulbs are hung with lichen.
A ghost squats on my toilet. Between times,
If things grow dull, old Nazi bombers strafe.
So, ringed with ghouls and corpses I am safe.

Spies whis/per through/ my air/ condit/ion un(its.) (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb (hyper)) [Complete Sentence.]

My drain/pipes crawl/ with wraiths/ of Jack/ the Rip(per.) (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb (Hpyer)) [Complete Sentence.]

A time/ bomb in/ my ov/en ticks /off min(utes,) (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb (hyper))
[Main clause]

Imperi/ling beans/ and pork/chops + for/ my dinner. (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb(hyper))
[Verbal Phrase + Prepostional phrase.]

An ex/-con + feeds/ my watch/dogs pois/oned can(dy) (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb (hyper))
[Complete subject + Complete Predicate]

And saws/ my burg/lar bars/ in half.+/ My Lodg(ers) (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb(hpyer)
[Complete Predicate + Complete Subject.]

are lit/tle men /+from Mars/ named Rick /and Ran(dy) (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb (hyper))
[Subject complament + Object Complament]

Cloned from/ the brave/ Flash Gord/on and/ Buck Rodg(ers.) (Trochee/Iamb/Iamb/Double Iamb (Hpyer)) [Object complament]

Bats breed/ inside /my break/fast room/ and kitch(en.) (Spondee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb(hyper))
[Complete setence.]

Where par/anoid/ pyg/mies plot/ their crimes. * [Complete Sentence]
My hund/red-watt/ bulbs /are hung /with lichen. * [Complete Setence]
A ghost/ squats on/ my toil/et. + Be/tween times, (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
[Complete Setence + Prepostional Phrase]

If things/ grow dull, + /old Naz/i bomb/ers strafe. (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)
[Prepostional Phrase + Main Cluase]

So, ringed/ with ghouls/ and corps/es+ I /am safe. (Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Double Iamb.)
[Verbal Phrase + Main clause.]

*I am having a hard time scanning these two lines; the problem may be related to how the author is pronouncing certain words.

What I really like about this poem is that each line makes up a clause, phrase, sentence, or an entire part of a sentence. While at first glance some sentences run into the next line, the truth is that each line ends where a part of Syntax would end (does that make sense?)


That concludes my thoughts for today. If you have a thought of question please leave a like or comment!

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