Neil Hester

All poems © Neil Hester unless otherwritten

Location: North Carolina, United States

Monday, August 07, 2006

On The Fallacy of Meter

Today (or rather, tonight) I would like to direct all poets to this article: Dan Schneider- Robinson Jeffers, & The Metric Fallacy Me'-ter. Stressed, unstressed. Strong, weak. Light, dark. Up, down. Yin, ya... er, yeah, meter, stressed and unstressed, strong and weak syllables.

That's what we all learned in school. Of course, I'm sure we've all noticed (at least subconciously) that it's not quite that simple. Sure, I suppose you *can* divide into strong/weak syllables, but that doesn't do full justice to the complexity of language. Say delegation. Or elasticity. Or supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (even though the sound of it is really quite atrocious). Notice the multiple different levels of stress, more than two different kinds? I thought so.

Really, for basic teaching purposes I suppose it's not too criminal to use basic meter, stressed/unstressed, strong/weak, but for most poets to keep clinging onto the idea that words are *really* made up of two stresses isn't good, since one of the reasons (other than alliteration, assonance, etc.) different lines with the "same" metric pattern sound different is because, often times, they really *don't* have the same metric pattern. Also, it'd probably be a good idea if English teachers touched on the fact that it's not actually as simple as weak/strong in reality, but that there are several levels of stress in language. Then again, since this either isn't a fully conscious realization in poetry, or people just like ignoring it, I suppose getting things straight in the teachers' heads would be necessary first.

I didn't give any serious thought to this aspect of poetry until reading this article; hopefully it'll do some good for you.


Blogger AnoNick said...

Thanks for the link, the article was very good and informative.

I have never thought of "metre" in detail, but even though there isn't a sharp distinction between the two, I think there is a reason why metre is important: it gives flow to a poem.

An anapest flows more lightly than an iamb. It's use is in the mood of the poem, not the structure. Rime is more important in structure. (Or so I think ;-). )

9:48 AM  

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