The above example of scansion is a good example of where my mind’s been at past few days. I’ve been and will be writing with an eye (and ear and heart) towards meter, mainly for a class, but more than the class, there is an inner drive to grow stronger in this regard.
Throughout the fourteen years I’ve written seriously (meaning at its most simply the years I’ve written and typed something up: typing up means business!) I have read several books on prosody. The most I’ve taken from my readings is a sense of how to work with the stresses of each line.
This usually plays out with me absentmindedly banging my fist on a table or tapping my foot – I say “tapping” but if you see me do it, there is a heave of my head forward as well, so that I constantly look like I’m about to get up and leave.
My take on it leaves me looking silly, but it does get me going. And that’s the point.
There is a moment in one of my favorite Jay-Z songs where he says:
Kitchen table – that’s where I honed my skills
At the same time he says the line, the music stops, and all you hear is the beat of a fist hitting a table.
It blows my mind every time I hear it. Something clicks in me each time in regards to process and what it means to work with words. Do anything to get the words out.
Linda Pastan’s poem below takes on the issue of prosody on her own terms as well. Like her, I believe that the work of the poem has lessons beyond the page.
Prosody 101 – Linda Pastan
When they taught me that what mattered most
was not the strict iambic line goose-stepping
over the page but the variations
in that line and the tension produced
on the ear by the surprise of difference,
I understood yet didn’t understand
exactly, until just now, years later
in spring, with the trees already lacy
and camellias blowsy with middle age,
I looked out and saw what a cold front had done
to the garden, sweeping in like common language,
unexpected in the sensuous
extravagance of a Maryland spring.
There was a dark edge around each flower
as if it had been outlined in ink
instead of frost, and the tension I felt
between the expected and actual
was like that time I came to you, ready
to say goodbye for good, for you had been
a cold front yourself lately, and as I walked in
you laughed and lifted me up in your arms
as if I too were lacy with spring
instead of middle aged like the camellias,
and I thought: so this is Poetry!