Friday, July 06, 2007

Iambic Pentameters

If Joe asks me tonight what I was doing to today I can tell him that I was writing iambic pentameters!

I started to work my way through the first chapter of Stephen Fry’s book. The first chapter was about meter, that is the rhythm of the poem, and iambic pentameter which is a particular regular rhythm of ten syllables made up of five pairs with the stress being on the second syllable in each pair. Do you have any idea just how much I have always wanted to know that? Seriously! I have probably written poems that follow that pattern, but never known the technical name.

Once all the explanation has been clearly set out, he lets you loose on exercises. You have to write on the book. He has this to say about defacing books – “You may wish to use a pencil so that you can rub out your marks and leave this book in pristine condition when you lend it to someone else – naturally the publishers would prefer you to buy another copy for your friends – the important thing is to get used to defacing this book in one way or another”. I guess the library should be glad that I did not borrow their copy!

The first exercise was identifying the pairs of syllables and the stresses on the second syllable. It wasn’t as easy as it looked and the important thing was reading it out loud. The next exercise was writing some iambic pentameters of your own. He gave a few of his own examples – it is amazing what slips out.

“There’s nothing you can say to ease my pain.”

I once watched a TV program following Stephen Fry interviewing different people who were manic depressive. I watched it because I have a friend who suffers from that condition and I thought maybe he would give me some insight in how to simply be a better friend to her. Stephen Fry was diagnosed with the condition a while back, but it was only after suffering for a long time that anyone sought to identify his condition. I can remember him being asked that if he had the chance of being “normal” would he want that. He thought about it and said “No”. For all the agony that he went through, he didn’t want to give up the ecstasy.

“You sharpness rips my paper heart in two.” That’s another one of his examples. My own were less deep, but then the point wasn’t to be poetic or deep, but just to feel the rhythm.

The man who walks through cowpats often stinks. (That sounds like something Confucius might have come up with)

My cup of tea has gone completely cold. (Very true!)

Graffiti scrawled upon a white washed wall. (I am quite proud of that line – it sounds quite poetic)

The dusty spiders’ webs speak of neglect. (No guessing where the inspiration for that one came from)

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