Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The End

Major disaster! The bag that was stolen in Thailand included ‘The Ode Less Travelled’ and my notebook. Alas my journey has been brought to an abrupt end.
Here is one final poetry blog that I wrote beforehand on the computer.

Continuing in the study of extinct animals, we move on to the amphibrach, which is an unstressed syllable, then a stressed one, then an unstressed one, ( _ / _ ) such as romantic. Yet again, this is a device which is nearly never used in English poetry. I am given a code to work out- a poem made up of a series of dots to signify stressed and unstressed syllables, but no words. My quest is to guess what kind of poem it is. And would you believe it? I actually figured it out! Yay me. It was a limerick, which is for the most part made up of amphibrachic feet.
Then finally there is the amphimacer, which is—you guessed it—a stressed, unstressed, stressed foot (/ _ / ). But you won’t find many of them in English poetry. Why oh why, I ask you, am I bothering to learn these things then?? Apparently many proper poets don’t even believe in these devises. How can you not believe in something that is definitely there? It’s weird. Like saying you don’t believe in trains, just because you don’t like national rail. Not liking something is not really the same.
Stephen then proceeds to make my head spin with a long list of crazy names for other things that I’ll never need. Quantenary feet, ionic minors, argh! Thank goodness these are only presented as a list, rather than things to be gone into in any detail, as I think either my head would have exploded or I would have thrown the damn book out the window (Not really Stephen, you know I would never do that).
And here I am at Poetry Exercise number 6.
The task is this:

  • Write four lines of anapaestic hexameters on the subject of how to get to my house. So four lines of six _ _ /.
  • Write four lines of dactylic pentameter; four then a spondee for each line. / _ _ / _ _ / _ _ / _ _ // on the subject of cows.

I am given 40 minutes but it didn’t really work out because the first time I got bored halfway through. Then the second time I rewrote the first poem due to it being shit (it’s still not exactly worth reading which is much more embarrassing the second time round) and then did the second one. But anyway, enough rambling. I present to you, exercise 6.

Get a plane to the east off to Seoul for a while, English Village is there- but I’m not!
Once more fly just a short trip to Thailand my home, certainly for a jot.
Where the heart is that’s home and my heart is spread out. Go down Mile lane then left
At the end tucked away where my family lives some of my heart there is kept.

Eating is mainly when I think of cows, it is sad I know but true.
Milk is so tasty and burgers, just don’t think where it’s from.
Yoghurt and cheese and that wonderful, delicious mince beef
Forget the farms and the mass productions, just fill my tum

It’s quite ironic I think that I joked about throwing the book out the window and now it’s been cruelly taken away. And I was only on the first section! Maybe I've had a luckly escape, I don't know.
I think I might continue my blog anyway, to ramble on about my adventures. Not exactly what I set out to do, but it could be fun.
Watch this space…

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Dinosaurs and a confused computer

Well it’s been a busy week, but now that I’m safely settled, I resume my task. I must say that writing in the comfort of the sun on my balcony in Thailand has a definite appeal to it!
The title of this chapter is this:
Ternary feet: we meet the anapaest and the dactyl, the molossus, the tribach, the amphibrach and the amphimacer.

Well if that doesn’t sound like a misfit bunch of dinosaurs, then I don’t know what does. Also, in terms of something I am about to attempt to learn about, it is quite possibly the most terrifying thing I have ever heard. Why must we always give things weird names and scare ourselves with them? Ternary is the name given to feet that have three syllables, as opposed to the binary ones I’ve looked at so far, i.e. two syllables.
First up is anapaest, which is two unstressed and a stressed syllable ( _ _ / ). Stephen helpful informs me that it is pronounced to rhyme with ‘am a beast,’ which I think is rather fitting, given its weird name. You can use anapaest for one three syllable word or for three single syllable words. Unconvinced, or at a loss. One of the most famous poems that uses this form is ‘The Night Before Christmas.’
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

And so on.

Even hearing that now makes me feel a bit Christmassy, and it’s only the end of January.
Stephen attempts to flatter me (and it works- I love you Stephen!) by casually saying that students of the future will be studying my poetry for rhythm and stuff.
If you take off the first syllable of an anapaest, then you get an acephalous (headless) foot. The headless anapaest, the scariest dinosaur going. You can just imagine it stumbling around, lumbering and slashing at things, whilst all the time trying to speak in verse despite having no head. Or maybe that’s just me.
Another famous way in which the anapaest is used is in the William Tell overture. Stephen gets me to sing it out loud substituting the du du dum’s with anapaests and spondees. I’m sorry, that makes no sense really but it definitely signifies my slow decent into madness.

Anapaest anapaest anapaest spon-dee.
Anapaest anapaest anapaest spon-dee!

If you have any idea what I’m on about, which I don’t blame you at all if you don’t, then you should try it. It’s quite fun. You know you want to.
Next up is the Dactyl. There is a lot said over a few pages but mainly I just skim, because it’s all far too intellectual. The main thing I learn is that the Dactyl is a strong, weak, weak foot ( / _ _ ) and is practically impossible to use in English. So I don’t feel too bad about not paying attention. 
After that I meet the molossus; possibly my favourite name in this venture yet. A molossus is a foot with three stressed beats, like a giant booming its way across the countryside. Stephen writes that ‘the molossus is the ternary version of the spondee.’ Of course, that’s exactly what I thought too….
After some revision, I realise what he means. A spondee is two stressed beats, and ternary means three. So the molossus is three stressed beats. It’s funny how simple things are sometimes, but how they become so complicated and confusing through the use of unnecessary vocabulary.  

Random- I’ve just been through my spell check which wouldn’t accept any of the words I’m learning about, or even let me add them to the dictionary. Apparently my computer thinks it’s all nonsense. How rude.

In the same way as the molossus, the tribach is the ternary version of the pyrrhic foot (three unstressed beats). I can imagine the poor pyrrhic foot in the playground, saying to the spondee bully, “I’ll get my big brother on you.” And the spondee saying, “Well I’ll get my brother too.”
Then in comes the weedy looking tribach hoping in vain to protect his even weedier sibling from the terrifying giant molossus. You can guess how the story ends.
To add insult to injury, the tribach is hardly ever, ever, ever used in English. Just given a name and then left to rot.
I still have two more terms left to cover—the amphibrach and the amphimacer—but my brain hurts so I’ll leave it here for now.

Monday, 16 January 2012

A Simpler Way?

Four beats to a line—or tetrameters—are very popular amongst English poets. Stephen says where Iambic Pentameter is a joint of beef, tetrameter is a sandwich. Mmm sandwiches. I like this style already: beautiful in its simplicity.
And that leads us on to “mixed feet,” which of course makes me think of a weird and twisted shop where you can choose from a range of different styles of human foot to take home and wear at your leisure. “Can I have one sensible men’s and one women’s with the toenails painted electric blue please?” Or perhaps just, “Choose me some at random if you don’t mind, I like the surprise.”
We look at poems where one line has four beats and the next has three. It is OK to do anything really, as long as it fits the style and the mood of the poem.
I need to remember to stay in control of my metre, to keep a certain method to the madness. I am reminded of my own cooking style when I read that ‘too many herbs in a dish can cancel each other out’. That’s me! Usually, in an attempt to be creative in the kitchen, I shove in whatever I can find and just hope for the best.
I was always under the impression that this worked alright, but now I’m rethinking…   
It’s funny, and quite unfair I think, that if a well known writer, or any other type of artist in fact, does something a bit shit, everyone passes it off as purposeful, deliberate and probably even inspired. How unlucky for me that as an 'unknown', I wouldn’t be able to get away with rubbish if I wanted my work to be accepted or praised.
Luckily I’m not looking for acceptance or praise. I am perfectly happy being mocked and scorned. Hahaha.

Poetry exercise five

What I have to do:
Write eight quatrains, i.e. eight sets of four lines.

  • Two iambic tetrameter (each line 4 beats, with the stress on the second syllable).
  • Two alternating tetrameter (4 beats) and trimeter (3 beats).
  • One trochaic tetrameter (4 beats with the stress on the first syllable)
  • One trochaic tetrameter with the last syllable chopped off the end of the 2nd and 4th lines.

I am given 45 minutes to do it. Piece of cake, right?
The topic is television.
It’s 10pm, so I’ve got until 10.45. Here goes.

I don’t watch TV in Korea,
I have one tucked in the corner.
It holds a vase of flowers well,
A nice touch in the room of fauna.

Not much had changed when I went home,
Except one thing that quite stunned me,
In every living room but ours,
A huge flat screen monstrosity!

I like to pick the things I watch,
Choose sitcom, film, drama
Or when I’ve had a stressful day
A Disney film is calmer.

Back home I just could not escape,
X Factor weekly hell.
On Saturday and Sunday too,
(I liked it, please don’t tell).

Misfits is what I am watching,
But I’m not so sure it’s gripping,
Writers can you keep it up?
Careful there! The script is slipping.

With no News I’m in a bubble,
Hearing nothing day to day.
Why do we focus on bad things,
Hide all the good things away?

I actually managed to do it in the time frame! For some reason this exercise was much easier than the Iambic Pentameter one where I had to put in trochaic and pyrrhic beats. Probably because each line had the same stresses throughout, so it just flowed easier. Still, on reflection the poems are not exactly anything to shout about, but I completed the task properly and that's what matters.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight Feet!

Not too sure right now of how to cope with the fact that I've only just embarked on chapter three. Chapter three! I don’t believe it, I hear you say, its madness! Yes it really is. But onwards we go.
At the beginning of this chapter I am given the names for lines with different numbers of feet—or beats—such as  Dimeter (2 feet) Hexameter (6) and of course, Pentameter (5). Apparently, Pentameter is generally used for contemplative, epic, heroic and dramatic verse. I think the lines I wrote in my last blog definitely fall into all of these categories… 
Hexameter is very common in classic English verse, but is a bit of a mouthful when reading it aloud, which is why lots of playwrights such as Shakespeare preferred pentameter. I’m relived now that I’ve never attempted to write a play in verse, as I would definitely have made the stupid mistake of using Hexameter, and all the actors would be gasping for breath and fainting off the stage.
The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe, is one of the few examples of English verse made up of eight beat lines, or Octameter. I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I fell a little bit in love with Poe last year on my Masters course. I think I just love the creepiness of his stories. And also I am reminded of the happy memory of expressing my love of Poe to a fellow student, only to receive the reply, “Sure, I liked him too- when I was five!’ Well so-o-rry! I guess that some of us aren't as cool as you.
Heptameters (7 feet) are called ‘fourteeners’ amongst people in the trade, as Stephen puts it. I feel like I am really starting to learn the lingo now, becoming part of the ever cool poetry possy.
I prefer the look and feel of fourteeners when they are split into two lines rather than one. What do you think?

But stay: O Spite! But Mark, poor knight, What dreadful dole is here?
Eyes, do you see? How can it be? O dainty duck, O dear. 
                                                Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
But stay: O spite! But Mark, poor knight,
What dreadful dole is here?
Eyes, do you see? How can it be?
O dainty duck, O dear.

I think it’s nicer, it looks tidier.
This extract is from the play within the play, ‘Pyramus and Thisbe,’ which a joke for the audience both in script and in performance. It’s funny that Shakespeare is taking the piss here out of poets who liked to write in fourteeners, by writing his joke play in Heptameter, rather than the Pentameter. It seems that he wasn’t a fan of this length of line and chose to use ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ as a way of subtly mocking other writers. Silly Shakespeare, what a funny man he was.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

More Fun and Games

I’m pleased to announce that the next thirteen lines of the I.P game did not take me quite as long to do as the initial, painful three. Although the presentation has taken me ages and it’s still impossible to understand what I’m saying with all the _ and / going on. But it’s the best I can do with my crappy computer skills.
The poems I have created are by no means good, but I tried my hardest with the trochaic and pyrrhic substitutions, with the enjambment and the weak endings. Possibly I could’ve done better with the subjects and actual content of the poems, but truthfully I just didn’t want to spend another moment on them.  
So, feeling ever so slightly embarrassed regarding resorting to writing about the cats that live on camp; I present to you my Iambic Pentameter.

What is this? Am I completely stupid?
Subject, then the order, then the rhythm,
Finally the messing, it hurts my brain.

First saga: cookies disfigured, ugly
Not round, then two: forget the salt, vanilla,
Baking powder, and too much butter, it
Won’t matter? Three the gloopy, sticky egg,
Stays inside the shell when cracked, clear but thick.
And next week in cooking class what will happen?

Meow! You’re here and what do you want today?
To play, or chase or maybe sit down on my
Lap for a while and purr, is that too much?
The only thing you want from me is food! 

And now the points!

            P                                T
_       /  _      _   _ /     _      _ /   _
What is this? Am I completely stupid?                       10

             P                             P                W
_      /   _      _      _    /   _   _     _    /    _
Just subject, then the order and the rhythm,            12

T      P       T                         
/  _  _  _    /     _     _  /       _   /
Finally the messing, it hurts my brain.                     15

                                P           T
_      /   _  /      _   /  _ _        /  _
First saga: cookies disfigured, ugly                         10

T                               T                            W
/     _         _      /      /   _    _    /     _  /  _
Not round, then two: forget the salt, vanilla,            12

T          P                                    P      E 
/    _    _    _     _     /    _       /   _     _
Baking powder, and too much butter, it                   17

_        /   _      /        _    /     _    /   _   /
Won’t matter? Three the gloopy, sticky egg,             2  (fail)

            P           T   
_       /  _    _     /      _       _            /       _    /
Stays inside the shell when cracked, clear but thick. 10

               T          T                                      W
_     /      /       _  /    _     _      /       _    /   _
And next week in cooking class what will happen?     12

T                                                                   W
/   _    _         /      _     /       _   /    _       /   _
Meow! You’re here and what do you want today?       7

                                     P                     W
_   /       _   /       _  /     _   _   _      /   _
To play, or chase or maybe sit down on my              7 

/      _   _  /       _    /       _  /     _    /         
Lap for a while and purr, is that too much?             5

_     /  _  /      _     /       _      /    _  /
The only thing you want from me is food!               0(epic fail, but it's the last one so I don't care)

My total score for these lines is 119. Add to that the 30 points from the three lines in the previous entry and my score is 149. Stephen’s score was 106, which I guess makes me the winner. Ha ha, I win, I win, I win!
Although really I cheated because I didn’t deduct any points for over-use of the poetic devises, whereas Stephen was very hard on himself.
But I’m not going to dwell on that, I will simply focus on the winning part. I am the victor, and Stephen is stupid.   

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Painful Poetry

We are going to play a game! I have to write some I.P, attempting to insert some of the devices I have learnt into it. And I score points for my efforts, how exciting. This sounds like my kind of sport- no physical effort required at all.

The points are as follows:

T= Trochaic substitution              5

P= Pyrrhic substitution                 5

W= Weak ending                         2

E= Enjambment                           2

I’m pleased that good old Pyrrhic foot is a high pointer.
Stephen urges me to deduct points if I overdo it by using too many of them within one line. Messing it up too much can disrupt the flow of the I.P and make it unrecognizable.
My opinion, however, is that if by some magical occurrence I somehow succeed in using too many rather than too few, then surely I deserve the points.
Screw you Stephen, I’m taking all the points I can get!

And off we go.

Time to write reports today, but be careful
With the negative, even if the kid
Was lazy and annoying, please write kindly!

T                                                                               W    E    
/        _  _       /  _      /    _       / _   /     _                                 
Time to write reports today, but be careful                            9 points!
P                  T                             P             E
_        _   /   _ _     / _    _  _     /
With the negative, even if the kid                                        14 
             P                                                                W
_       /  _  _   _ /  _       /         _      /      _
Was lazy and annoying, please write kindly!                           7

Damn, that just took me an hour. Unbelievable. I need a lie down and a beer. Maybe I should take back the comment I made earlier about this being 'my kind of sport.' That was obviously complete rubbish, as whilst I don't particularly like physical exertion, I am also not a fan of having my brain fried. And the worst part about it is that I’m not sure I even got it right, or indeed scored myself correctly.
Ah well, only another thirteen lines to go.

I’m gonna be here forever!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Rules for messing up the rules

Yey, all is not lost. It is Ok to mess up the strict Iambic Pentameter, by adding a tum-ti here, or an extra syllable here. Whatever I want, it’s cool.
Or is it?
Just when I think I can do anything, I find out there are a load of rules that go with the messing. So here we go:
The first thing I can do is add an extra syllable at the end of a line, to make a weak, or feminine ending. Stephen urges me not to be offended by this title, but to be honest I like to hold on to the notion of being a bit weak and weedy, so I don’t have to carry heavy things.
We then inspect the oh so famous line,
‘To be or not to be that is the question,’
I can’t believe it: it’s not even in strict I.P! I am shocked to my core at the extra syllable on the end there. It then transpires that there are countless instances in which an extra unstressed syllable will be found on the end of a line. For example, when the word ends with ‘ing’ or ‘er’. And the most part of Italian I.P too, as nearly all of their words end with ‘a’!
It would seem natural to conclude from this that it is also alright to take a syllable off if you want to. But it is most certainly not! It is totally unthinkable, terrible and ridiculous as it would leave the line with a disastrous four stressed syllables instead of five. So don’t do it!
The next thing is substitutions. Firstly the trochaic substitution, or tum-ti instead of ti-tum. This means simply the first syllable is stressed instead of the second, and is most commonly found at the beginning of a line. The second is spondaic substitution, which is two stressed syllables together. I’m looking at the examples I’ve been given and thinking that really if it wasn’t pointed out, then I wouldn’t notice these changes at all, but hey I’ll keep trying.
The final type of substitution is pyrrhic. This is where there are two unstressed syllables together, the second one having been ‘demoted’ from stressed status. Sorry dude, I know this was your one big chance to shine, but we’ve had to put you with the unstressed syllables. Move along now.
Pyrrhic substitutions, because they seem so down-and-out, are definitely my favourite so far. And hooray, there is a glimmer of hope for them, as they help to further emphasise the next stressed syllable that follows them. How selfless they are, sacrificing themselves for another’s glory!
Anyway, that’s about it. It’s nice to know I can mess around with the beat of I.P, rather than trying to squeeze syllables in where they don’t sound good. I’m hoping I can use this new knowledge to my advantage...