Some wring their hands and grind their teeth.
Some smile, and drink it in.
Some flaunt it like a badge and cape,
some bear it with a grin.
Some treat it like a wound and staunch
the blood with endless gauze,
and some think it's a game of chance,and some, a book of laws.
Currently can't get this particular metre out of my head - obsessed! (It's called 'common' or 'ballad' metre by the way, 8686 syllables, easily memorised, easily written to. Most frequently used in hymns, and sailors' ditties, and nursery rhymes, and ballads, for obvious reasons.) It's been on my mind since I reread some of Emily's verses in September - 'Tell all the truth but tell it slant/success in circuit lies...' Masterful! Don't you just love her poetry?!
And then I reread Harivansh Rai Bachchan's Madhushala, and couldn't get that 8 per line syllabic constraint out of my head either - 'din ko Holi raat Diwali roz manati madhushala.' Salute! just sparkles like a glass of champagne. Harivansh Rai Bachchan is less famous outside India than his son, that's Amitabh Bachchan, a Bollywood megastar known to fans as Big B, but Bachchan Sr's achievements are way bigger and more formidable as far as I am concerned. Incidentally, Madhushala means a tavern, and the line loosely translates to 'every day a Holi, and every night a Diwali is celebrated by the Tavern,' in other words it's always party time! HRB was a man after my own heart! Shades of Omar Khayyam there, as the tavern is a metaphor for the world in Eastern traditions. I don't know if that metaphor originated with Khayyam, or does it go back deeper into the past? Hmm...must find out...
I have been told and taught that English has a natural rhythm which falls into iambic pentameter and all that blah, I have heard it since I was a foot tall, and I am not disputing it or anything, but really? that tetrameter/trimeter thingy, the four beats, three beats combo is just magic! M-A-G-I-C. The shorter the line, the tauter the metre, and the headier the magic. No getting around that, in whatever metre you say it.
Natural rhythms are fine, pentameter's great for pensive, for plaintive, for lyrical, for love-songs and laments and lullabies and elegies. But you want something to make your heart come thudding out of ennui, your blood go dancing in your veins, your eyes pop wide open, fiercely exultant, alive? - yup, opt for tetrameter.
The regular laptop's still absconding, apparently the required body parts are not available on this island and are being shipped in from the far corners of the earth. The writing is therefore, mostly on hold, except for these odd bits popping into the brain. Like a wasp that gets in and then can't find it's way out. But last Friday I went to a writers' retreat and wrote the golden oldie route, got ink smears on fingers, and ended up strangely exhilarated. Beyond happy to feel the nib scratching its way through paper! Silver linings, silver linings. A staple around here. And the story of my life.
PS this antho, where some seriously nifty poets from across the world have got together, is available now in a print version also.