So, I was talking just the other day
about the use of meter. Yes, I know
the subject’s dull. It’s sleep inducing, but
my friend pretended interest anyway.
I said it’s easier, at least it is
for me, to write a poem in blank verse.
The structure helps to organize my thoughts.
And here is where the mud got really thick.
I asked, “Do you know the Wordsworth sonnet
‘Nun’s fret not in their convent’s narrow room’”?
It isn’t like the beat’s a metronome.
Just listen to the line. The meter’s screwed.
It doesn’t go da Dum, da Dum da Dum.
Instead it starts out Dum! Dum! Dum! and then
it stutters da da. Only at the end
is there a beat, a heart beat to the line.
This poem is about rigidity and not
itself as rigid as you might expect.
And like the content’s narrow room there is
a flexibility to metered lines.
They can be stretched, expanded, shrunk
to fit imagination’s needs and wants.
Just scan Bishop’s villanelle “One Art”
and watch the pattern fall apart each time
the speaker in the poem falls apart.
You see what happens when I’m counting beans?
I’m slogging in the mud through the head-high weeds.
And people, when they see me, turn away
pretending I’m not there so that they wont
be once again subjected to a diatribe
on all the metrical advantages
of formal poetry. The wonder is
there still are friends who will put up with me
when I begin to blather on about
the meter, form, and structure of a poem.