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National Poetry Month: Day 29

Sunday afternoon lament

Tip
tap
tip
on the pane
drip
drop
drip
goes the rain
nag
nag
nag
in your brain
drag
drug
drag
the mounting pain
swill
swirl
swill
down the drain
sob
cough
sob
all over again
as
drip
drop
drip
goes the unrelenting
unrepenting
blood
stain.

– Delilah Des Anges

In poetry pacing is regulated by two separate factors: the position of words on the page, and the meter of the lines. These two can interact with each other in order to further manipulate the reader’s perception of the speed of the poem.

Metrically, switching between types of meter can have a profound effect on the experience of the poem’s pace; the reader can be brought to a near-standstill, or feel acceleration in the pace of the lines towards the poem’s crescendo. This can be heightened still further by the change from long to short words, or vice versa, and long to short lines, or vice versa.

In terms of placement, line-breaks and isolating individual lines has a psychological effect on the reader’s pace; a visual species, we learn to associate the spacing out in the plane of the page with the spacing out of events in time, as typographical cheats such as increasing the kerning will demonstrate:

s l o w l y

s   l    o    w   l    y

s     l      o     w     l    y

visual trickery like this may seem “cheap” in comparison to metrical manipulation but this is only because it is a little easier to achieve!

A third means of pacing control is lexical. This should be inherent to all poems, and occurs when the poet’s word choice is determined in part by how difficult or lengthy the word is to read, as well as the semantics and semiotics of it (or indeed the euphony of it).

Al three taken in careful combination can throw the reader through the poem at precious the pace the poet wishes without any silly extraneous annotation, or any guidance from outside sources. A sign of a well-put-together poem is the ability of anyone utterly ignorant of the material to read it as it is meant to be read, in a manner identical to any other completely ignorant or utterly informed reader.


Throughout this month I will be nagging readers to donate to MSF

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Filed under: content: essay, content: poetry, freeform, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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