Each week dives deep into a different meter through reading, scanning, lecture, writing, discussion, and more.
The vocabulary of poetic meter and rhythm is so diverse as to be almost endless in its subtleties and complexities, yet most contemporary poets know of only one meter, the iambic, if we know any at all. And no wonder. Most of us have been taught only to write in free verse; iambic meter is misunderstood as dusty and irrelevant, and as for the non-iambic meters, after the age of five most of us consider them beneath the attention of adults.
This class aims to change all that. Each of the four weeks of this poetry circle and writing workshop is devoted to exploration of the mysteries and challenges of a different meter. Through writing, workshopping, attention to great poems, reading aloud, discussion, and scansion, we will consider the diverse meters equally, avoiding the iambic hegemony that has been so deadening to the rhythms of poetry in English.
Let’s meet some meters, explore their unique powers, and start to reclaim the full range of meter in English in all its subtle, variegated glory.
Week 1: A Walk With the Iambic Beat.
A listening to the complex intricacies of the poetic meter so widespread in English that many, including Robert Frost, considered it the only English meter. Reading iambic poems from seven centuries in a variety of voices and line-lengths, along with discussion, scansion and writing in iambs, we will clarify the nature of iambic meter and learn how to use this the meter well and also how to avoid defaulting to iambs. Topics covered include how to scan iambics, metrical substitutions, common errors and pitfalls, and how to develop a distinctive voice within the meter.
Week 2: Grounding In Trochaic Meter
A grounding in the power of the falling meter that has been a backbone of poetry in English from Anglo-Saxon times. Through reading, discussion, scansion, and writing in trochees, we will connect with the contemporary power of this remarkable beat that inspired an epic of Longfellow’s and some of the greatest works of African American poetry. Topics covered will include how to scan trochees, the role of trochees as a foil for iambic meter, and metrical substitutions in trochaic meter.
Week 3: Weaving the Dactylic Rhythms
An exploration of the mysteries and powers of the meter of Iliad and the Odyssey and its subtle yet crucial role in English-language poetry. Why has this captivating meter appeared so briefly in poems over the centuries? Is there something objectively difficult in the rhythm, or does it perhaps remind us of parts of ourselves we have trouble reclaiming? Reading dactylic poetry from several centuries in a variety of voices and line-lengths, along with discussion, scansion and writing in dactyls, we will explore our own response to dactylic poems and consider their role in contemporary poetry. Topics covered include how to scan dactyls, the weight of classical tradition, and the special role of spondees in this meter.
Week 4: An Awaking to Anapests
An exploration of the charms and ambiguities of the meter that has brought us many of the most familiar American poems. What about this meter helps makes “The Cat in the Hat” and “Paul Revere’s Ride” so magnetic and yet has also given power to so many subtle, sensual, and politically revolutionary poems? Reading anapestic poems from several centuries in a variety of voices and line-lengths, along with discussion, scansion and writing in anapests, we will explore our own response to anapestic poems and consider their role in contemporary poetry. Topics covered include the anapest’s narrative potential, common errors and pitfalls, and how to develop a distinctive voice within the meter.
8 weeks 1pm-3pm EST | Course based on A Poet's Ear
From 1:00pm until 3:00pm EST
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Financial need: Scholarship support or other arrangements may be available. Please get in touch and we will aim to work something out.
About the Instructor: Annie Finch is the author or editor of more than twenty books of poetry and poetics. Her books for poets and poetry lovers include A Poet’s Craft: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Sharing Your Poetry, Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters, An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art, and The Body of Poetry. Finch holds a BA from Yale and a Ph.D from Stanford, has taught and lectured widely, and has received the Robert Fitzgerald Prosody Award for her lifetime contribution to the art and craft of versification. Her poetry has been performed at Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, installed in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and published in Poetry, Paris Review, The New York Times, and The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century American Poetry.