12 jul. 2004

I might as well quote the entire CC poem:

LIGHT AS MICA BROKEN (Solution Passage p. 34)

The core of bees is alight with leaded peals [IP, with 1 anapest thrown in]
swell out their gauze to an owl of stone [Iambic tetrameter, 1 anapest]

They stream down the terra cotta gullet once tuned [IP, 1 anapest]
wishing in the cancels of the traffic moon [Iambic hexameter, with first syllable missing]

Touch at the coiling of the mystery [IP, "inverted" first "foot"]
we wish they own [Iambic dimeter]

In pools of chatter the link to breaks [Iambic tetrameter, 1 anapest]
we never turn home in the pestle of their clouds [IP, 2 anapests]

The bees have gained their shine from
their ways alone [IP, 1 anapest, divided into two lines]

Most of the "beats" in the poem are strongly marked "content" words. The only exception prepositions are "in" and "of" between two unaccented syllables, in line four and again in line 8. (The last syllable of "mystery" also has a lighter stress.) The metrical norm seems to be an iambic line of between 4 and 6 "feet," with one anapestic substitution per line.

Variation and constancy. That's pretty much the name of the game. How much constancy do we need before variation becomes meaningful? This might depend on the reader. For me, the Clark Coolidge poem strikes just the right bargain. The form feels "organic," made for the occasion, yet it is strongly rhythmic enough to satisfy all but the most rigid formalist.

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Update: if you've come here through a link from a certain "rigid formalist" you can make up your own mind about whether Coolidge's poem is simply "crap." That's not a critical argument, it's just an assertion. I never said that Coolidge was trying to write in meter. I feel my scansion does in fact illuminate the poem's rhythms; the idea that the ghost of meter haunts free verse is hardly original or novel, and my demonstration of this fact in thi particular case is quite unremarkable. Whether the poem is judged to be successful or not is different question. I for one find it highly evocative.