31 de oct. de 2010

We should be careful not to let the general public in on our knowledge. If someone non-academic asks yo what you are working on, make sure to say, "oh, some esotoric subject you wouldn't be interested in." Let's make sure we don't let anyone know that we get to spend our time with "pocos, pero doctos libros juntos." It's bad enough we have to teach our undergraduates some of this literature rather than keeping it to ourselves. Fortunately, we only require them to take four courses in literature to graduate with a Spanish major. Fortunately, too, most of them dislike literature, so there is no danger there either.

And some of "us" dislike it too.

30 de oct. de 2010

Can you be outside and inside at the same time? In other words, can you see yourself as a rogue, an outsider, a rebel, but still be a full professor? That's unlikely.


Agreement is overrated. Maybe you disagree!

I don't really care whether someone agrees with what I say. It only becomes important if my ego is wrapped up in a particular opinion. Then disagreement becomes a threat to my ego, to my very identity. Once I step past that point, then I can debate issues with less worry. When disagreement rankles, it is because I haven't detached the opinions from my ego.

29 de oct. de 2010

The path to originality is to forget about originality, like Pierre Menard. Originality is tiresome if it is sought after, courted, forced.

Be derivative, like Robert Duncan. Your works should derive from other sources, enrich an ongoing tradition. Would you be disappointed that your favorite writer also had favorite writers?

28 de oct. de 2010

Barthes has always been one of my favorite authors. He is really a writer, not just a theorist or critic. What I particularly like is that he is really a 19th century sensibility trying to deal with 20th century avant-garde, or maybe vice-versa. This tension can lead to very irritating moments in Barthes too, when he's hammering home some arbitrary distinction he wants to make.

The way Barthes has dated (or not) is also interesting to me. You can go back and forth between "did people really ever believe this" to "this could have been written yesterday," and back again. To simplify, the theoretical Barthes is dated, but the personal Barthes is not. The Barthes who believed semiology was scientific, and the one who used fountain pens and painted water colors.

27 de oct. de 2010

I was a little surprised that my undergraduate students, in upper-division Spanish literature class, were unaware that Mario Vargas Llosa had won a Nobel prize. Ok. Well, that 's kind of anti-climactic. It's not like the Latin American "boom" is recent news, and to give out the prize now for something more relevant 30 years ago is kind of typical of the Swedish Academy's general cluelessness.

But not a single one of my students had heard of Roberto Bolaño, the most famous Latin American writer (in the US at least) of the last decade or so. I understand that they are Spanish majors, not Spanish literature majors, but still... that level of disengagement is disheartening. Someone asked me after class whether I had studied literature as well as Spanish. Probably because I had Boccaccio, Chaucer, and the Arabian Nights, along with Italo Calvino, in my references that day.

A Spanish major somehow has never realized that almost all of her professors are specialists in literature...

26 de oct. de 2010

I've been teaching Obabakoak. In case you don't know it, this is a fantastic novel or fictional creation by Bernardo Atxaga, the Basque writer. It comes right out of Calvino, in some sense, but with a more narrow geographic focus than Once on a Winter's Night a Traveler. Calvino skips around with his narrations, but Atxaga focuses on a more narrow territory, only skipping a few times to Ireland or Amazonia.

Calvino's novel was was published in 79, Atxaga's in 88. Of course that whole postmodern metafiction stuff now seems much more cliché, but that is partially because of its success, and Atxaga is quite original within the cliché, if that's not too much of a contradiction. In other words, the techniques no longer seem innovative, but he puts them to innovative use.

25 de oct. de 2010

They say you should read some really bad poetry of the past just so you realize how good the good stuff is in comparison. With the distant past, we only read the great works, whereas in the present we are inundated with endless crap.

This is true, but a little bit of bad poetry goes a long way. You only need to read one bad poem in each style to reach that kind of realization.

24 de oct. de 2010

Course on Prosody

I have always assumed I could never teach a course on prosody, but now it is going to happen. Almost. In the Spring I am organizing a non-credit seminar-like entity I am calling "Working Group on Prosody and Versification." I might be the only one taking the course (from myself), but if I get a few more people, I can test it out and see if it works. If it does, then it can become a real course some subsequent year.

Beginning in the Spring semester, I will be organizing a group for discussing selected topics in prosody and versification. We will meet regularly once a week in the small seminar room in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, at a time not conflicting with Graduate Courses in the Department, to discuss an article or book chapter, along with a few poems or textual examples.

The idea is to provide a time and a space where we can explore a topic that may be too esoteric for a regular graduate course, but that may be of some interest to some members of our department. Eventually, I would like to develop a new course in this area, but before doing so I need to refine my own expertise and gauge the level of potential interest.

Possible topics of discussion include generative metrics, the interface between linguistic prosody and literary prosody, and the role of metrics in literary criticism. We often relegate prosody to the lower levels of the curriculum (Spanish 340), treating it as something basic and perhaps not particularly interesting. My aim is to show that there is more in this particular subfield than many scholars realize. This group is particularly recommended to graduate students who want to specialize in poetry or theater, or who are interested in the pedagogy of literary analysis.

All interested Graduate Students and Faculty should contact me at jmayhew@ku.edu. I will be distributing materials in advance of the first meeting to those who express interest.

While the initial focus will be on Spanish prosody, the group is open to participation to interested members of the University community.

23 de oct. de 2010

How To Read Poetry Aloud

First of all, you should always read poetry aloud even if you are reading silently. In other words, you should hear it in your mind as you read it. You should have an idea oral reading in your head before you even think about reading it outloud.

You should know what the poem is doing metrically in great detail, and then forget about this when you actually read the poem aloud. In other words, you should not read like someone who has no idea what the meter is, but there is no particular need to emphasize the meter either as though your listeners needed help in perceiving it. The same applies to any sound device like rhyme or alliteration.

The same principle goes for line-breaks. Give each break its appropriate treatment, but never act like a line-break isn't there at all. There is no need for heavy pauses when lines are enjambed, but the breaks can be observed in other ways--through split-second hesitation, shifts in pacing.

Don't use the "poet's voice," the dreaded poet's voice where intonation is trapped between three or three exact pitches.

Don't be an actor. Don't dramatize or emote. Say the words like you mean them; let them flow through you. A dry performance can be more moving than a dramatized one. Variation in speed of delivery, in length of pauses, can do a great deal.

Always memorize. Even if you are reading off the page, you should more or less know the poem.


Be a student of performance styles. Ignore all the preceding advice and develop your own damn approach. Maybe you want to just scream everything like one poet I saw once. Maybe you should sing or beat a drum. Maybe the "poet voice" is for you, or an approach modeled after Gil Scott Heron, who was rapping long before hip hop was invented. An over-the-top performative style is way better than a professorial style that shows no understanding of rhythm. I remember a lecture by Hilllis Miller about Yeat I saw when I was very young. It was obvious to me from the way he read Yeats aloud that he had no understanding of Yeats as a poet. That might seem like an extreme and arrogant statement, but that's what I thought at the time as a dumb 18-year old. I probably wouldn't jump to that kind of conclusion now, but there it is.

22 de oct. de 2010

Can Humanities Education Be the Basis of Citizenship?

No, I don't think so. I have several objections to this whole line of thinking, however well-intentioned.

1) Not everyone goes to college; not everyone who goes to college takes a lot of Humanities courses. Citizenship has to have a more expansive base, not dependent on your choice of major, or even less a few gen ed classes. That's a heavy burden to put on a few courses in the curriculum, or the graduates of a few majors.

2) Education in the Humanities promotes critical thinking skills. Sure. But so does education in general. In sciences, social sciences, and any field of intellectual endeavor. And is that what the Humanities are really about, a set of skills abstracted from our scholarly practice?

3) Isn't this really a backdoor way of using a political alibi to save the humanities? In other words, it's not the humanities saving humanity, but vice-versa? (Society will save the English department if it realizes the English department will save society.)

4) Won't those arguments devalue any part of the humanities that doesn't have a direct pay-off (pay-out) in utilitarian terms? So if the humanities are not useful for business, they are essential to forming citizens! Once we take that step, why preserve the parts that don't seem directly relevant to civic life? (Most of it?) It's a way valuing the humanities for their closeness to the social science. The humanities become a less rigorous, more warm-and-fuzzy social science. Even philosophy, a more rigorous discipline, will be reduced to a few "relevant" subject, like ethics.

5) The argument is self-serving, when promoted by people in the Humanities (as it usually is). Sure, without the English dept. civilization will die out. Philosophy holds the key to thinking itself. Surely biology should be the master discipline, since we are living creatures. But physics holds the keys to the universe itself. And so on. In other words, anyone who has devoted their life to one particular thing will derive an exaggerated notion of its relative importance, whether it's Baroque poetry or exercise physiology.

6) There's often an appeal to the use of language in a clear way, which will in turn clear thought about politics to the nation. But no one discipline or set of disciplines owns language. Freshman composition won't prevent Bush from abusing power, no matter how good those composition courses get. Once again, there is the problem of getting from the curriculum to the real-life effect it's supposed to have.

7) Finally, there's the assumption that humanities will save the nation because humanities professors have the correct politics and can transmit that viewpoint to their students. That will probably merit a post of its own. The problem, basically, is that then it is the particular political views that matter, not the integrity of the discipline or the specificity of its content. If humanities professors turn conservative, and physics professors get consistently leftist, then will physics provide the basis of civic life?

21 de oct. de 2010

El hereje

I was reading this novel by Miguel Delibes, El hereje. It takes place in the 16th century and the "heretic" of the novel is a Lutheran in Valladolid.

Everything in the novel is laid out for the reader in explicit detail. We get a lot of historical research almost in its raw form, with the thinnest veneer of fictionalization, and we are told what happens to the characters in chronological order. Much as I admire some of Delibes's other novels, this one has no sense of narrative mystery or suspense. We never wonder why a character is doing something. Every narrative move is telegraphed way in advance. Understanding the literal level of what happens in the plot, you would understand the novel itself.

I am impatient with my inability to tolerate this kind of fictional construct. I'm sure this kind of historical data dump would not bother many readers.

20 de oct. de 2010

Rhyme and Line Endings

Romance languages are really rhyme happy. Some day I'd like to look at rhyme, which has several functions, in terms of one of its main uses: marking the ends of lines. For today I'll just think out loud about it:

Line endings are significant for verse, because verse is defined as a series of verse-units. The end can simply be obvious, in unenjambed verse of the "single moulded" variety. In other words, in some kinds of verse knowing where the end of the line is is unproblematic.

Blank verse does without rhyme but also tends toward increased enjambment. Those two developments are practically one and the same. Heavily enjambed verse with rhyme, then, is an interesting hybrid, since the verse marks line endings while the sense is carried over to the next line. It would be possible to have rhyme that is not all that perceptible to the ear, if you enjambed enough and didn't pause at the end of the line or overemphasize those rhyming words. Rhyme would almost be "internal."

In Claudio Rodríguez, we have a kind of "rhymed blank verse," where there is rhyme, but the movement from line to line suggests blank-verse verse paragraphs. When his verse gets freer, he rhymes more randomly. Rhyme is no longer structural. It occurs where it wants to, and is often internal rhyme. Carlos Piera pointed out to me that the silva, with its combination of seven and eleven syllable words, is really the Spanish equivalent of blank verse. He didn't say that in so many words, but that's the upshot.

Classical verse is rhymeless (Greek, Latin) and sometimes constructed in paragraphs rather in sequences of end-stopped lines (Virgil.) Why is European neo-classicism so rhyme happy?

19 de oct. de 2010

Evaluative Criticism

Ezra Pound takes it for granted that criticism should mostly be evaluative. Figuring out where the best stuff is, why it's good, and using that as a model for one's own writing. There's a palpable excitement there when he's talking about Rochester or Calvacanti. Zukofsky does the same the A Test of Poetry. I come out of that tradition.

Northrop Frye, a literary theorist very famous in the age of New Criticism (though himself not a New Critic), argued that evaluation was not the proper function of criticism. That is only possible, however, if we already know what the good stuff is and why we should be studying it. In other words, evaluation has already taken place, but we just don't want to talk about it or justify our judgments. We just take the already existing canon as our standard of value and leave it at that.

What I find interesting is the situation in which values are uncertain. Then critical opportunity arises; we can argue again what the best stuff is, why it is good, what the stakes are. So Marjorie Perloff talking about poetry is always going to be interesting, because there's an argument there about value. Other "popular" critics like Vendler and Bloom also make arguments about what's worthwhile and why.

The idea that criticism should mostly be interpretive or hermeneutic,: telling us what the works mean, is foreign to someone like Pound. I'm not that interested in interpreting works myself. I mean, I still do derive meanings from works I read, and devise theories of what they mean, but those interpretations are not the main point of my criticism anymore.

18 de oct. de 2010

I've pointed out before that the Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism has no entry for prosody, versification, music, or poetics. It has drama theory and narratology, and Murray Krieger, and Roberto Schwarz.

To be fair, the word prosody does come up in 4 articles: Thomas Kuhn, Arabic Theory, Chinese Theory (2); versification comes up 6 times, for Poe, Jakobson, Medieval, Late 18th Century British, Spanish, and Russian Formalism, but some of these references are rather fleeting and insubstantial.

There are 8 references to rhyme.

So what exactly is "Literary Theory and Criticism"? I'd really like to know. Playing gotcha is fun. Looking at what's not visible is highly revealing.

17 de oct. de 2010

My own termination policy would be for translators who claim to be using "loose" blank verse when they are really not using any meter at all.

16 de oct. de 2010

Aesthetic Judgment and Its Suspension

The suspension of aesthetic judgment can be liberating. Not having to worry at every moment about "how good it is" is a foundational gesture in contemporary literary and cultural studies. The raw material for many kinds of investigation would simply not be available if it first had to pass an acid test of judgment. "First prove it's good enough, belongs in the canon, and then we'll admit that studying it is worthwhile, that it is a valuable subject for a dissertation." With that sort of logic, obviously, we limit the field to things already accepted according to sometimes rather questionable canonical standards.

That being said, aesthetic judgment is never suspended for very long, nor should it be. Even scholars who think they are suspending judgment are really not doing so: they are temporarily bracketing it, or making a surreptitious claim that this text, too, is beautiful, if you look at it in a way. Saying that value is contingent, as Barbara H. Smith does in Contingencies of Value, does not get us very far either. Ok, we know that already, now let's get back to the real work, which is arguing about value from our various contingently defined positions. John Guillory's devastating critique of Smith in Cultural Capital, it seems to me, restores the aesthetic to its rightful place.

An aesthetic sense is like the nose of a hunting dog. When writing Apocryphal Lorca, I noticed that the obvious aesthetic flaws in homages to Lorca and translations of his work were often hints about other failures, intellectual, sentimental, and ethical. And, yes, an aesthetic failure is also an aesthetic failure in its own right.

A critic without a nose cannot be trusted.

15 de oct. de 2010

You could write a paper about work in Claudio Rodríguez. He likes words like obra, labor, tarea, jornal, oficio, taller. You could just do a nice little semantic analysis of this particular semantic region of his work.

To expand this for an MA thesis or senior thesis, you could choose four or five semantic fields and see what happens. It might look too old-fashioned for a PhD diss.

14 de oct. de 2010

Here's a really dumb question. Why is free verse unrhymed, typically? It is dumb, but important. In your answer, an essay of 500 words or less, you may consider the following factors:

The Ogden Nash effect. Lines of unequal length, if rhymed, become doggerel.

The enjambment effect. Rhyme marks line endings strongly. Free verse is associated with two traditions: the Whitmanic one of syntactic parallelism, and the blank verse of Milton with its powerful, heavily enjambed verse paragraphs.

The association of meter with rhyme. Poets throwing out meter will also throw out rhyme, because rhyme doesn't occur unless regular meter does also? Rhyme without meter is comic?

What about Creeley? He is the main free verse poet who rhymes.

The prize-winning essayist will receive a free life-time subscription to BS and SMT.

13 de oct. de 2010

I am a dull guy and I am not very interested in proving to anyone else that I am interesting. You don't really have to be interesting after 50, which is a great liberation. Dull subjects like prosody occupy the bulk of my attention. The most esoteric and technical dimension of poetry, which is by far the dullest form of literature. I am not only dull, but humorless, as you can see. I make sure sure I am not interested in anything anyone else cares about either. Sports, movies, tv. I only read dull poets like Robert Creeley, with his banal sentimentality.

I will tell you that moreso and thusly are not words. I am wondering right now why my browser is not underlining thusly in red since it is not a word. Surely nothing is duller than someone correcting imagined errors in English usage. If I was a bit duller than I am I would offer incorrect corrections and tell you not to use hopefully. I am dull but I'm not an idiot.

You'll argue that I am not all that dull in the grand scheme of things. I like jazz and have some other interesting interests. I speak a few languages and know a few jokes. You could argue that but then you would be profoundly mistaken. An interesting guy would not use phrase like "in the grand scheme of things" or "profoundlly mistaken."

12 de oct. de 2010

Speaking of the Shakespeare authorship controversy, I attended a lecture recently by James Shapiro, who's written the ultimate book about this, Contested Will. His point was the the problem was an ahistorical tendency to read autobiographically in way foreign to the early modern period. It was a very good talk and he dealt with questions adroitly. Ken Irby was there and we both enjoyed the lecture.

I'm thinking of writing about Lorca in relation to this problem. Not authorship, because nobody doubts Lorca wrote Lorca. My idea is to dethrone biographical approaches even more radically than I did in Apocryphal Lorca. Romantic readings really read the work through the life. What is interesting is that some authors have lives of this sort and others don't. In other words, nobody even attempts romantic readings of certain writers, whereas with others there almost seems no other choice.

11 de oct. de 2010

Theses for The Study of Prosody

1) It is important and not dull.

10 de oct. de 2010

Reading Fabb and Halle, Meter in Poetry: A New Theory (Cambridge 2008). I vowed I would understand each page before I went on to the next one.

Obviously, tratándose de Morris Halle, it's a variation on generative metrics and a grid theory. The grids are composed of asterisks for syllables and parentheses facing either way for groupings of syllables. If the parentheses face one way, ))))) it's what you would call a rising rhythm, like iambs and anapests. If they face the other way, (((((( then it's a falling rhythms like dactyls or trochees. So you have (***(**( for dactyls, for example. It's basically a foot-based system then, as well as a hierarchical grid. It would have been helpful if they explained the relation between their system and more traditional metrics rather than making me figure it out.

I've long been interested in generative metrics so it's exciting to see whether or not this new theory offers just a new notation or some actually new insight. The authors are not always that good at explaining exactly why their approach is needed or superior, what it gives that other systems did not. One novelty is that it promises to be applicable to the meter of many languages. It's not just a theory of English meter, but a system that can be applied to any metrical system. That's the Chomskyan universalism in their approach.

That's as far as I've gotten. I really checked the book out to get Carlos Piera's take on Spanish meter (he contributes a chapter on Southern Romance prosody, Spanish, Italian, etc...) but since he uses Fabb and Halle's system I have to understand that first, beginning at the beginning.

The central mystery is why and how verse exists. In other words, what is the relation between linguistic prosody and literary prosody. How much of meter is derived directly and without problems from the linguistic prosody of the language in question.

Stay tuned.

9 de oct. de 2010

What Context Ain't

The guy you writes the program notes for the St Louis Symphony always has an italicized part where he talks about context, by merely listing historical events that occurred contemporaneously with the composing of the music. Edison recorded sound or Berlin Wall Fell. I'm sorry, but this is not context. Context is not mere historical simultaneity. Contextualizing is not laying down an irrelevant backdrop of historical event, but relating the text to something else relevant to it, and in a meaningful way to boot.

There are always many contexts to choose from. What is the context of Lorca's poetry? European modernism? Spanish poetry? Poetry written in the Spanish language? Spanish modernism. Lorca's own life? Andalusia? All of the above, yes, but in what proportion? Finding and defining the proper contextual frame can be a thing of genius, because we always read in within some frame. Even a formalist criticism defines a context: in this case, the history of genres and their structural development.

I hate biographical criticism more than the next guy, but when my graduate students say that the proper context is everything historical except for the author's life, that seems rather bizarre. It's like they are New Critics only in that small respect (leaving biography to the side), but otherwise, historicize away!

8 de oct. de 2010

If I had another lifetime, 17th century English poetry would be a good place to start. Marvellous. Everyone from Jonson and Shakespeare to Waller Rochester and Dryden. I have the same birthday as Robert Herrick. Hell, throw in the 16th too. Chapman, Wyatt...

There's an elegy to Rochester that Pound included in the ABC of Reading. It's amazing. It might be by Oldham or it might be anonymous. I'm going to have to do a bit more research. Pound says there's a single principle that makes it musical, and that the student should stare at it his whole life to figure it out. I still don't know what he was referring to though I do have a theory.

Poetry could be anything. Satire, elegy, epic. It could be sacred or profane. It could be obscene or polemical. The 18th century narrowed the scope, squeezing out even the lyric. In the 16th and 17th century, poetry was king. Prose lagged far behind. In the 18th century, even the verse was prose, as Eliot famously remarked.

7 de oct. de 2010

The greatest Spanish poet of the 2nd half of the twentieth century, Claudio Rodríguez, was a sports fan. He wrote a brief essay on handball in which he said:

"Cuánta ignorancia, cuánto desdén del llamado intelectual hacia el deporte y, desde luego, hacia su práctica." (What ignorance, what disdain, of the so-called intellectual toward sports and, of course, their practice.)

I would add: how much effort is spent in separating poetry from music, dance, athleticism, performance, any kind of embodiment.

6 de oct. de 2010

A grad student I had once had to do a textual analysis for me. He chose a poem by Antonio Machado and come up with something that had nothing to do with the poem, some religious analysis. I made him do it again, and he came up with a totally new interpretation, equally unconnected with any of the contents of the poem, and with no relation to his first reading. I forget what happened with his third revision. Maybe I just gave up or he did. Somehow he had gotten it into his head that the meaning of a poem was something hidden from view. He refused to look at the poem itself. He just kept coming at me with damn "interpretations" of it.

5 de oct. de 2010

I do have a question about gay adoption. What if the kid you adopt isn't gay after all? Many kids adopted are infants and you really don't know yet, do you? What if you try to do a "gay" adoption and your kid turns out straight? Then it really wasn't a gay adoption at all, was it?

4 de oct. de 2010

Jonathan Mayhew

Spring 2011
Spanish 764: Modern Spanish Poetry

This course will introduce students to a more or less canonical selection of twentieth-century Spanish poetry, including poets like Machado, Jiménez, Lorca, Rodríguez, and Rossetti, but it will also have a triple thematic focus. One idea many students have about poetry is that it reflects an ethereal realm of purity, far removed from the grittier aspects of reality. Yet a reading of major poets reveals obsessions with sex, violence, and intoxication, as well as with the same themes under more conventional names like love and death.


Poetry often sacralizes violence, stages it as an aesthetic spectacle, or eroticizes it. We will read Antonio Machado’s “La tierra de Alvargonzález,” Federico García Lorca’s Romancero gitano, Miguel Hernández’s civil-war poetry, and Ana Rossetti’s sexualization of traditional hagiography, among other texts, in order to understand the dynamics of poetic violence. René Girard’s Violence and the Sacred and similar texts will provide a theoretical framework.


Sexual identity is a constant preoccupation for poets like Lorca, Luis Cernuda, Jaime Gil de Biedma, and many younger women poets of the ‘80s and ‘90s. We will look at the relative visibility of gay male poetry in contrast to the virtual invisibility of Lesbian poets.

Sexuality is also tied to violence in the work of many poets. Vicente Aleixandre’s Espadas como labios comes to mind. Eve Sedgwick’s Epistomology of the Closet and Terry Castle’s The Apparitional Lesbian will be required reading for this segment of the course.

Mind-Altering Substances:

We will examine poetry itself as “the ultimate mind-altering substance” (Rita Felski) and at the way in which Spanish poets continue the Baudelarian tradition of “artificial paradises.” We will consider the role of alcohol or “ebriedad” in Claudio Rodríguez, Antonio Gamoneda’s reflection on pharmaceuticals in Libro de los venenos, and Blanca Andreu’s insertion into the drug culture of the 1980s in De una niña de provincias. We will also refer to Germán Labrador Méndez’s new study of poetry and drug use in the Spain of the transition, Las letras arrebatadas.
Let's take another example:
Siempre la clarldad viene del cielo;
es un don; // no se / halla entre las cosas
sino muy por encima, y las ocupa,
haciendo de ello vida y labor propias

I've bolded the clashing stresses. 6 and 7 in the first line; 6 and 7 again in the 2nd, then 9 and 10 in the fourth. It's true that the preposition entre doesn't have a strong stress, but it's stlll a mouthful. Odd-numbered stresses are just normal variations when they occur on 1 and 3, but on 5, 7, and 9 they create a much more irregular effect, because they clash with the stresses on 6 and 10 (or sometimes 8).

3 de oct. de 2010

Metrical tension increases from two causes: the variation of pauses (enjambment / heavy pauses within lines), and the variation of the metrical structure of the line itself (radical synaloepha, frequent hiatus, extrametrical accents, avoidance of regularity). Let's illustrate that with "Canto del caminar":

.... Y qué lugares

más sobrios que éstos para ir esperando.

Es Castilla. // ¡Sufridlo! // En otros tiempos,

cuando se me nombraba como a hijo,

no podía pensar que la de / ella

fuera la única voz que me quedara,

la única intimidad bien sosegada

que dejara en mis ojos fe de cepa.

De cepa madre. // Y tú, corazón, uva

roja, // la más ebria, // la que menos

vendimiaron los hombres, // ¿Cómo / ibas

a saber que no estabas en racimo,

que no te sostenía tallo alguno?

I've marked some of the stress clashes. // means a heavy internal pause. / is a hiatus, where elision does not occur. There are a few lines here that are both self-contained and more or less easy to read iambically (que no te sostenía tallo alguno). Most are not like that.

2 de oct. de 2010

Saintsbury is the greatest historian of prosody, the one who best captured the shape and development of English verse. I don't think he's the best theoretician of prosody or scanner of lines. He was firmly in the foot-sub school.

1 de oct. de 2010

What I really want to do is to teach the English-speaking reader to read Spanish verse, like Barzun did in his treatise on French verse for readers of English poetry. I don't know if I can do it within manageable bounds.