Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Joy of Prosody: The Trochee

The following is the third installment on The Joy of Prosody by local poet and WNI blog contributor, Liz Mastin.

But before we get to Liz's post, we would like to offer our congratulations to her on being nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize for her poem, Fulsome Color. The poem is an eckphrastic poem, which means a writing taken from the observance of a picture or painting. Her poem is based on Van Gogh's bedroom painting, pictured below and was nominated by Quill and Parchment Magazine. The Pushcart Prize is an American literary prize by Pushcart Press that honors the best "poetry, short fiction, essays or literary whatnot" published in the small presses over the previous year. Magazine and small book press editors are invited to nominate up to 6 works they have featured.

Fulsome Color
Van Gogh's Bedroom
by Liz Mastin

May I show you this, my room, in oil relief,
Where thalophymine walls surround and hedge,
A brown field leading around my oaken bed:
A sanctuary devoid of gloom and grief.

Note: only blocks of color may be seen.
I shun all hidden depths wherein I find,
Souls like mine embark on sad decline.
From falsities I set my spirit free.

Acceptable; the elemental things.
I paint in the way a soul can feel some trust,
Leave-off with policy and money-lust:
Those corrupting, dark-cast shadows. Give me wings.

To you I offer this, a pure endeavor:
My fettle room in flat and fulsome color

The Joy of Prosody: The Trochee
Happy poetic New Year! As famous poet William Hazlitt said “All that is worth remembering in life is the poetry of it.” While I’m sorry to leave iambic pentameter just yet as it could be an entire study in itself, I will move on to the other meters and feet. There is so much more one could learn about iambic pentameter, remembering it consists of five (unstressed/ stressed syllabic) feet, and that it exists as the dominant form in epic poems and dramas from the past; those vast bodies of works including all of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Keat’s “Hyperion” and more. Our hearts beat iambically influencing the meter of our everyday speech. Also, interestingly, two thirds of English poetry from the past are written in iambic pentameter.

Excluding the sonnets, which are short and in stanzaic form, most of the poems from the past are very long, some are even book-length. When the Industrial Revolution arrived in the 19th century, a group of poets, in reaction to the impersonal nature of the time, began writing shorter lyrical poems. These poets longed for an earlier time; the simpler, more romantic days. These were the Romantic poets and Romanticism began to hold sway. The poems became songlike and of a personal nature. This time also marked the advent of free verse.

While iambic pentameter form was still used, it was more likely to be found in shorter poems and in sonnets as well as some set forms such the sestina. The poems of the Romantic Age were written in a variety of meters and feet, or, as in the case of free verse, without concern for either.

The Trochee is the name given to the foot that does the opposite job of the iambic foot. While the iambic foot is a two syllable rising foot soft/ hard, the trochee is a two slyllable falling foot : hard/ soft. According to Wikipedia “It is a foot used in formal poetry consisting of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one. Trochee comes from the Greek trokhos, wheel, and khoros, dance; both conveying the “rolling” rhythm of this metrical foot.”

The trochee is often used as a substituted foot in iambic pentameter lines, often replacing the first iambic foot. I’ll go into “substituted feet” later on.

I used the heart beat as an example for the sound of the iambic foot; the iambic foot sounding like “lub dub.” For clarity, most books on meter usually say “da dum.” The trochee is the exact opposite of the iamb. It has two syllables per foot just like an iamb, but as said before, instead of rising from soft to hard, it falls from hard to soft, or dum da: /- .

An example of a trochaic metered poem might be Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha, which is written almost entirely in trochees. There are other kinds of feet throughout the poem, but the dominant foot is the trochee, thus it qualifies as a trochaic poem.

This trochaic poem, The Song of Hiawatha, happens to be written in tetrameter (four foot beat).
Should you ask me, whence these stories?
Whence these legends and traditions,
With the odours of the forest
With the dew and damp of meadows.

1. /- 2. /- 3. /- 4. /-

Several other examples of the trochaic poems would be Shakespeare’s:
Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Many children’s poems are written in trochaic meter:
Peter, peter pumpkin eater
Had a wife and couldn’t keep her.

Liz Mastin Bio
Liz Mastin is a poet who lives in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho during the summer and Bullhead City, Arizona in winter. She thrives on the study of the great poets, their biographies, the schools of poetry to which they adhered, and the poetic conventions of the times in which they lived.

While she enjoys free verse as well as metrical poetry, her main interest lies in prosody. She notices that most of the enduring poems are those we can remember and recite. Liz enjoys poetry forms such as the sonnet, the sestina, the couplet, blank verse, simple quatrains, etc. and she hopes to see modern poets regain interest in studied metrical poetry.

Liz is currently putting together her first collection of poems which should be completed this winter. The poems are a mixture of metrical and free verse poems.


Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Liz, it is wonderful that your poem has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize! Congratulations! I enjoy your posts that define and explain poetic terms, such as this one. There are so many bits and pieces to learn about the structure and rhythm of poetry. Your post adds to our understanding and makes for a more enjoyable reading experience.

Jennifer Rova said...

Liz---congratulations for being selected for contention for the Pushcart Prize! WNI and our readers are lucky to been the benefactors of your expertise in poetry. I am the needle in the haystack when it comes to poetry; I know so little. I appreciate your writing about it in such interesting ways.

Kathy Cooney Dobbs said...

Congratulations Liz for your poem Fulsome Color being nominated to receive Pushcart Prize. Thank you for your wonderful blog post & helping those of us who enjoy poetry to understand more about the poems we read.

Jennifer Lamont Leo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer Lamont Leo said...

Congratulations, Liz! So pleased about the news of your award nomination. Thank you for writing about poetry. You help me understand what to look for when reading a poem.

Patent Attorney said...

Many, many congratulations, and excellent explanation of the trochee.

Holidaymaker said...

Beautiful and interesting post, Liz is clearly very talented so this certainly deserves the Pushcart prize!

Serviced Apartments Resident said...

Just gorgeous, Liz literally pains the picture with her words, a very rare gift!

Accountants Lady said...

I always struggled with learning about the form of poetry at school, it's a deeply confusing thing! But this is certainly helping me appreciate why these technical aspects are so important!