Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Case for Elegant Iambics

Concerning Kasey’s legal defense of Goodman v. Snider et Mayhem, I happen to agree with his argument
They capture with easy grace the unquantifiable rhythms of "everyday speech"--not the speech we actually hear everyday, but a beautifully realized ideal version of it.
but disagree with his pleading it for this defendant.

There is a tradition, as Kasey commented, that comes down to us from the un-Tottelized Wyatt, through Sidney and Donne of, as Robert Frost called it, loose iambic meter. I’m just not sure Goodman was practicing it in that particular poem. I think it was just a loose constructionist poem for its purpose only, and not concerned with “rumpled gracefulness of confident unevenness and what-the-hell 'lapses.'"

Now, on the other hand, Frost was that kind of poet, and his concern with the sound of speech took this practice practically to a science. Look at “Design” or “The Oven Bird” for examples. I know I’ve quoted this Frost before, but I think it never gets old:
there are the very regular prestablished accent and measure of blank verse; and there are the very irregular accent and measure of speaking intonation. I am never more pleased than when I can get these into strained relation.
That I believe is the elegance of which Kasey speaks. Still, in this particular case, he loses the argument.

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