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Monday, March 25, 2013

"Housebound" by Jacquelyn Pope -- Poetry Daily, 3/23/13

from Harvard Review (no. 43)
poem found here
 

First lines:
You've made your bed they said
now you must lie in it lean

 

a moment on prosody

— reformatted, with added note 4/23/14
 

Coming back to this post to reformat it I realize three things.

(1) The first line can be read two ways, anapestic or iambic:

YOU’VE made your BED they said
or
you’ve MADE your BED they SAID

depending on how you interpret the line. Though, I do believe the presence or absence of commas effect the reading: without the commas that would normally set off “they said" the line for me wants to be anapestic. If the commas were present, it would be unavoidably iambic, even if you put the emphasis on the“YOU’VE."

YOU’VE made / your BED, / they SAID, / now

The absence of the comma after “bed" acts to pull “they said" into a single unbroken line of words, transforming the line into anapestic rhythm.

(2) The post below is a complete botch. (I even misspelled her name in the title.) Though, without having access to the original poem any more (Poetry Daily only archives for a year), I cannot correct myself beyond the few, opening lines of the poem I can find online. As such, I leave the below as it is. Though, I do say the far more interesting question with those lines (beyond and in contrast to what I do say below) is to point out how line three, which on its own can readily be scanned “DOWN the LENGTH of it SINK“ is forced into a dactyls by the two opening lines, which are anapestic. That established anapestic rhythm maintains itself across the successive lines, making an interesting play between lines that are dactylic — “down the LENGTH of it SINK" — and phrasing that is anapestic — “LEAN down the LENGTH of it SINK through the." The effect is dactyls that are really syncopated anapests. Or is it anapests that are syncopated dactyls? Either way, it makes for interesting demonstration on how line breaks do effect reading.

(3) A question I wholly missed was that pointed out above: does the absence of grammar work to the better or the worse.


A poem of anapests. Not dactyls: the anapests are set up in the first line. If they are supposed to be read as dactyls, then the opening line is a huge problem (not to mention the whole of the third stanza). Here's the question: is this is the best structure for this poem? To give example, why not Dr. Seuss it and anapest away:

You've made your bed they said
now you must lie in it
lean down the length of it
sink through the half of it
mind you find rest in it
now that you've settled it
stop finding fault with it
thread after thread

I can give you three reasons why you should: lines 1-2, 4, and 9. I present them with the lines scanned as the line breaks direct:

1 You've MADE your BED they SAID
2 NOW you must LIE in it LEAN

That "now" should be on the first line, other wise it betrays the opening rhythm of the first line and makes dactyls. (And they do really need to be established as anapests.)

4 through the HALF of it MIND you FIND

The normal reading.

9 MADE it you'll MARK it STAKE

Again, the normal reading. Break the lines with the rhythm, as is done in the third stanza (which are anapests! By line 9 the breaks are trying to force you into dactyls; but they need to be anapests.) Break the lines without attending to the rhythm the words create (rather than the rhythm you want them to be), and your reader stumbles.

(As she does on that really clumsy last line.)

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