Featured Post

Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Formative (9): Prosody

So I learned how the iambic pentameter worked by reading Milton and Wordsworth. I was shocked in grad school that people didn't know this. I also knew French and Latin and Greek prosody, and I did my graduate exams on this subject. I was shocked when a science fiction novelist on a blog (the valve) a few years back thought he could translate Mallarmé, but he didn't know what the definition of a feminine rhyme was in French. People thought I was outrageous for pointing out that that showed a level of ignorance that disqualified you from even thinking intelligently about Mallarmé. I was the bad guy here, simply because I thought that it is important to know a simple rule of French versification, one followed by Racine or Baudelaire in all their verse. I'm sure people write about Afro-Cuban poetry without knowing the difference between the son and the rumba clave.

I enjoy the technical aspect of prosody. It's one of the few things you can know about in a fairly concrete way in literature. I enjoy the fact that others find it dull or incomprehensible: more for me to do.

I had to train myself to hear an 11-syllable line as 11 syllables (in Spanish), and scan it more or less instantaneously.

I am prone to ear-worm, but with me it occurs with words and phrases, not just melodies.


My attitudes did not win me many friends.


Vance Maverick said...

I had just about forgotten about The Valve. Of course I had to go look up the squabble, and now I see that most of what I had forgotten was what a jerk Puchalsky is. That you annoyed that group is not really surprising or interesting -- I think only Kugelmass was in literary scholarship.

Roberts writes well, actually, but that's orthogonal, as we say, to whether he's thinking clearly about verse translation.

Jonathan said...

I like Holbo, of that group. I still follow him on CT.

Vance Maverick said...

Me too. But nobody he brought on at The Valve was as interesting, and the commenter crowd wasn't much. I might have been most turned off by Bill Benzon, the sort of blowhard who gives autodidacticism (autodidactry?) and independent scholarship a bad name.

profacero said...

I don't really understand why people in literature cannot handle these technical things. Actually this is one more reason I am not interested in academic work -- the people in it cannot handle it ... (?) [I am crabby today.]