Archive for the ‘Poetic form’ Category

The lure of trochaic tetrameter

March 20, 2014

A commercial for Cyvita is currently going the rounds. It promises

Longer, stronger, and more frequent erections

It begins with two rhyming trochees (SW SW), then branches out into two more complex feet, trochaic in feel but with leading weak (extrametrical) syllables ( ( WW ) SW and ( W ) SW).

Trochees are everywhere in English, and tetrameter is the predominant meter for folk verse of all kinds.


More Dingburger bar bat

March 12, 2014

In today’s Zippy, we return to the Poindexter bar bat; see “The Poindexter bar bat, or barbat”, here, with extended discussion, including material from the Zippy archives and an analysis of bar bat. From that posting:

Poindexter bar bats: Poindexter is just one of those names that entertain Bill Griffith because of the sound; but what about bar bat? Like many things in Zippy, this is surely meant to be absurd but suggestive.


Now we have the extended plaid Poindexter bar bat, which Muffler Bunyan enjoys because of its sound. A little festival of bilabial plosives ( /p p b b/ ), and tetrameter, the dominant English folk meter.


Brief notice: jazz haiku

October 13, 2013

In yesterday’s NYT, an obit, “James A. Emanuel, Poet Who Wrote of Racism, Dies at 92″ by William Yardley, concluding:

In his later years, Mr. Emanuel claimed to have invented a new form of literature: the jazz haiku, stanzas of 17 syllables he read to the accompaniment of jazz music. Like the music, they felt improvisational even as they respected structure:

Four-letter word JAZZ:
naughty, sexy, cerebral,
but solarplexy.

Googling on “jazz haiku” pulls up a considerable number of haiku about jazz.

Porn prosody

August 29, 2013

Another installment of material on the (gay) porn register, following up on this posting, where I looked at some lexical features, saying about

man pussy, boy pussy, man cunt, boy cunt, man hole, [and] boy hole. These are terms strongly associated with gay porn (fiction, scripts of videos, and descriptions of videos) but not much used by gay men in everyday life; they are part of a specialized porn register, akin to the specialized registers in some other domains

Today there’s some more lexical stuff, but mostly it’s about the prosody of some writing about porn; like some other advertising copy, there’s some tendency for it to fall into metrically regular patterns.

The text is the copy on the front cover of the Dream World (1994) DVD:


The queen of South Jersey diner haiku

August 4, 2013

Today’s Zippy:


Three haikus on the abandoned Olga’s Diner in Marlton Circle in South Jersey.


Revolution at school

July 14, 2013

Today’s Bizarro, for Bastille Day (today):

Bring the revolution to school! As it happens, Doug Wyman wrote me a little while ago about a piece of revolutionary childlore, the rhyme:

No more pencils,
No more books,
No more teachers’/teacher’s/teachers dirty looks.

(This is a rhyming couplet, in trochaic tetrameter, written here with the first line split in two.) Doug wondered about variations in the rhyme. It looks like the couplet above is invariant (in pronunciation; there are orthographic variants given above), but there are numerous extensions to it around, and some of them are aggressive taunts against teachers and schools.)


Cattions 4

May 30, 2013

Over on AZBlogX, 13 more cattions (male photography with captions by me and cat stickers by B. Kliban): 2 based on Michael Taubenheim photos, 3 on Benno Thoma, 1 Marc Bessange, and 7 Bel Ami. Some are X-rated, many are not, but none is particularly language-related, so they appear on AZBlogX, rather than here.

However, from Cattions 1, here’s a Taubenheim of interest:

The caption is a nice bit of trochaic tetrameter: Pérry / dréams of / béing / píssed on. With the accented vowels in a tight phonological space: — / ɛ  i  i  ɪ / — and the foot-initial consonants — / p  d  b  p  / — as well, with the repeated vowel /i/ in the center of the line and the repeated consonant /p/ at the edges, and with the closely related lax vowels / ɛ ɪ / at the edges and the closely related voiced stops / d b / in the center. I wish I could say that I achieved this amount of balance in the line by calculation, but frankly, I just went with what sounded good to me (and analyzed the result much later).

Then, of course, the caption dirties up the model’s earnestly yearning facial expression.

Dream weirdness: the song

April 16, 2013

As a follow-up to the Zippy on weird dreams, here’s the lyric masterpiece in the genre, Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Nightmare Song” from Iolanthe:

The lyrics, in quatrain verses with the rhyme pattern A B C B (with internal rhyme in most of the first and  third lines, and then a burst into rhymed couplets as it rushes towards the end);

Love unrequited robs me of me rest;
Love, hopeless love, my ardent soul encumbers;
Love, nightmare-like, lies heavy on me chest,
And weaves itself into my midnight slumbers…

When you’re lying awake with a dismal headache
And repose is taboo’d by anxiety,
I conceive you may use any language you choose
To indulge in, without impropriety;

For your brain is on fire, the bed-clothes conspire
Of usual slumber to plunder you:
First your counter-pane goes, and uncovers your toes,
And your sheet slips demurely from under you;

Then the blanketing tickles, you feel like mixed pickles,
So terribly sharp is the pricking,
And you’re hot and you’re cross, and you tumble and toss,
‘Til there’s nothing twixt you and the ticking.

Then the bedclothes all creep to the ground in a heap,
And you pick ‘em all up in a tangle;
Next your pillow resigns, and politely declines
To remain at its usual angle!

When you get some repose in the form of a doze,
With hot eyeballs and head ever aching,
Your slumbering teems with such horrible dreams
That you’d very much better be waking;

For you dream you are crossing the channel, and tossing
About in a steamer from Harwich,
Which is something between a large bathing machine
And a very small second class carriage,

And you’re giving a treat (penny ice and cold meat)
To a party of friends and relations,
They’re a ravenous horde, and they all come aboard
At Sloane Square and South Kensington stations.

And bound on that journey, you find your attorney
(who started this morning from Devon);
He’s a bit undersized and you don’t feel surprised
When he tells you he’s only eleven.

Well, you’re driving like mad with this singular lad
(By the by, the ship’s now a four-wheeler),
And you’re playing round games, and he calls you bad names
When you tell him that ties pay the dealer;

But this you can’t stand, so you throw up your hand,
And you find you’re as cold as an icicle,
In your shirt and your socks (the black silk with gold clocks)
Crossing Salisbury Plain on a bicycle.

And he and the crew are on bicycles too,
Which they’ve somehow or other invested in,
And he’s telling the tars all the particulars
Of a company he’s interested in;

It’s a scheme of devices, to get at low prices
All goods from cough mixtures to cables
(Which tickled the sailors) by treating retailers
As though they were all vegetables:

You get a good spadesman to plant a small tradesman
(first take off his boots with a boot tree),
And his legs will take root, and his fingers will shoot,
And they’ll blossom and bud like a fruit tree;

From the greengrocer tree you get grapes and green peas,
Cauliflower, pineapple and cranberries,
While the pastry-cook plant cherry brandy will grant,
Apple puffs, and three corners, and banburys;

The shares are a penny and ever so many
Are taken by Rothschild and Bering,
And just as a few are allotted to you, you awake
With a shudder, despairing…

You’re a regular wreck
With a crick in your neck,
And no wonder you snore
for your head’s on the floor
And you’ve needles and pins
From your soles to your shins,
And your flesh is acreep
For your left leg’s asleep,
And you’ve cramp in your toes
And a fly on your nose,
And some fluff in your lung
And a feverish tongue,
And a thirst that’s intense
And a general sense

That you haven’t been sleeping in clover;
But the darkness has passed, and it’s daylight at last!
The night has been long, ditto, ditto my song,
And thank goodness they’re both of them over

Sticky expressions

March 31, 2013

Yesterday, a Zippy with the “found mantra” Vampire Manga Dog condo — an expression that lends itself to obsessive repetition. Such sticky expressions are a recurrent theme in Zippy, and they’re related to another sort of sticky expression, the “verbal earworm”, an expression that you can’t get out of your head. In my experience, verbal earworms often originate in found mantras.


Five-Ku on Channing Tatum

March 30, 2013

In the New York Times Magaine on 3/24/13 (p. 49), a Five-Ku,

five haiku poems about a current celebrity or cultural phenomenon. (Past examples include haikus about Susan Sarandon, Russell Crowe and classic horror films.)

This week in Five-Ku, we present five short poems on the career of Channing Tatum. During the extensive research and reporting phase of this project, however, we made an important discovery: Channing Tatum’s name is delightfully, and quite possibly infinitely, anagrammable. (link)



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 227 other followers