Archive for the ‘Poetic form’ Category

Metered verse

June 3, 2018

Link passed on by Nelson Minar to a MetaFilter posting yesterday on “Approaches to Metered Verse”:

At The Paris Review, Anthony Madrid works through “A Homework Assignment from W. H. Auden” that others have also tried. At Herbert Tucker’s For Better For Verse, two introductory exercises are worked out on the instructions page, and another explains itself; for the rest, click above, on, and right of each line to try to solve. Several linguistic introductions are available online too, e.g. Mark Liberman, “An Internet Pilgrim’s Guide to Accentual-Syllabic Verse” (etc., etc.); Arnold Zwicky, “Word Accent, Phrase Accent, and Meter” [PDF]; and Bruce Hayes & Russell Schuh, Linguistics 251: Metrics (+ earlier version). Incidentally, Auden’s original [PDF] “hardest course in the humanities” [PDF] required memorization of poetry–a practice historically linked with meter.
posted by Wobbuffet


Song for the day: rabbit rabbit rabbit

May 1, 2018

Rabbits round the workers’ maypole,
Rabbits round the workers’ maypole:
Máy-ó, may-yáy-ay-ay-ó
Maylight come and me wan’ go home

Trochaic tetrameter to welcome in the month of May. Allegro agitato, then andante desideroso.


Meadowland fauna!

April 30, 2018

On the way to the Stanford Cactus Garden this morning (plant news to come), parked in front of the university’s art museums, facing a meadow of spring wildflowers in the eucalyptus and liveoak woodland that rings the university — when leap! bound! a jackrabbit flashed in the middle of the meadow, then reappeared to sit alert and survey the area.

Pocket gophers, (tree) squirrels, ground squirrels, and chipmunks are all over the Stanford lands, and I’m familiar with jackrabbits from driving across the desert, but a Cardinal jackrabbit — whoa! a double dactyl! — was a new experience for me.



April 30, 2018

The short title for a linguistics talk tomorrow at the Stanford Humanities Center: a team of scholars, Paul Kiparsky (Linguistics), Scott Borgeson (Linguistics), Arto Anttila (Linguistics), and Ryan Heuser (English) will present “The Rise and Fall of Antimetricality”.

A notable example of how the Stanford department nourishes combining the methods and results of theoretical linguistics with those of the social sciences and those of the humanities.



April 25, 2018

My morning name a couple of days ago, but it came with a (mental) video that presented itself as offering ground-breaking insights into the structure of language but turned out to be a series of professional-grade photos of the feet (well, the right foot in each case) of former graduate students of mine. Not in any way erotic — I’m not especially given to podophilia — but, once I came to full consciousness and was no longer in the grip of my vivid dream, decidedly creepy.

One of the feet was that of a serious dancer; most were, oh let me say it anyway, pedestrian; but one was a sturdy male foot (belonging to a man I’ll refer to as PD) with extreme polydactyly: two perfect small toes between the big toe and the second toe, and one equally perfect small toe between each of the three remaining pairs. So ten toes in all, making a double-dactylic foot. (Cue: poetic meter.)

Apparently an extremely rare form of polydactyly (whether pedal or manual), not illustrated in anything I could find on the net.

(I don’t recall having seen PD’s feet, but I suspect that his toes are unremarkable)


Haiku Robot

March 25, 2018

An Instagram site that searches for posted material that can be treated as a haiku (a 3-line poetic form with 5, 7, and 5 syllables in the lines). Recently, the robot took on sex between men (not at all graphically).

An example of a found haiku, based on a posting that went:

I suppose ant-man’s boss could be considered a micromanager

— to which the robot responded with the 5-7-5 version:

i suppose ant-man’s
boss could be considered a


Briefly: edible trochaic tetrameter

February 11, 2018

Noted on a Pinterest food board, this dish from the South of Your Mouth website:

Ah, found poetry: a nice line of trochaic tetrameter (with short fourth foot):

Thrée Meat Cróck Pot Cówboy Béans


Morning tetrameter naming

December 27, 2017

The morning began with:

Xenophon Bellerophon

Two Ancient Greek names — the philosopher, historian, and soldier Xenophon and the mythical hero Bellerophon — together making a line of trochaic tetrameter (when the secondary accents on phon are treated as accented in the poetic line).

As a linguist, I had hoped that the phon in these names would be the Greek ‘sound’ stem, so that Xenophon would be equivalent to an English noun xenophone, referring either to someone who speaks a foreign language (parallel to Anglophone and  Francophone) or to a non-native sound, from a foreign language (like the voiceless velar fricative [x] in relatively German-faithful pronunciations of the noun Bach in English).

But apparently not (though the etymologies of the names seem to be uncertain). My hopes are dashed.


Exercises in high macho style

December 11, 2017

Passing between channels on my tv on the 6th, I caught a moment from the show Mr. Robot (S3 E9) in which Terry Colby, an exec at the Allsafe Corporation, spins out a riff in high-macho figurative language, a piece of crude poetry:

That’s all teddy bears and hand jobs, but what are your financials?  We can’t wake up one day and find ourselves tits up, dicks blowing in the breeze.

The masterstroke in all this is all teddy bears and hand jobs, an invention intended to convey an ironic, dismissive version of the high-toned all sweetness and light or, better, the vernacular all beer and skittles ‘all fun and pleasure’ (skittles, the game of ninepins)


The taunt

August 8, 2017

Today’s One Big Happy has James reciting a piece of American childlore, the taunt “X is a friend of mine” (where X is a name, preferably a trochaic one, like Ruthie, to fit the trochaic tetrameter pattern of the verse):


A cornucopia of pop culture references.