07 February 2011

Breaking the Rules

I have, of late, discovered One Stop Poetry. I am new to it, so I do not know the frequency of the posts, but there are regular challenges for poets. Today, there was a short, entirely effective exposition on the ballad form.

Here is the breakdown, taken from the site:

Quick overview of Ballads: A Ballad is a quatrain with a 8,6,8,6 syllable pattern. The rhyme scheme is abcb – meaning the second and forth lines rhyme.

The example of a classic ballad given on the website was "House of the Rising Sun," using the version made famous by The Animals

Here is my irreverent example:

Once, upon another time
Sing songy baby talk
Was able to amuse me much
But now ticks like a clock

I really must reject this form
It has become cliché
And were it not for the iams
I'd have nothing to say

In my post title, I suggested that I was doing some rule breaking because I have not observed a strict syllable count, so to the foregoing "rules" one must add the concept of metrical weight and syllable duration. In other words, when a syllable is sounded long, it counts as two (or more) syllables.

It ends up sounding more natural, and, in fact, is what keeps the form from becoming, despite my flippant observations, too cliché. In the above example, there is a pause after "once," indicated by a comma; "another" is sounded like "ano…ther;" the "the" before the "iams" is lingered on, building tension for the punch line, which has another stretched syllable in no…thing. I should also say the the italicized "ticks" is meant to be said with a silly up pitch.

If you listen to the greats (Dylan, Guthrie, Lennon, et.al.) You almost never hear them using the rules strictly. There is almost always that stretching (and compressing) of syllables.

So to those rules, I say, "Sound it out. If it feels right—it is right."

Also, I bet the author of the post is quite aware of all this. So don't think me a know it all for pointing this out. Please. In fact, to the author, Thank you. Well explained.


Penny said...

Great post. It made me smile and I loved your verse.

bruce said...

excellent composition of description...

the ballad is played.

while i like to wax poetically, i prefer free form and less structure, giving me the ability to work the imagery while not restricting my ideology.

are you going back to school for an english major? cuz you seem to have this english jones, like i did when i went back...

if i could i would go and get my english major psych minor at a 4 year institution.

but then i have thought about law as well...but that would only be to infilrate the polit-bureau prostiticians and bring down the man from with in!

jus askin...

Bruce Johnson JADIP
Evil Twin
stupid stuff I see and hear
The Dreamodeling Guy
The Guy Book
The Guy Book

Richard G. Crockett said...

Hi Penny, Thanks for reading, and thanks for your nice words.

Hey Bruce,

I too prefer free verse without rhyme, but I have a strong urge for rhythm.

No, I'm not an English major; I'm a history and classics double major. As result, I spend 20-40 hours a week reading Latin and Greek in verse. True fact. I keep a log. It is murder.

<deleted Latin poem>

Thatpoetry makes English poetry seem like baby talk. (Just Sayin')

It might interest you to hear that history is excellent prep for law. It's all about studying documents, analyzing arguments, dealing with evidence, and interrogating (so to speak) witnesses.

But I CAN say going back to school as a grown-up has proven to be an ass-kicking boost to my morale. I highly recommend it. You family guys need the support of your family to do it, but many do get exactly that.

bumfuzzled said...

lol enjoyed your self-proclaimed "irreverant post" and I'd argue not with the rule-breaking philosophy. they taught us of the legal substitutions in meter and scansion, and I break the rules quite often lol that being said, thanks to you for an enjoyable read :)

monty / bummy

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