So I have been thinking about line lengths lately. I am working on a set of poems loosely set in ancient Greece, which has led me to sorta kinda use iambic pentameter, which means ten syllables with an unstressed followed by a stressed syllable, times five. But sometimes for the sake of either a conversational sound or to end a line on a solid word (generally not a preposition, although I am not opposed to that), I add or take away a few syllables. The Alexandrine line, so called because it was frequently used by Alexander Pope, the misogynist bastard, is twelve syllables, and I recall my English teachers saying that he chose it because twelve syllables is about the maximum you can say on a single breath. But the poem I wrote today about the Roman criminal punishment of crucifixion (you have remember that all this has been inspired by Xena: Warrior Princess) has lines of fifteen or more syllables and I think the breath is fine. It might be that shorter syllables take less breath, I suppose, which would make sense if you set a poem to music and hold some notes longer, probably frequently the longer syllables.
I guess for the most part, I am looking for a line of three to four inches in Times New Roman 12 point font, though how I got that line length, I have no idea. The writer of the blog Optional Poetry uses extremely short lines, sometimes only a few words. What kind of line lengths do you use in your poetry?
Also, this Viking Bunny appeared in my email inbox today, so I am doing you the favor of sharing. Pass it on.
I come for the poetry analysis, but I stay for the Viking Bunnies.
As well you should.
Viking Bunnehs! Perfect in every way. 😀
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Thanks for the shout-out! The problem is that having started writing in very short lines, longer lines now feel bulky and overwrought…
You will come back to them when you need them. Different projects require different elements.
“I’ve got a feeling . . . it might be bunnies . . . “
Correction — I meant “I’ve got a theory . . . it might be bunnies . . . “
Makes up for my stuck on a feeling mistake.
I’m both old-fashioned and incredibly backward, so since I had minimal tech training in poetry (or writing, for that matter), I didn’t even play with the sonnet form until very recent years. But I find it suits my windy ways, and I like the lulling quality of the iambs; maybe as a wildly dyslexic person I just like that literally offbeat, somewhat backward approach! All the same, given my massive paucity (is that a mutually exclusive word pairing?) of formal training + my teensy attention span, I like dabbling in all sorts of patterns and rhythms and line lengths and, well, *whatnot*. 😀
In short, this makes everything *you* do look that much more intimidatingly Correct! But I’m not such an old dog I can’t learn from you. 🙂
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