Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Meter and Rhyme

I have been told that my poems
don’t have meter and rhyme,
that all verse should have such pillars
to keep the words from falling over.
But I agree with literary billy goats: nay.

I mean, I know how to use them,
but I don’t do so unless my brain
is jumping over regularly-spaced hurdles
on a day when the world is too much with me
and I am constrained to toe the line

at the grocery or the bank
or use the menu options
when calling my internet provider.
I learned how to punish my words
back in the days of graduate school,

when I dissected poems and epics
and studied meter and form,
tetrameter and pentameter,
trochees and dactyls and terza rimas,
back when I used yellow pencils

and leaky ball point pens
and filled spiral notebooks—
three-hole, lined loose leaf
with cursive and cursed abbreviations—
each floppy collection, semester by semester,

becoming the latest manuscript
in a rambling, floppy bible
that was my academic oeuvre.
These days I store them in my cerebral cortex
where they can’t do much harm,

and besides, there’s no one
looking over my shoulder,
no one grading me off the curve
on whether my iambic line
stumbled and suffered a broken foot.

I write the words as they come,
letting them wander where they will
through meadows, back alleys, or
a train bound for Istanbul,
occasionally reprimanding one

or giving another a parole.
The meter these days is mostly intuitive,
there but not really there,
like the flakes in a Christmas snow globe.
I really don’t want to associate

with the old man from Nantucket.
I get published easily enough,
though admittedly The Barracuda Review
isn’t The Atlantic Monthly or The New Yorker.
But that’s okay because I’m the judge and jury.

because the waters of Lake Ponchartrain,
tell me that it’s time for another poem.
As for rhyme, well, that’s a different story.
I use it sparingly if at all.
It was good enough for Shakespeare,

though not always—he often opted out—
and also for Homer and Chaucer and Milton
and all those big wigs, authors of the greatest hits,
with whom I palaver in a tavern
in my more interesting lucid dreams.

After all is said and done,
not that it ever really is,
I usually don’t use rhyme,
don’t even bother my brain
with searching for those sound-a-likes
except from time to time.

~William Hammett

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