Monday, May 03, 2004

Fecal Meter

Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch reporter Barbara Carmen had a story in the Metro section yesterday about a notorious apartment complex just south of the airport. I’m always interested in stories about these apartments, since I lived in one of them for about a week back in 1993. It looks like the latest attempts at renovation aren’t going so well; Carmen had this to say about one tenant’s unit:
(1) Feces float on her living room floor when it rains.
That sentence almost jumped off the page at me, it was such a poetic line in a column filled with ordinary prose. I even went to Poetry Daily and checked out a few poems there, to compare what “real” poetry looked like these days, and I’m telling you that Carmen’s one sentence had more poetry in it than the entire first two poems I read at Poetry Daily.

First, notice the [f] alliteration at the very beginning, in “feces float.” Effective metrical composition, too: “Feces” is two long syllables, both stressed, giving us a spondaic foot, encouraging the reader to slow down and dwell on the words. This effect is amplified by the long, stressed syllable of “float,” followed by a caesura—that is, a pause instead of the rest of a metrical foot.

Once we get past the caesura, the line quickly runs to its end in three anapestic feet: three sequences of two unstressed syllables and one stressed one, as shown here (note also the continued [f] alliteration):
(2) on her LIV/ing room FLOOR / when it RAINS
Alliteration and a detectable meter, neat! I’ll have to be on the lookout for more of Barbara Carmen’s journalistic poetry.

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