Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Poetry Stretch - Alexandrine Verse

Last weekend I saw Molieré's play The Learned Ladies performed by the University Players. I was surprised to learn that poet Richard Wilbur had translated/adapted the play. I was quite caught up in the meter and rhyme, and loved the turn of many of the phrases. In some cases I found myself trying to anticipate how the verses would finish. The play opens with two sisters discussing the younger sister's intent to marry the man cast off by the older sister. Here's an excerpt.
What, Sister! Are you truly of a mind
To leave your precious maidenhood behind,
And give yourself in marriage to a man?
Can you be harboring such a vulgar plan?
Yes, Sister.
Yes, you say! When have I heard
So odious and sickening a word?
The rhyme scheme used by Wilbur was based on Alexandrine (Alexandrian) verse. In English this is usually a 12-syllable iambic line, though you can see Wilbur often used 10. 

I do love to write in iambs, and since I've just seen a play about love and marriage and contemplated both a lot while hosting my in-laws this holiday (she writes with a smile), let's write about the virtues (or vices) of love and marriage! There is no requirement for length here, just to write to the topic in iambic pentameter or hexameter.  Leave me a note about your poem and I'll share the results in time for Poetry Friday.


  1. Not quite up for hexameter this week, but I wanted to share a bit of pentameter:

    Emptying the Apartment
    By Steven Withrow

    We take apart my bookshelves and your stack
    Of photo albums on the floor. These bare
    Accoutrements of years, which give the table
    By our kitchen, where we ate, the glamour
    Of an antiques dealer’s booth―a square
    Of yellowed quilting cloth, a silver plaque
    Commemorating some event, a hammer,
    Chalk pastels, a frayed coaxial cable―

    Are still-life props arranged to look unstable,
    Syllables that jar a gentle grammar,
    Cartoon figures inked with spotted blacks
    To stand askew. We count what’s left, aware
    That final tallies can’t be made. Your camera
    Catches me affixing one last label
    On a box of wedding gifts. Cold air
    Waits at the door. We’re gone, not coming back.

    © 2012 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

  2. To My Daughter, after Turkey Day

    I promised that I would not overeat.
    I wanted to still see my size nine feet.
    That promise I had kept for several years.
    I'd kept my assets small by sweat and tears.
    The sweet potatoes made with egg nog sank
    All thoughts of taking weight loss to the bank.
    And pumpkin creme brulee compounded more.
    I knew that soon I'd get stuck in the door.
    The gravy drips turned into gravy waves.
    For dieting there were no easy saves.
    I ate whatever came out of the pot.
    Thanksgiving is thanks taking, thanks a lot.

    ©2012 Jane Yolen, all rights reserved

    1. Very funny, Jane. Gosh. I love "for dieting there were no easy saves" and what follows just makes me LOL.

  3. Love’s Hierarchy

    He grips the bar beside her bed and leans until
    his weathered lips touch hers. The years evaporate
    like morning dew on fallen leaves, and he beholds
    the brown-haired girl who said she’d be his date the night
    his date abandoned him for someone else—someone
    besides the country boy who drove a truck for work.
    She tilts her head away from his until her thin
    frizz of hair stings his cheek.
    He told me once she learned to love, but not so much
    as he. He gave her all. And he forgets the dark,
    unyielding days his love was not enough to pierce
    the silent storms of discontent. He loved too much.
    His words, not mine. For sixty years. And still he loves.
    And still she rules his heart.

    ©2012 Doraine Bennett, all rights reserved

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  5. Revision. Just caught up with this prompt tonight and wrote quickly.

    Young Marriage
    You wrote of life as if you had discovered air.
    I wrote you back with words I'd sweetened to ensnare.
    Handsome husband, I held my breath beneath your rule.
    I lived outside my body for your hand was cruel.
    Some say what's bred in marrow comes raging out in bone:
    I struck back, divorced you, to live safe as one alone.


    "Housework's never made me happy," Grandma Jane said,
    "It's been roughly 60 years since I've gone to bed.
    Scrubbing floors, folding sheets, ironing stacks of pants,
    Please don't get me started on watering the plants.
    Cutting, baking, frying, when will it ever stop?
    Who spilled my pancake batter? Please get me a mop."
    Grandma looked so tired, I thought what could I do?
    So I sat her down and said, "I admire you."
    She let out a sniffle, down went a single tear,
    She said, "Child, that's all I ever wanted to hear."

    (c) Charles Waters 2012 all rights reserved.

  7. Love this Charles. It pays tribute to all of the women who've worked extremely hard --moving beyond the personal to a larger place. Nice work!