I can see how much you all enjoyed that last chapter... Unless my computer's messing up again and I just can't see your posts?
Today I have poetry! We’ve really come a long way, although I usually don’t bother applying the techniques when I’m in a fit of emotion… It’s super cool, though, to be able to identify different styles, and to write a real poem that can be analyzed and fit into neat categories.
We all settle down and Mrs. Paley begins, as usual, by writing the topic on the board. (A real blackboard, mind you, with white chalk.) Rhythm.
“When you listen to a song and find yourself tapping your feet or drumming your fingers, what’s causing that?”
“The beat,” Jonas calls out. He’s gotten nicer throughout the year, but not much.
“Exactly. In other words, the rhythm. The rhythm of a poem is its structure. All styles besides free verse have a specific rhythm. You’ll want to take notes on this.”
I take out my notebook and 0.7 millimeter tip pen and smile. This is the real stuff.
“Does anyone know how rhythm in poetry is expressed?”
Beezus raises her hand. “Through stressed and unstressed syllables,” she tells us.
“Yes, great!” Mrs. Paley says, eyes twinkling. “Each pair of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line is called a foot. The patterns of syllables are called meters.”
I vaguely remember reading a review on an Emily Dickinson poem, what was it… “Like iambic pentameter?” I ask.
“Yeah, but that’s more sophisticated. We’ll start with the six most common meters used in English: iamb, trochee, spondee, anapest, dactyl, and pyrrhic. The first and most widely used is iamb. Each iambic foot consists of one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable. For example, be-HIND. This probably sounds very familiar to you, right?”
We all nod.
“That’s because it’s the pattern that the English language generally follows. In every sentence, we use the iambic meter without even realizing it! Mia, what you were asking about is a series of five feet of iambic meter. Penta is Latin for five, so you get pentameter.”
“Cool,” Scarlet says. “Now we can be real poets, picking out patterns is peoples’ speech.” I laugh. It fun to come out of hibernation and rediscover friendship, like the first smell of honeysuckle after a long winter.
“Okay, the next one will be appreciated by the darker ones amongst us.” She glances pointedly at me and Scarlet. “It’s called trochee, and it’s the exact opposite of iamb, which is why it may sound so strange to our ears.”
“So one stressed syllable, then one unstressed?” Jonas confirms.
“Yes. For example, CON-quer. Because it starts high and then falls, it gives a darker feel to a poem, like in Poe’s famous one, The Raven.
She hands out a copy. I dive in and get lost in it. Poe is a total literary genius. Look at this, Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore! I hungrily read the rest of it, relishing every word. This poem is delicious.
I look up and find Mrs. Paley smiling at us. “What did you think of it?”
We all start talking on top of each other, searching in vain to find the right words to express its sublimity. “I feel the creepiness wafting off it!” I exclaim.
“And there you have it, right in front of you,” Mrs. Paley says, as if she’s announcing a new, futuristic invention, “the amazing effects of trochee!”
I shake my head. “This is just too cool.”
Mrs. Paley teaches us about some more meters, and then we write our own blank verse poems- no rhyme scheme, but a strict meter.
At the very end, with ten minutes left to class, we pack up- it’s open mic time now.
Scarlet gets up and clears her throat cliché-ishly.
I heard your arguments.
I know you tried to hide them, at first,
But the screaming, the shouting,
It was so loud. You would
Start in whispers, angry,
Furious fast whispers that would
Quickly escalate into
Heated fights, and I know what you did.
I saw what you did, you would
Have hands hitting
Yells that would continue long after
Your voices threatened to give out.
And I would be there,
Hiding in my room, doors locked,
Huddled underneath my bed
With my blankets piled up all around me
As I told myself happy stories
Trying to drown out your anger.
Trying to avoid your anger.
It would never work...
I try to look smaller. This sort of stuff makes me uncomfortable. I never know what to say and that makes me nervous. The silence grows thicker.
Rainbows, I remember. “That was pretty good. Are you okay telling us why you, um, why you wrote that?”
Scarlet nods, looking really relieved. “My parents are splitting up… So things are just tough at home right now.”
Mrs. Paley makes a sympathetic noise. “It’s good that you’re releasing your emotions here, in a safe way. I’m real proud of you,” she says, giving her a knowing look.
“I’m here if you want to talk,” Beezus says, relieving the tension.
“Me too. I- I have some experience with, uh, parental tension?”
Scarlet smiles softly. “Thanks, guys. I really appreciate it.”
Jonas is looking down, playing with his fingers. Beezus notices it, too. And even though he picked on her mercilessly in the past, and still does sometimes, she asks him what’s wrong.
“My parents are divorced, too, it’s not a big deal, okay?” He walks out and the door clicks shut behind him, ending our conversation.
“Well,” Mrs. Paley begins, but the three of us are already getting up. “Bye then, girls.”
“Bye,” we echo, and leave.