Yesterday night, I started reading Alfred Corn’s The Poem’s Heartbeat: A Manual of Prosody because I want to better my understanding of it.
Similar to how I sleepwalked through grammar classes in school and relied on intuition until I learned how to conlang, most poetry I write finds its form via intuition, not crafting, with only two or three main drafts and (often) a bit of tweaking based on how the words and lines feel. Getting more deliberate about prosody will involve some conceptual growing pains because there will be a period when everything feels forced before I’ve internalized the crafting process of stress and meter; ultimately, I expect that it will give me a broader toolkit to use when I compose.
There is another great thing about this book. I’m reading Proclus’ Timaeus commentary, and in co-reading it with other types of books (often, physics and/or cosmology; I just finished Kastner’s Understanding Our Unseen Reality), I often discover that they’re complementary in a wildly fun way. (It may take me longer to read through the commentary, but I hope that the Gods are guiding me through what I need to co-read at any given time.) In this case, I scribbled limit + unlimited in the margins at one specific point and avoided gushing about time, eternity, sempiternity, and so on. In the introduction, Corn explains that meter is about applying time to unlimited and unbounded possibility; “once a principle of measure is brought in, though, both music and poetry can draw on a wide range of expressive possibilities” (p. xvi). Obviously, this got me thinking about Apollon and the Mousai. Apollon Mousegetes is the monad of the Mousai; if we look to their iconography, the Goddesses “count,” “structure,” and “measure” time in a variety of ways, as revealed by the variety of instruments they employ. As long as one understands the unity behind them — poetry is the measure and harmonization of language, astronomy of the heavens, pantomime of gesture, and so on — as that unified process of measure applied to wide-open possibility, one is in an empowered place to honor the Goddesses and their Chorister. 🥰
But anyway! I’m trying out stuff from the book as I go along. For a long time, I’ve wanted to play around with meters similar to what we read in my Old English classes back in college. Here are a few lines about Zeus based on what I know of the Orphic theogonies.
Halfway through, hearken to the king,
lightning-rushing bright and sharp,
the beginning the end reborn through Zeus.
He ingested all, filling fecund,
only to disgorge in opaline wonder.
Fitting to plunge first and final,
here — the fulcrum upon the father
of the not-yet, the never-now
son of ivy, prince of the winepress.
I’m also working on another poem using this form, where it will probably be clear from how I’m using the alliteration that I’ve started pronouncing Zeus as Zefs.