Guest poem sent in by a contributor who wishes to remain anonymous:
(Poem #1453) Why, Asks a Friend, Attempt Tetrameter? (Golden Gate 5.4)
Why, asks a friend, attempt tetrameter? Because it once was noble, yet Capers before the proud pentameter, Tyrant of English. I regret To see this marvelous swift meter Deamean its heritage, and peter Into mere Hudibrastic tricks, Unapostolic knacks and knicks. But why take all this quite so badly? I would not, had I world and time To wait for reason, rhythm, rhyme, To reassert themselves, but sadly, The time is not remote when I Will not be here to wait. That's why.
Seth's 'The Golden Gate'- labelled "The Great Californian Novel" by Gore Vidal, was inspired by Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, and like Pushkin's work, is constructed with sonnets set end to end. Within 690 rhyming tetrameter sonnets, Seth weaves a satirical romance describing the stories of young professionals in San Francisco throughout their quests and questions to find, then deal with, love in their own lives as well as each others'. I still recall how, years ago, when I'd first got hold of The Golden Gate, I'd put in an all-nighter as I read what was my first exposure to modern verse. Alternating between spartan and rich, wicked and funny, this racy novel made me realize how beautifully verse can lend itself to describing even the most mundane and monotonous travails of everyday life in the most delightful fashion. [Martin adds] This is a delightful defense of the tetrameter, a verse form that, as Seth notes, has lost out to the pentameter in the arena of 'nobility'. As Derek Attridge points out, iambic pentameter is practically the only metre that isn't expressible as a variant of the "natural" 4x4 metre (four lines of four beats), and thus distinguishes itself as more "intellectual". To this has been added the weight of tradition and association, so that today a pentametric poem by its mere form biases the reader towards taking it more seriously - indeed the "tyrant of English". Besides "Eugene Onegin", Seth's book reminds me of Byron's "Don Juan". There is the same effect of brilliant, polished verse that nonetheless can give the impression of being dashed off in an odd moment - an ever-present vein of authorial joie de vivre and sheer fun that leavens the unusual weight of a novel written entirely in metrical verse.  In "The Rhythms of English Poetry", one of the best nonfiction books I've ever read. It's been a while, so any mistakes in summarising his argument are entirely mine. [Links] Biography: http://www.emory.edu/ENGLISH/Bahri/Seth.html For more on the ever-popular tetrameter: http://www.tetrameter.com/seth.htm Eugene Onegin: http://www.pushkins-poems.com/Yev001.htm