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Sketchbook

a journal for eastern and western forms

 

Ekphrastic Poem ~ Anapestic Tetrameter*

 

Reason A. Poteet, US

 

Photo by Reason A. Poteet, US

"White moss" Photographed at
Hull's Cove, near Cadillac Mountain

 

Memories of White Moss

 

After making the trip to Bar Harbor in Maine,
we set off on excursions within that domain.
In the midst of events, aggravating, arcane,
we welcome white moss.


We begin with a most unpredictable task—
touring Cadillac Mountain with fog as a mask.
Fifteen hundred feet high and sh-shaking, we ask,
"now, where is the bus?"


Safely back at sea level, we all need to chill—
"Tell me, who put the rest stop on top of a hill?"
Giving vent to our steam, we release it with skill,
creating a fuss.


So we cuss as we scurry, we snort and stampede
up the fifty-two steps to attend to our need.
On the zig-zag descent, rather tetchy, still teed,
we stumble across—


a botanical gem - symbiotic, we learn.
A bizarre kind of growth, some avoid, others spurn.
Is it algae? or lichen? a fungus? or fern?
true whatsis for us.


I see fanciful lace mid inherent decay;
I see whimsical bubbles entangled in play.
I see moods change as wonder reverses dismay.
an insight from moss.

 

 

Historic Information

*Anapestic Tetrameter:  anapest, of Greek origin; of uncertain meaning perhaps "beaten back," i.e. a reversed dactyl. In the quantitative meters of classical poetry, a metrical foot of two short syllables followed by one long ( - - / ), or in verse-systems based on accent, two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed syllable.  The anapestic was first used in Greek verse as a warlike marching rhythm, then later in Greek dramas as a song meter in the choruses of tragedy and comedy, usually taking the form of anapestic tetrameter catalectic, and in combination with other meters. The Roman playwright, Plautus (c. 254 - 184 BC) made wide use of  anapestic verse in his plays.  During the Renaissance and after the anapest was used in England mainly for popular verse until the 18th century when it was employed for serious poetry by Cowper, Scott, Byron, Browning, Morris, and especially Swinburn.  The most common generic usage today is by far in the limerick (Preminger, p. 72-73). 

Additional contemporary examples of anapestic tetrameter can be found in Lewis Carroll's, "The Hunting of the Snark, Dr. Seuss' "Yertle the Turtle" and "The Cat in the Hat".  When used in comic form, anapestic tetrameter is often highly irregular, as the regularity emphasizes the breezy, melodic feel of the meter, though the initial unstressed beat of a line may often be omitted.  However, the verse form is not solely comic, and Lord Byron's epic "Don Juan", for example, contains much anapestic tetrameter.  In non-comic works, it is likely that anapestic tetrameter will be used in a less regular manner, with caesuras and other metrs breaking up the driving regularity of the beat (Wikipedia).

 

Author's Note

I have used anapestic tetrameter in this poem. I've also used monorhymes but I varied the fourth lines of each stanza with a different rhyme and meter in an effort to break the repetition, to slow the reader down and to bring continuity to the piece.  Today, anapestic tetrameter is a little- used kind of poetic meter but it is none-the-less a bit familiar from its use by Theodor Seuess Geisel in his Dr. Seuss books. This meter is also easily recognized in the holiday poem, Twas the Night before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore or if you prefer, Henry Livingstone, Jr. (Reason A. Poteet).
 

Preminger, Alex and T.V.F. Brogan, editors, The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. New York: MJF Books, Princeton University Press, 1993.

 

 
 

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