O Apollo, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?

I dedicated my yester–free–day to Literature.

I spent the entire day revisiting the materials covered in the lectures over the past 3 weeks – all of which were devoted to Poetry. Poetry is beautiful, but abstract; some might even consider it irrelevant. Personally, I love the language part of it. I love the way the theme and context, expressed through metaphors and imagery, evoke such deep feelings (I’m too proud to say ’emotions’) in me.

But we all know that Poetry is multi-dimensional. You can never observe it –through a critical literary eye– without considering the metrical structure, rhythm and other poetic devices within it. And really, this is the part where I completely suck at.

I can identify the pattern of words, sounds and even rhyme; but for the life of me, I can seem to identify the metre with ease. I mean, aren’t they arbitrary? Isn’t it dependent on the manner in which you read it? My lecturer asks us to follow our instincts; “which do you feel is more literary?”

I don’t know. Perhaps we ask Apollo for help, shall we?

I can never seem to follow through with my scansion as I am inherently doubting myself. And if I were to ignore my uncertainty and go ahead with it, I end up with weird metrical structures. I once ended up with a mix of  iambic and trochaic metres within the same lime, only to learn that the line is supposed to have an iambic pentameter. Great!

I also seem to have trouble associating technical jargons to actual meaning. Let’s suppose a certain poem has an alternative quatrain  and the first two lines seem to display an iambic pentameter. How does this translate into what the persona has got to say??

Clearly, I am struggling with this module. Also, I think my compounded confusion and frustration materialised itself this morning – in the form of severe flu, headache and fever.

I have taken some medication (which happens to be drowsy), so I’m off to bed in a bit. In the mean time, if any literary geniuses (or aspiring poets) out there would like to help me out bit, please do so. Any help/input is better than nothing at all!

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4 thoughts on “O Apollo, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?

  1. Sorry to hear that poetry is giving you headaches 😦 I must admit I have no sense of rhythm whatsoever and never recognise any meter in a poem. Instead, I’m reduced to focusing on what I can see with the eye — the rhymes, alliterations, and the content of the poem. If I may suggest you a book about reading poetry, it’s Terry Eagleton’s How to Read a Poem — it’s very accessible and very helpful.

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  2. I have such a love-hate relationship with poetry… on one hand I enjoy reading it in small doses, and writing it when inspiration strikes. But on the other hand, I really hate amateur-sounding poetry (with simple rhyming schemes, obvious word pairings, no interesting rhythm or hidden meaning) and I really hate completely abstract poetry (no rhymes at all, no straight-forward meanings at all, too long). I forced myself to study the poetry module in third year because I both wanted something “smaller” to study (novels all the time is tiring) and because I wanted to try and *get it* a bit better. Unfortunately, I still don’t get it, really. I try and avoid poetry when I can. 😉

    I do have favourite poets, though. I don’t know what kind of stuff you’re studying, but if you can, get hold of some W.H. Auden. Through the years he wrote a lot of poetry with different styles, metres and themes, and he’s definitely a good one to study if you want some examples of the different kinds of poem structures. Some I’d definitely recommend are ‘If I Could Tell You’ (villanelle form), ‘As I Walked Out One Evening’ (you’ll appreciate the imagery and message, and the rhymes are clever) and ‘O What Is That Sound’ which is a great one for learning to appreciate rhythm and metre. Read the first stanza out loud and you’ll see what I mean. The words used help with knowing what words to emphasise.

    If you’ve already done loads of Auden, then sorry! I’m not the best at identifying metre either, but I find that reading poems out loud, or at least loudly in your head (try it, it’s fun) helps with picking up the rhythm and decide which words to put emphasis on. What the poem’s about can also help you identify its rhythm – a poem about love and flowers is going to be more “flowy” than one about guns and soldiers.

    Long comment is long! 😉 Just keep reading poems!

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  3. Long is good! 🙂

    Nope, Auden’s work isn’t on the list of poems I’ll be studying. The module has me looking at some local poets as well as Shakespeare, Milton and Shelley. I will definitely be looking up those poems you recommended, and thank you for your insights! 😀

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