Old 05-06-2019, 03:17 PM   #1
Angeline
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Onegin Stanza

Oh boy. So Tzara's confidence that I can write an Onegin stanza has inspired me to think about trying one. I've begun to research it and first I see that it's iambic tetrameter. Okay, eight syllables of iambs (unstressed/stressed): I can handle that; rhyme scheme? No problem. But then I read about the alternating feminine (unstressed) and masculine (stressed) end rhymes and now I am confused. How can an iamb end on an unstressed syllable and how then can these lines consistently be in tetrameter? The examples I've read are not helping and now my head is starting to hurt at the thought of trying to figure this out at the same time I'm trying to write coherent, cohesive and, well, poetic poetry (as opposed to mechanical caca, which I fear will result).

<sending poetry equivalent of Bat Signal to Tzara and whoever else can help me understand>
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Old 05-07-2019, 09:06 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Angeline View Post
<sending poetry equivalent of Bat Signal to Tzara and whoever else can help me understand>
[Spotting the Prosody Signal sweeping across the sky, PoetGuy jumps into the Poetmobile (a rusty VW bus with peace symbol decals on the doors and a Deadhead sticker affixed, slightly off-center, to the rear window) and rattles into Litland to help define how feminine rhymes fit into iambic prosody.] *Cue Truckin' theme music.*
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Originally Posted by Angeline View Post
Oh boy. So Tzara's confidence that I can write an Onegin stanza has inspired me to think about trying one. I've begun to research it and first I see that it's iambic tetrameter. Okay, eight syllables of iambs (unstressed/stressed): I can handle that; rhyme scheme? No problem. But then I read about the alternating feminine (unstressed) and masculine (stressed) end rhymes and now I am confused. How can an iamb end on an unstressed syllable and how then can these lines consistently be in tetrameter? The examples I've read are not helping and now my head is starting to hurt at the thought of trying to figure this out at the same time I'm trying to write coherent, cohesive and, well, poetic poetry (as opposed to mechanical caca, which I fear will result).
Your confusion, Jazzaline, is likely due to the impression most people have when thinking about accentual-syllabic verse, that the rules are hard and fast. They are, sort of, but accentual-syllabic verse allows for variations from the strict "pure" meter. Sometimes a line might have the initial unstressed syllable lopped off, for example, making it acephalic; sometimes the last syllable is lopped off, which is called catalexis.

In any case, in iambic verse, it sometimes happens that the end word of a line has a feminine ending, like wait·ing, or end·ed. Feminine rhyme is where the penultimate (stressed) syllables rhyme and the ending syllables are unstressed (and usually identical), like wait·ing and bait·ing. So, the start of an Onegin stanza might scan like this:
My un / cle, man / of firm / con·vic·tions. . .
By fall / ing grave / ly ill, / he's won
A due / re·spect / for his / af·flic·tions—
The on / ly clev / er thing / he's done.

—Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin 1.1, translated by James E. Fallen
So, each line is iambic tetrameter, because the primary rhythmic unit is an iamb and there are four iambs per line. That the first and third lines have an extra unstressed syllable on the end is kind of like an artifact of the chosen end word.

It may be helpful to note that in Russian, it is not uncommon (as it is in English) for poetry to end on feminine endings. (Or so I've read. I am not fluent in Russian.) Alternating masculine and feminine rhymes was common in nineteenth century Russian poetry.
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Old 05-07-2019, 10:39 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by PoetGuy View Post
[Spotting the Prosody Signal sweeping across the sky, PoetGuy jumps into the Poetmobile (a rusty VW bus with peace symbol decals on the doors and a Deadhead sticker affixed, slightly off-center, to the rear window) and rattles into Litland to help define how feminine rhymes fit into iambic prosody.] *Cue Truckin' theme music.*

Your confusion, Jazzaline, is likely due to the impression most people have when thinking about accentual-syllabic verse, that the rules are hard and fast. They are, sort of, but accentual-syllabic verse allows for variations from the strict "pure" meter. Sometimes a line might have the initial unstressed syllable lopped off, for example, making it acephalic; sometimes the last syllable is lopped off, which is called catalexis.

In any case, in iambic verse, it sometimes happens that the end word of a line has a feminine ending, like wait·ing, or end·ed. Feminine rhyme is where the penultimate (stressed) syllables rhyme and the ending syllables are unstressed (and usually identical), like wait·ing and bait·ing. So, the start of an Onegin stanza might scan like this:
My un / cle, man / of firm / con·vic·tions. . .
By fall / ing grave / ly ill, / he's won
A due / re·spect / for his / af·flic·tions—
The on / ly clev / er thing / he's done.

—Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin 1.1, translated by James E. Fallen
So, each line is iambic tetrameter, because the primary rhythmic unit is an iamb and there are four iambs per line. That the first and third lines have an extra unstressed syllable on the end is kind of like an artifact of the chosen end word.

It may be helpful to note that in Russian, it is not uncommon (as it is in English) for poetry to end on feminine endings. (Or so I've read. I am not fluent in Russian.) Alternating masculine and feminine rhymes was common in nineteenth century Russian poetry.
Sigh. I was afraid that was the answer. As my editor mentor would sometimes say when I went to her with my umpteenth question about comma placement, "It depends on what you had for breakfast" (also known as "It's a rule until it isn't").

Ok. Iambic tetrameter? Check. Rhyme scheme? Check. Alternating masculine and feminine end rhymes? Gevalt and check. I will try my best to avoid mechanical caca.

Thank you, as always, for the explanation, the example and the music.

I'd still rather write this than a sestina.
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Old 05-07-2019, 11:34 PM   #4
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You're on your own!
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They say a smile is a gift which is free to the giver and precious to the recipient.
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If at first you don't succeed....skydiving is not for you ....
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Old 05-07-2019, 11:54 PM   #5
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You're on your own!
Yeah but I can still come moaning to you if I get crazy from it!

ETA: Actually that's "when" not "if."
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Old 05-08-2019, 07:45 AM   #6
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Yeah but I can still come moaning to you if I get crazy from it!

ETA: Actually that's "when" not "if."
Lol you know how I feel about the technicalities of poetry! You can talk until you're blue in the face but I've always written by ear, and the hardest ones to comprehend are masculine and feminine rhymes!
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They say a smile is a gift which is free to the giver and precious to the recipient.
But giving the finger is free, too, and I find it more personal and sincere.
If at first you don't succeed....skydiving is not for you ....
If you don't pay your exorcist .... do you get repossessed?
I shall always decide not to decide, unless of course I decide to change my mind.
....But I, being poor, have only my dreams, I have spread my dreams under your feet,Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.......
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Old 05-08-2019, 03:37 PM   #7
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Lol you know how I feel about the technicalities of poetry! You can talk until you're blue in the face but I've always written by ear, and the hardest ones to comprehend are masculine and feminine rhymes!
You have a good ear for flow and a deft touch with rhyme (and now free verse, too). I tend to agree with you, but also know that over time and with practice, I've become more comfortable writing accentual-syllabic verse. I'm not good at it by any means, not like Tzara and greenmountaineer (who I really miss!). But I am pretty confident in my ability to write iambs; they are pretty easy. If I get confused I can always read a few of Shakespeare's sonnets to get back on track. And the masculine and feminine end rhymes shouldn't be too much of an issue: the masculine ones can be straight-up iambs. The feminine ones, if I understand correctly, will add an unstressed syllable or end with two syllables that are both unstressed. The hardest part for me will be finding rhymes that I like that fit the feminine ending. But Rhyme Zone is my friend in that endeavor. I hope, lol.

And it's like anything, right? You practice and it gets easier.

I gotta go read more examples to get the rhythm in my head. Still procrastinating!
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Old 05-08-2019, 08:50 PM   #8
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i'm tired just reading this

good luck, miz A, though if anyone can pull it off it'll be you
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Old 05-08-2019, 10:10 PM   #9
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i'm tired just reading this

good luck, miz A, though if anyone can pull it off it'll be you
Thank you.

(Still haven't started...well I started one in my head but the topic wasn't working. I think that means I need to procrastinate a little longer. )
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Old 05-08-2019, 10:31 PM   #10
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Ok. Iambic tetrameter? Check. Rhyme scheme? Check. Alternating masculine and feminine end rhymes? Gevalt and check. I will try my best to avoid mechanical caca.

Thank you, as always, for the explanation, the example and the music.
Think of it like rhythm changes/time signature changes in jazz. That's how I think of it. If the lines are pure iambic, the stanza is 9-8-9-8-9-9-8-8-9-8-8-9-8-8 beats (syllables) per line. The nines all end on a downbeat (unstressed syllable). It's a funky rhythm, for sure, but that's what gives the form its charm, in my opinion.

Completely unrelated music video, though it is about rhythm: Tito Puente, Sheila E, and Pete Escovedo.
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I'd still rather write this than a sestina.
I'm working on a sestina thread, though I won't be asking you to write one, of course.
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Old 05-09-2019, 06:02 PM   #11
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I dunno. This feels like a hot mess to me. But hey it's a first attempt. And it was hard! I think I messed up the meter on some of the nine syllable lines.

This writing in successive endings
Could drive a body straight to drink
And lead to gnashing (also rendings)
But let's try not to overthink
The task and focus on poetry,
Let that lead instead of prosedy,
Let moon and wind come carry us
Into a zone without the fuss
Of days but take it slow, carelessly
Like floating on a stream, a dream
That strives for more than it may seem,
A blasé drifting so fearlessly
Though thank God now it's all but done--
Stayed in my lane but not so fun.
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Old 05-09-2019, 09:25 PM   #12
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Apology for the Onegin Stanza
as a Received Poetic Form

Including two not-very-relevant musical interludes

In case you think this form's too easy,
try writing one yourself; you'll find
that prosody can make you queasy.
But those who're metrically inclined
delight in the erratic rhythms
of Pushkin's Russian algorithm,
its interplay of gendered rhymes
like Krupa double-sticking chimes
in 1940s wartime movies
(or maybe 1960s flicks,
with Ginger Baker on the sticks,
in one long set that's really groovy).
It's often silliness in verse
but, what the hell—it could be worse.

.
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Old 05-09-2019, 10:02 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Angeline View Post
I dunno. This feels like a hot mess to me. But hey it's a first attempt. And it was hard! I think I messed up the meter on some of the nine syllable lines.

This writing in successive endings
Could drive a body straight to drink
And lead to gnashing (also rendings)
But let's try not to overthink
The task and focus on poetry,
Let that lead instead of prosedy,
Let moon and wind come carry us
Into a zone without the fuss
Of days but take it slow, carelessly
Like floating on a stream, a dream
That strives for more than it may seem,
A blasé drifting so fearlessly
Though thank God now it's all but done--
Stayed in my lane but not so fun.
That's actually pretty good for a first try. You're right—some of the nine syllable (feminine rhyme) lines aren't quite right, but you're working on the right idea.

These lines
This writing in successive endings
Could drive a body straight to drink
And lead to gnashing (also rendings)
But let's try not to overthink
are perfect metrically (at least to my ear). The feminine rhymes ("endings," "rendings") have the requisite rhymed penultimate syllable, identical ending syllable, and the proper stress (stressed followed by unstressed).

The following couplet, however, doesn't quite follow form, though it is close:
The task and focus on poetry,
Let that lead instead of prosody,
Both of the end words are, I think, dactyls (stressed/unstressed/unstressed), which is wrong, but fairly easily fixed by changing the form of the end words to something like this:
The task and focus on poetics,
Instead of focused on prosodics,
though the poetic/prosodic pair is more slant feminine rhyme than true rhyme. (Substituting "aesthetic" for "prosodic" would fix that, though it changes your sense and you'd probably need to rework that line to make sense.)

Lines 9 ("Of days but take it slow, carelessly") and 12 ("A blasé drifting so fearlessly") have the same problem—the end words are dactylic. You could fix this by slightly altering the lines and using end words like "caressing" for 9 and something like "obsessing" or "confessing" or "distressing" at the end of 12.

Everything else looks good, but the big problem is that the form is a slog to you. That I think you can write something in Onegin stanza doesn't mean that you should. I love the form, but it is one that usually is employed in comedic or (especially) satirical poems and neither of those modes seem much like the typical Angie poem, which are more lyrical. While there are a few examples of the form being used in a more lyrical fashion (the Gwen Harwood poem I posted in the National Poetry Month thread is the best example I'm aware of, though there are a few others), it really seems more suited as a form for satirical or ironic commentary.

I still think you could write well in the form (and I think Annie could too), but if it doesn't work for you as a poet, it doesn't.
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Old 05-09-2019, 11:06 PM   #14
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Tzara (and that crazy guy in the VW), thank you again for the friendship and support. Your confidence is always inspiring for me. I am not done with this form though writing that was painful lol. The whole process felt forced and I think it shows in the poem. Your poem sounds natural and the read is effortless.

I know part of the problem is lack of familiarity with the feminine ending. Too bad there isn't an Onegin stanza set to music out there. I'm sure knowing how to play music would help, too. Maybe I'd hear it better then. I blame my parents. I really wanted to learn piano. My parents got me an Emenee organ instead. Unlike those cool (not!) kids in the demo, I did not join a rockin band. I could only ever play Anchors Away and Ebb Tide. Sigh.

But don't be surprised if I take another shot at this form. I hate not understanding shit!
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Old 05-10-2019, 12:20 PM   #15
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Think I'll pass on this form. For some reason, it reminds me of slalom skiing and I know I'd obliterate the poles.
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Old 05-10-2019, 08:25 PM   #16
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Grrrrrrrrr and ouch!
.
I'm finding writing this far from easy.
well actually it's flipping hard.
I've found one makes me queasy
but harbour hopes I won't get scarred.
I'm not ready, shouldn't be impulsive,
Only halfway through, yes it is repulsive.
To match the Tzara's need, he flaunted
I do now feel extremely lost and haunted.
A fool involuntary sits, he is disarming,
I have heard several people say
and quite good looking in his way,
but this rubbish writ is my cred harming,
that shows I'm a pushover for his charm.
I'm going before it sounds a fire alarm.
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They say a smile is a gift which is free to the giver and precious to the recipient.
But giving the finger is free, too, and I find it more personal and sincere.
If at first you don't succeed....skydiving is not for you ....
If you don't pay your exorcist .... do you get repossessed?
I shall always decide not to decide, unless of course I decide to change my mind.
....But I, being poor, have only my dreams, I have spread my dreams under your feet,Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.......
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Old 05-17-2019, 07:07 PM   #17
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Still Trying to Explain This Blasted Form

The form's alive with female endings
mixed in with endings masculine.
Its rhythms sway to constant bendings
from nine to eight, then nine again.
If that seems wonky, well, it's Russian;
professors' erudite discussion
informs us that it's classical
to alternate such rhymes, y'all.
Ah but, you say, we're English poets!
this wibbly-wobbly rhymy thing
is hard as hell and doesn't sing!

You have a point. But hey, you know it's
just how the form was built—designed
with gendered rhythms intertwined.
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Old 05-17-2019, 08:23 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tzara View Post
Still Trying to Explain This Blasted Form

The form's alive with female endings
mixed in with endings masculine.
Its rhythms sway to constant bendings
from nine to eight, then nine again.
If that seems wonky, well, it's Russian;
professors' erudite discussion
informs us that it's classical
to alternate such rhymes, y'all.
Ah but, you say, we're English poets!
this wibbly-wobbly rhymy thing
is hard as hell and doesn't sing!

You have a point. But hey, you know it's
just how the form was built—designed
with gendered rhythms intertwined.
This is excellent. And you get extra credit for rhyming classical and y'all. I like a poem with a little culture clash.
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