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Poetry – a new metrical form

Posted by Erik on December 10, 2009

I was inspired a little while back to devise a new metrical form, structured according to the Metonic cycle. Simply put, the Metonic cycle (observed by Meton of Athens) is “A period of 235 lunar months, or about 19 years in the Julian calendar, at the end of which the phases of the moon recur in the same order and on the same days as in the preceding cycle.” (definition from American Heritage dictionary) Each year is divided into 12 lunar months; every few years a 13th month is added to bring the lunar and tropical (seasonal) cycles back into harmony, so that November doesn’t wind up coming in the spring :).

In this scheme, the years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19 are the long (13-month) years; I have seen that there were slight variations in this arrangement in different places, but since this pattern (a) was the most common, and (b) corresponds to the only (AFAIK) Metonic calendar still in active use (the Jewish calendar), I’ll go with it.

My new poetic form, then, has 19 lines of 12 metric feet each, with a 13th foot added in lines 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19. I haven’t decided about meter or rhyme; I may not try to define them at this point, but experiment with writing in the form and see what happens – and I invite anyone with an interest to do so as well! If you do write something in this form, please consider sharing the results – I’d love to see it.

For really hardy souls, there is also the Calippic cycle, which was proposed in the century following Meton as an improvement on his calendar; the Calippic Cycle is basically four Metonic cycles (minus one day dropped from the last cycle), an arrangement that was intended to bring everything back to true alignment with the actual natural cycles – although according to the article it doesn’t, really.

Poetically, I envision a Calippic cycle as either a series of four related Metonic poems or one long poem in four parts, that at the end returns to and works a slight change on the beginning (thematically as well as in the matter of one dropped foot in the last Meton).

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9 Responses to “Poetry – a new metrical form”

  1. Sannion said

    Woa. That sounds really, really cool. Best of luck with that!

  2. Melia Suez said

    I admit I’ve never understood exactly what “metric feet” is in relation to poetry. I was hopeless, in school, when we had to do meter and such. It just never made any sense.

  3. executivepagan said

    basically, a foot is the unit of rhythm in a poem. In iambic pentameter, for instance, which is what Shakespeare wrote in most of the time, the line goes

    da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM
    (examples:
    get OFF my BACK and LET me GO to SLEEP
    or
    oh, SAINTS preSERVE us, WHAT’S the BOY done NOW?

    Each of those da-DUMs is a “foot”. So, this form I’m thinking of would have really, really long lines. Unless I strip it down to twelve syllables, in which case it would have six feet, which might be more reasonable… we’ll have to see how it works out in practice. In any case, it’s definitely an academic form more than one that people will do for fun, I’m afraid…

  4. rbarenblat said

    This is a fascinating idea. I love creative and ad-hoc poetic forms; I look forward to seeing what you do with this! (And yes, in time I might try my hand at it too — it does seem quite up my alley — though at the moment I doubt I have the brain for syllabics… :-)

  5. Hrafnkell said

    Because of my life of writing and my fascination with Norse poetry, I find all this incredibly inspiring. It’s incredibly difficult to make Norse poetry work in English because the language does not translate well, and when I write something I tend more to capture the spirit of the thing than metrical precision. The various forms of Norse poetry are incredibly varied. Should do a post on it one day!

  6. Hrafnkell said

    I meant to say “love” of writing though “life” is not entirely inappropriate given I’m spending 8 hours a day doing it now!

  7. executivepagan said

    Rachel,
    Well yes, I can understand that… :)

    Hrafnkell,
    Hopefully you’ll be inspired to write some poetry! (Not necessarily this form, but what you know best… I’m all about new artistic works in honor of the Gods, whether mine or others’!)

  8. Feral Boy said

    If you want to honor some spirits of this hemisphere, you might consider a form based on the Mayan Long Count :)

    — Feral Boy

  9. executivepagan said

    Go for it! ;)

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