Homage to Béla Bartók I have always wanted to try my hand at writing in meter imitative of dances in Bulgarian rhythm, with a pattern of trochee trochee dactyl; the
top voice plays against that with a sprung sprung tro-che trocheeeeee— Bar - tok's Mikrokos - mos gives the modelllllllllll— while the beat continues on ||:on and on and on and on :|| on and on and on and off on and off off
(In the lines in larger type, I‘ve tried to use consonant clusters, as well as hyphens, to indicate the longer notes. The "refrain" lines at the end should be read with glottal stops before "on" and "off" to sharpen the rhythm.) John Ashbery wrote: "I feel I could express myself best in music. What I like about music is its ability of being convincing, of carrying an argument through successfully to the finish, though the terms of this argument remain unknown quantities. What remains is this structure, the architecture of the argument, scene or story. I would like to do this in poetry." [Quoted in Michelle Boisseau et al, Writing Poems (7th ed, 2008), pg.190.] While composing, I often started with a musical idea and then worked back and forth, dialoguing between music and words. I‘d play around on the piano until I came up with a motif or a chord progression, or an idea for a structure — say, taking a preexisting tune and using it as the bass line — that called me to follow where it led. Here‘s a recent poem that illustrates a similar process of "contrapuntal dialogue" with a starting idea. It illustrates a formal "given" which then goes off in two directions at once. This is a form that I can‘t find a name for, though I can‘t believe I "invented" it — I provisionally call it a "word-crostic," a variant of the acrostic, but lining down the words of a quotation rather than letters of a word:
Published on Feb 22, 2010
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