Sunday, December 19, 2010

Emily Dickenson's Boat

This is a random note on the hilarity of poetic meter.

Teaching high school students serves to remind me of the little things that I learned in high school. When I was in the ninth and eleventh grades, I had a wonderful English teacher who peppered his classes with colorful stories and eccentricities. I remember that he said once, "I don't lie. The stories that I am recounting simply change as I tell them." Although his own stories-- often involving intellectualism, chess, and Italian wine-- were perhaps flavored by his embellishments, his insights on poetry and literature were sound and thoughtful.

One of the more amusing anecdotes (about English) that he related is that the majority of Emily Dickenson's poetry (written in alternating lines of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter [1]) can be sung to the theme song for Gilligan's Island. In class that day, we sang "A Narrow Fellow in the Grass" in that manner. As Cerinthus pointed out, "Adrift! A little boat adrift!" fits the song quite aptly.

  1. I rechecked the names of the meter at this website.

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