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Forums  >  Poetry  >  Each line *invariably* ten syllables? Rather odd...
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Wretched Gnu
at 12:12, 25 Jun 2005
Posts: 2
Each line *invariably* ten syllables? Rather odd...
Of course I haven't seen the screenplay yet; but the short preview we get in another thread seems to suggest that every single line is held to ten syllables. I hope people don't imagine that, say, Shakespeare wrote this way. The verse in his plays called for a certain flexibility that could never be forced into ten syllables at every line; if you look at his syllable count from line to line, it looks more like 10, 10, 9, 11, 10, 11, 10, 12, 9, 10, 10, 10, 11, 10, 7, 10, 10, etc. And of course any given play of his would have dozens and dozens of "anomalous" short lines of 5 or 6 syllables peppered throughout.

Most poets who used such forms would never have upheld the "rule" of iambic pentameter over the peculiar rhythm, content and sense they wanted to convey at any given moment. I'm not saying this screenplay has necessarily put the cart before the horse, manhandling the content to fit the form; but it will be nothing short of a miracle if its optimal expression just happens to emerge in a poem that has exactly 10 syllables in every line!

Unfortunately, you can see a little bit of manhandling already even in this lovely excerpt:

And, in the end, it simply isn't worth
Your while to try and clean your life away.
You can't. For, everything you do or say
Is there, forever. It leaves evidence.
In fact it's really only common sense;
There's no such thing as nothing, not at all.
It may be really very, very small
But it's still there. In fact I think I'd guess
That 'no' does not exist. There's only 'yes'.

The conceit here is wonderful; and the way the last couplet bears it out is worthy of a great sonnet. But because the lines feel the need to bind themselves *invariably* to ten syllables, we end up with a lot of distracting, unmusical filler, such as the redundancies of "In fact it's really" and "I think I'd guess."

sally potter
at 03:40, 27 Jun 2005
Posts: 193
I am not sure where this 'invariably' quote came from. I hope not from me. You are, of course, absolutely right about the variable line lengths in Shakespeare's plays.
And YES varies between ten and eight syllables a line, with occasional breaks to six, four or whatever makes sense. But in the section you use as an example, the 'padding' of a phrase like 'In fact I think I'd guess' to bring the line to exactly ten syllables was not so much for the sake of strict structure as to mimic conversational speech. Nothing in YES aspires to pure poetic form for its own sake, but attempts to find the recognisable music of everyday speech. The challenge in writing for the screen, as opposed to writing for the page or the stage, is the convention of naturalism. Anything stilted, forced, or over-distilled starts to enter another zone. When I cut out the little redundancies, such as the ones you have highlighted, the dialogue started to sound very 'written' .

Having said that, when I wrote the scene that later became the 'car-park' scene (which was the starting point and genesis of the whole project), it was much freer in its line lengths, and therefore more interesting and ‘pure’ as writing, but was somehow theatrical, heightened. For your information that original writing is published in the screenplay book along with the complete edited screenplay (see the SCREENPLAY page of this site).

I very much appreciate your detailed comments about this. It is excellent to be engaged with in this way.
Wretched Gnu
at 10:49, 27 Jun 2005
Posts: 2
ah, ok, I see...
... based on the few excerpts available on this site, I had assumed the strict 10-syllable regimen had been enforced throughout. In any case, I look forward to seeing the film!
at 00:15, 16 Jan 2007
Posts: 17
I quote "It easier to destroy than to create."
Buddy,..Even if poetry involves simple math,.. poetry is much more than form.It's about the message.
I think You already know that.
Try to stop being the ball that bounces off walls and be the wall itself.
....if u can.
I think you can't.
The defence rests.

Thank you.

at 14:37, 23 Feb 2007
Posts: 0
On being the ball...
"One Imperfectly Metered, Slopily Rhymed, Poorly Punctuated Reply"

Love this simple metaphor
on being the ball
as opposed to a ball
bouncing off the wall.

Lovely alliteration too
and a bit Seussian --
as in the good Doctor.
Does this make him Armenian?

Ask Simon. Ask Sally. Ask anyone.
Even better, ask a child...
Lessons are much more fun
& easier to keep when rhymed.

And who or what would dare critique
the lines of YES, not yet having seen the film
nor taken time to read the book?
That would have to be a wretched critic.

~Anthea Karanasos

P.S. -- It was difficult, I'll admit, like nails on the chalkboard, to intentionally leave out punctuation here & there for dramatic affect. As well, I was reduced to using Spellchecker, as I thought the title was already too long to add "Badly Spelled." I hope someone who reads this is peeing their pants, or at the very least grinning a is a joke...all in good fun! Critics need thick skins.
sally potter
at 03:46, 1 Mar 2007
Posts: 193
The only problem with a thick skin is that it does not discriminate between good and bad on the outside... a thick skin is protective, maybe, but also deadening.
Jokes, on the other hand, are almost always desirable.
Thank you for both your messages, Anthea.
at 14:49, 1 Mar 2007
Posts: 14
You're welcome, Sally. I visit here now & then....find so much joy & learning. Multicultural poetry, film, literature, music & dance -- my favorite things...what would life be without them? You've created a place of openness & respect here that's rare on the internet. I consider your forums to be sacred spaces.

In hindsight, I was probably a bit harse with the little poem-ditty to the critic, even though jokingly.

Yes, some form thick skins as shields for emotional survival -- to block feelings -- positive & negative. I've participated in many poetry roundtable workshops. Those who are most critical of other's art are often those who are least able to access feelings. "The Critic" focuses on line lengths/breaks, meter, rhyme -- accessing the piece at an emotional level is more difficult as it requires a willingness to expose be vulnerable.

Our respective arts are about sharing our deepest vulnerabilities -- our scarred, white underbellies. You do it beautifully.
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